It’s Spring Again, Where’s the Corn?

As I recall my skiing for the season, it hasn’t been all that grand a year. With a warmer air current causing a higher snow level that has persisted through the season, backcountry skiing has alternated between rain crust breaking through to sodden snow and wind chilled ice. Certainly nothing to write home about.

But there have been some bright spots along the way. I’ve had a couple of gorgeous days between 8 and 9000 feet playing on sun drenched slopes. In each month from December through March, there have been at least a couple of fabulous corn days.

For those readers outside California, corn snow under blue skies is one of our best-kept secrets. It’s a great reason to skin up a few thousand vertical feet for the exquisite pleasure of sliding down on a surface that makes the best resort grooming seem lacking.

Corn is as smooth as silk and easy to turn on. Alongside the fabled but all too rare powder days (especially in California with its heavy, wet, new snow: “Sierra cement”), corn ranks as one of our best attributes. And, it’s dependable. Give a snowpack a few strong melts and refreeze cycles and then some good sunshine and you get corn snow. Melt re-freeze cycles typify the California mountains.

A friend took shot some video of my turns above Bee Gulch, mid-March, 2013.

While I’m not particularly embarrassed about my turns in the video, they’re certainly not perfect. At some point, I want to post about the “telemark bob”; that little upper body movement up and across the skis to start the new turn. Hopefully in this video, you’ll see a little of me doing that?

But, to be honest, in this video, I am making a consistent mistake. I wonder if anyone can spot it? Ah, the delights of seeing what I’m actually doing as opposed to what I think I’m doing. Video; ya gotta love it.

I’m not sure how much more California Spring skiing there’s going to be? We have the strangest configuration of snow that I’ve ever seen. The south and westerly facing slopes even up to 10,000 feet are almost completely bare. While, at the same time, it looks like a decent, mid-spring snowpack on the north and easterly facing slopes. For instance, the view from the top of the ridge at Bear Valley has a clear view of Flatiron Peak. It’s black on one side and white on the other right to the very top. Very strange. Finding a way up to the North aspects may be tricky. And, I don’t know that these will last?

I was at Mt. Lassen 2 weekends ago. Below 7500 feet, the snow was so rain-sodden as to bury my inside ski, mid-telemark turn. But, on north aspects higher up, the corn was flawless at Noon. The thought of no late Spring, early Summer skiing adventures is sad. We’ll see.

Oh, and by the way, remember to put down your climbing wires before you try to turn. My first couple of turns after a 2 hour climb were pretty funny. “Why can’t I balance on these skis? What’s wrong with me?”

I hope that where ever you are, Spring skiing is great or Autumn is fast approaching.



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