Extended Range Outlook: Sound the Corn Horn

Some of you may be asking what the hell a "corn horn" is. It's part of our skiing and riding vernacular around here that signals the start of spring and I'm sounding it now, but I'm pretty optimistic about a return of some winter weather in the last half of the month.

Corn is large granular snow, pretty much little ice pellets. It forms naturally when temperatures cycle above and below freezing which causes the surviving ice crystals to become larger and larger as the smaller ones melt away. Corn also forms from from hardpack with the combination tilling from groomers and your edges scraping away to chip the ice.

Corn is important because as the snow melts you need the roughness of granular snow to break the surface tension of the water with your bases so that it doesn't become slow. That's why you can go fast in 70F weather on corn, but you stick to fine fresh snow that just warmed above freezing. Natural snow corn is swooshy and dreamy, it makes a pleasant sound and feels great under your feet, while the man-made and mechanically created corn is heavier but more tolerant of warmer temperatures and drains better. Stiff skis and snowboards generally work better for these types of conditions in order to slice through and take the rattle out of the chop (seriously, there's a huge difference, especially on a snowboard).

Swooshy turns at Gore on Tuesday.  📷 Gore Mountain
Swooshy turns at Gore on Tuesday. 📷 Gore Mountain

When spring temps hit generally three things happen. Fair weather skiers and riders hang up their gear when outdoor activities start becoming attractive closer to home (it's not about seeing snow out their windows), powder hounds will at least for a time suffer from seasonal affective disorder and cry into their IPAs, and the hardcore break out their grills, coolers, some fun outfits, snazzy sunglasses, tutus, etc. and get ready to party for another 3 months until every last drop of snow is gone from the slopes!

I honestly don't know why more people don't do spring skiing at least into April. Outside of deep powder days (if that's your thing), there's literally nothing better. With an early spring this year maybe it's a good opportunity for some who think the snow is no good above freezing to go out and give it try. I'm not saying this because I want to see the ski industry succeed, but rather because it is downright fucking awesome! This weekend will be a great opportunity to give it a try though there will be a little rain to dodge in some areas. I'll send out a heads up on the weekend with an update of Thursday's wind hold forecast later today.

There's going to be a bit of good, bad, and the ugly to the extended range outlook depending on your perspective. We're looking at seasonally warm temperatures through mid-March, but we might finish the month off cold and stormy! Unfortunately the warm spell is going to quickly decimate much of the natural snowpack that exists, though man-made snow will survive so long as it isn't thin.

I am concerned about smaller independent ski areas. They generally had a bad Christmas week and MLK weekend which really, really hurts, and they generally don't make their snow depths as deep and tend to be lower in elevation. So please make it a point to support the indies this weekend while they are still holding strong! We have many indies in the Snowology Club and if you are a Snowology Subscriber, you can get a 50% off lift ticket at 7 different ski areas this weekend.

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I'm going to cover the March Temperature Outlook and then go over the Extended Range Pattern to explain why this is happening and also why we might see a return to winter weather in the last half of the month.

March Temperature Outlook