Alpine works hard for magical corn
Alpine Meadows was touted as having the country’s best late-season corn snow in the May/June 2000 issue of Ski Magazine.
Corn snow, defined, is large, loose granules during the day which freeze together at night and then loosen again during the day. It is typically found during the warmth of spring and is sought as much as powder.
Alpine Meadows specifically ensures the highest quality of corn snow by letting the freeze-melt process occur for several days before opening certain runs to the public.
Because Alpine’s patrol and grooming teams work around the clock to perfect the art of ‘corn snow farming,’ skiers and boarders of any level can carve out turns on perfectly smooth, maintained corn fields.
“One of Alpine’s trademarks is the scheduled springtime opening and closures of certain ungroomed terrain. The idea is to open sun-exposed slopes like Estelle Bowl and High Traverse in the morning to provide perfectly smooth runs and close it when the snow softens, which prevents deep ruts created by skiers and boarders. By that time, places that hide in the morning shade like High Yellow Face and Keyhole Chute have had time to soften. The whole idea is to follow the sun’s path throughout the day,” said Larry Heywood, Alpine Meadows director of mountain operations and corn farming expert.
“Yes, corn farming requires some patience,” he said, “but then again, it takes a long time to farm anything at this elevation.”
Patience has proven to be the key element that allows Alpine Meadows to prevail time and time again during the late season, he said.
Heavy mid-winter snowfall also helps, oftentimes leaving Alpine buried in three feet of fresh powder per storm. Once the snow packs into the existing base, it’s there to stay, allowing for skiing and boarding well into May. Even on closing day, Alpine typically retains a mid-mountain snow depth of up to 10 feet on its north facing slopes.
“Alpine is in great shape this spring,” said Kent Hoopingarner, Alpine Meadows general manager. “We’re aiming to provide top notch skiing and boarding until Memorial Day weekend, conditions and interest permitting.”
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