SNOWPACK: Catching corn requires timing

By on April 2, 2013

There is a short window for perfect corn. As the supportable crust on the snow’s surface melts, it changes from a firm, icy surface to a velvety, forgiving surface. The sun’s intensity, the slope angel, the aspect, and the temperature all factor into the time available for making hero turns. When the hour is over, the perfect surface melts and turns to heavy, wet snow. Daily melting and nightly freezing is the process called melt-freeze metamorphism, which creates clusters of grains near the snowpack’s surface and an early morning crust. During the warm days the snowpack heats up and the bonds between snow crystals change to water. Once the snow becomes very wet a moderate amount of water can be hand-squeezed from it. More than very wet is slushy, which is a snowpack with 15 percent or more water content. A slushy snowpack loses its bonds, which turn to water. As the snowpack’s overall cohesion decreases, the chance of wet slides increases. Wet snow can move on angles as low as 15 degrees. Sometimes noticing wet slides can be tricky, since the snowpack changes rapidly from very stable to very unstable. So while chasing corn, keep an eye on the clock, because timing is everything.

About Lisa Van Sciver

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