There’s a BIG push in the ski industry to glamorize powder. Of course, we LOVE the wintry form of snow, but there’s something we love nearly as much… corn. This elusive type of snow doesn’t form well in all mountain ranges and takes a special type of weather phenomenon to create the perfect slate. But when it does, it’s magical. Think of it as powder… but with warm weather and sunshine. That’s why when we got the invite from our friends at Outdoor Adventure Club to make a last-minute trip skiing Lassen Volcanic National Park, we dropped everything and headed north.
Flowers, Green Grass, & We’re Going Skiing?
As we awoke in the sleepy town of Mineral, the early sun rays painted the landscape outside our window. Everywhere we looked, spring was in full bloom. The aspen’s chartreuse yellow leaves fluttered in the pleasant light breeze. Fresh daffodils blossomed on rolling hills. The only hint of winter’s grasp that remained was the frost on top of the cars. And yet only a few miles away at Lassen National Park, the snowpack was over twenty feet deep.
Snow Twenty Feet Deep In May?
Our team quickly assembles and creates a plan for the day with a few different options depending on how we felt. With a game plan set, we fly out of the house excited for the corn harvest. The winding road through the tall forest of pines contains spots of dirty snow here and there but for the most part has transitioned to a full spring road. It wasn’t until we pass the sign to the park that we get a glimpse of the ten-thousand-foot peak. The snow is so deep that from here the mountain looks like it could be mid-winter. Sides of the road at some places are over twenty deep. Wow!
The Ants Go Marching One By One
Pulling into the lot around 6:45 am, there’s over a dozen people gearing up for the day. We do the same. Stepping onto the snow, the heat from the sunshine makes us want to peel our 1st layer already. Uh oh. Is the snow going to be manky? The only way to find out is to begin the climb.
Hard Work Leads To Amazing Views
As we get away from the heat of the asphalt and into the shade of the trees, the snow is firm and crusty. Whew! A great sign that it’s going to take a bit of time to soften. Trudging through the canopy of tall trees, the snow looks less pristine. Pine needles, particles of dirt, and other natural material cover the surface. After about an hour of climbing, we quickly exit the forest and are now on an open ridgeline. The views are amazing and above us is the first slope we’re going to ski.
Not A Single Track On The Slope
As our eyes look at the slope, the entire face has not a single track on it. A perfect clean slate. This is one of the best parts of spring skiing… mother nature does the grooming. How? Well, through the melt-freeze cycle after three or four days, any tracks that were made will be totally gone. Suddenly, we hear voices behind us. Oh no! It’s time to put ourselves into high gear.
First To The Top… Means Dibs
Huffing and puffing, we trudge up to the top making sure that we’re the first. Regardless, we know where we want to ski and don’t want our lines to get poached. An unwritten law in backcountry skiing is the first person to ascend gets dibs. Making it to the top, we transition from touring mode to snowboarding mode. As the group below us arrives at the summit, we exchange pleasantries and ask where we’re all skiing. We find out that they have different plans, so our untouched landscape is truly all ours.
Perfect Snow + Perfect Pitch = Heaven
We high five and point it down the slope. Was all the hard work worth it? As we roll over the first pitch and put in our first turns, the answer is a resounding YES!!! The snow is perfection as only the first few inches have softened. I can’t hold the excitement back and let out a howl… “YEEEAHHHHHHH!!!!! BABY!!!!” Bouncing from turn to turn, it’s the best corn of the season. At the bottom, we glance back at our handiwork. With a huge grin, we look at each other and say, “The slope has been slayed.”
Time To Get Some More Goodness
Grabbing a bite to eat at the bottom, we take in the glow of what we just did. Were we ready to get some more? Heck yeah! While the southeast had softened just right for the morning, in the PM it would be TOO soft. The plan is to ski a more northerly face. We split apart our snowboards and change them into ski mode for our next climb. This time with the snow so soft, we make the decision to put on our crampons. Shuffling out of the valley, we yet again begin our climb. Making it into the trees, our choice was a simple left or right. We chose left. From what we could tell at the time, either direction seemed about the same… boy were we wrong.
The Hardest Climb Ever…
Slowly, the climb changes from a moderate pitch to what is the steepest face I’ve ever climbed. With us still considering ourselves “beginner” backcountry tour enthusiasts, maybe it isn’t as steep as it feels to us. One of our experienced team members confirms that this is a “heinous” skin track, clocking in at over 30 degrees. That did make us feel better, but with no way out, the only option is to keep climbing. Step by step we slowly and painstakingly drag ourselves up.
We Made it!
After what seems like an eternity on a steep face, we make it to the ridgeline. Ah… sweet mercy thank goodness. The two choices from here are to ski the same face or put in a bit more work and shred a north slope. We all feel like a bit more work is worth it for better snow. As we traverse over to our next peak, this seems like child’s play compared to what we were just on.
Yet Another Face To Shred
Standing at the top and looking down, most of the terrain has been tracked. Suddenly, I see an entire segment from top to bottom that is untracked! We quickly strap in and drop down onto it. Turn after turn comes so easily. Picking up the pace, the snow is just as good as the first run. At the bottom, we look up again at our handiwork… perfection.