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Snow Corduroy

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A ski slope groomer in Stowe, Vermont, says he and his colleagues use vehicles that make corduroy, the packed, parallel, ridged surfaces of snow that are perfect for skiing. Another term for corduroy, or someone who wears it, is whistle britches, because of the sound corduroy pants make when the wearer is walking. This is part of a complete episode.

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  • There’s lots of slang surrounding skiing, snowboarding (usu. “riding” or “shredding”), and snow conditions there. Resorts spend a fortune grooming slopes every night, to make the snow consistently smooth (not too firm, not too soft), with a fresh corduroy pattern on top (ref images like this one, here in Tahoe: http://www.skinastc.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/northstar%20corduroy.jpg), because it is the easiest surface to ski. That’s a favorite with lots of folks, especially beginners or anyone who wants a cruising day, and very popular with resorts who can report daily “freshly groomed” slopes a lot more often than “fresh snow” in a dry year, but it’s not the only type of snow on the hill.

    The un-groomed is a bit more work, but definitely worth seeking-out. Snow on a cold day falls as fresh powder (light, easily moved around, good to float through), but in warmer weather can fall or pack-down into heavier “mashed potato.” If you’re first off the lift or find an undiscovered spot, you make fresh tracks, but after everyone has taken a run or ten, it’s all tracked-out. Snow which is tracked-out, especially tracked mashed-potato, is known as “crud” because the unevenness makes for more of a challenge. Skier traffic or weather variations can make snow icy and hard, difficult to carve a turn into, and if new snow falls which is too thin to add good traction onto that, it’s “dust on crust.” Resorts nowadays will supplement the weather with man-made snow, pumping water out of jets on cold nights, but if conditions aren’t ideal, the manmade can form into more of a hail than snowflakes, so you’re skiing on “corn” the next day. In springtime, it all turns to slush by the afternoons.

    If you only ski when there’s fresh powder, you’re a powder hound, and will want to be first after the rope drop, when ski patrol first-allows folks to get to the lift or onto the hill. If the snow is fresh and new, especially on a bluebird day when the sky is calm and clear, it’s a powder day: town has otherwise shut down, because all the local business owners have headed out to enjoy the conditions. If you worry less about snow conditions, but like to play on terrain features like jumps, boxes, and rails, you’re headed into the (terrain) park, which has its own complete dialect of slang because… youth.

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