What’s the worst thing in skiing? For some it’s the biting wind. Others it’s the stinging feel of graupel hitting their face. For us, it’s the sea of humanity descending upon a ski resort. The tens of thousands of powder hounds making the lift lines hours long. Sure, blue-bird powder days are fun but how long will the snow last? One run or maybe two. As most move their focus to sports like mountain biking or golfing, skiing in April and May offer some of the best months to ski not because they get the most snow, but because its prime “snow corn” season. Each day during spring can be as good or better than a powder day mid-winter but without the people. For more about what gear to bring & why it’s our favorite time to go, check out our comprehensive spring skiing guide.
Before we jump into why we love corn so much, let’s explain what it is. Compared to powder falling from the sky, this type of snow forms over the course of multiple days. Requiring many cold (below freezing) nights and warm days (above 40 degrees) in a row when properly formed, the snowpack transforms into frozen round granules that almost look like tiny ball bearings. When hit at the right time of day, they are some of the best snow conditions Mother Nature has to offer. It’s spring skiing at its finest. If you’re curious on how to learn more about snow corn and how to harvest it properly, check out our article.
8 Reasons Why It’s Our Favorite Type Of Snow
Now that we’ve explained what it is, here’s eight reasons why it’s our favorite type of snow.
More Likely To Be Blue Bird
As we stated above, for it to form correctly you need cold clear nights and warm days with plenty of sunshine. That means more likely than not if you’re skiing or snowboarding corn snow, it’s going to be warm outside and blue bird!
The Freedom Turn
Once the melting cycle begins and the first few inches soften, you’ll be gifted with one of the greatest surfaces to lay a turn on. If you want to try a Euro Carve or just work on edge control, this is the time to do it. As we stated above, the challenge isn’t about turning on it but staying aware of the angle of the sun to keep finding the texture that you want to ski and to avoid the “sticky snow.” It’s also a good thing to tune your gear for this time of year.
You’ll Have It Pretty Much All To Yourself
For some reason, most people are eternally focused on the next sport, the next destination, or the next activity. For example, opening day at ski resorts are normally packed even if there’s only one run, but by late season, it’s a different story. When most visitors are now heading to the beach or somewhere warm like Florida, you’ll pretty much can have the run of the place.
Ski Anything You Want
They may say powder snow is hero snow, but for us it’s corn. If you time it right, the snow is as forgiving as powder but on a smoother plane. This is the time of year to ski the steep terrain you’ve been eyeing all season long.
Lower Avalanche Risk
They say there are old backcountry skiers, bold backcountry skiers but no old and bold backcountry skiers. With avalanche hazards like persistent slabs, weak layers, and storm slabs, there’s a lot of slopes you shouldn’t ride during winter. As the corn cycle picks up, a lot of the bigger terrain opens up if you time it correctly. It’s still the great outdoors so avalanche hazards will still exist but the margin for error is lowered.
Mother Nature’s Groomer
While during the winter you need fresh snowfall to create a blank canvas, when it comes to backcountry corn all you need is a few days. As the snow melts and re-freezes, those turns you made on a face will be wiped clean, and it’ll be like nobody skied it ever.
It’s Beach Season… But It’s In The Mountains
Mid-winter weather can be brutal. At a minimum it’s going to be cold, windy, and cloudy. By late March though, while there’s still a good chance for some fresh snow, more likely than not the sun will be shining, and it’ll feel warm and toasty. Instead of sweating on a beach covered in sand, you can sit back on a lounge chair and take in a view of the snow-covered mountains sipping a margarita.
You Can Enjoy More Than One Sport
If you’re a family or a couple that don’t all enjoy skiing or snowboarding then this is the time of year to visit. While you’re skiing spring snow, they can go enjoy a bike ride, paddle on a kayak, or even go fishing. The options are endless! Heck, if you’re an outdoor junkie like us, you could spend half the day schussing down the slopes and the remainder hitting up the golf links or disc golf course.
Things To Know About Corn
No matter what social media and new outlets tell you, true corn is a magical and rare occurrence in most parts of the world. Two places that have the unique meteorological phenomenon that helps it form consistently in the spring is the Sierra Nevada especially at Mammoth Mountain and Mt. Bachelor in the Cascades. Even then, if a ski area grooms AFTER it freezes, the space in between the granules will make it go from frozen snow cones to slush (i.e. wet granular) skipping the entire corn cycle. You’ll know if you hit it right. Very smooth, very edgeable, and surprisingly fast (no stick!).
In summary, there are two things to keep in mind when shredding snow corn:
- No sun, no fun
- What the sun giveth, the sun will taketh away…in time
If you’ve never gone corn skiing, make this the spring that you do.