Downhill from Here: Whiteface and perfect corn snow
Any skier can tell you this: When you hit it just right, it feels like you live an absolutely charmed life. You absolutely wouldn't want to be anywhere else, doing anything else. You wouldn't change a thing.
I hope you've gotten some days like that this season. I've now had four days like that in the last two weeks. The first two were pure powder heaven at Saddleback (207-864-5671; saddlebackmaine.com) in Rangeley, Maine, one was a perfect blue-sky-and-corduroy morning at Sugarloaf (207-237-2000; www.sugarloaf.com) in Carrabassett Valley, Maine. Last weekend was corn snow at Whiteface (518-946-2223; www.whiteface.com ) in Wilmington, N.Y.
Now Whiteface is pretty special. It offers more lift-serviced vertical (3,166 feet) than any other ski hill in the East and a truly wonderful layout of trails and glades with everything from gentle beginner terrain to the "The Slides," a series of double-black diamond natural avalanche chutes where only the best of the best should venture.
Corn snow is pretty special, too. Like fluffy, fresh powder, perfect corn snow is rare and ephemeral and all the more precious and cherished for it. Corn snow (named for the loose crystals about the size of corn kernels that are created when snow goes through a number of freeze-thaw cycles), usually forms when the night has been below freezing and the temperature climbs during the day. You'll see it first on slopes that face east where the sun goes to work first.
We (my sweetheart Marilyn, I, and our friends David and Susan Shedd) arrived in Lake Placid last Friday afternoon, with the plan of skiing Whiteface together Saturday. Lake Placid is one of the great ski/outdoor towns of the East. We stayed at The Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, right in downtown. The rooms are super comfortable, and the views are gorgeous. There's also a choice of fine restaurants within easy walking distance, including Generations, the restaurant in the hotel.
Saturday morning, the trails at Whiteface were mostly nicely groomed corduroy. We were among the first folks up the Summit Quad and made our first run down Cloudspin and Niagara, which was soft, smooth snow from top to bottom. Our next run was on Paron's and that's when the magic started. On the far left side of the trail, I noticed those first magic kernels of corn snow. By the time we were halfway down the run, it was pure corn. That's when I started getting that feeling I described above, where you know deep in your soul that you are in the right place at the right time.
For the next couple of hours, we skied non-stop in lovely soft corn snow. I've heard it described as "skiing on butter," and that's as close to accurate as I can get.
Of course all good things come to an end, and the sun that creates corn snow eventually turns it into slush -- still fun to ski on but a lot more work. Anyway, it was a perfect corn snow morning on a fabulous mountain and that's about as good as life gets.
HERE'S THE DEAL
Mount Snow (800-245-7669; www.mountsnow.com) in Dover, Vt., has $17 lift tickets on St. Paddy's Day. You might be able to find a beer somewhere, too. Oh, and they have $75 mid-week ski and stay packages, too.
Stratton Mountain Resort (www.stratton.com ), in Stratton, Vt., has lift tickets up to 50 percent off in March when purchased in advance online, with the biggest savings available midweek. Lodging packages are 30 percent off for midweek, multiple night stays in March. And lift and lodging packages are even better deals.
Tim Jones writes about outdoor sports and travel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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