What is Corduroy Snow?

Like most sports, skiing and snowboarding have a wide array of terminology that you might be unfamiliar with, particularly if you’re a beginner.

If you’ve spent enough time on the mountain you’ve probably heard someone mention the word “corduroy”, and they weren’t referring to anyone’s clothing!

In this article, we explain what the term “corduroy” means, why corduroy is good for skiing and finally when you can ski the best corduroy.

Freshly groomed slope with "corduroy"
Freshly groomed “corduroy”

What is Corduroy Snow?

Corduroy snow or “cord” for short, is the name given to snow that has been groomed by snowcats. This groomed snow has lined furrows or grooves which look just like corduroy fabric.

The snowcats are fitted with a “comb”, which is essentially a flap at the back that creates these perfectly sculpted rows of corduroy.

These snowcats operate at night (you’ll often see their lights up on the mountain) turning a messy skied slope into a smooth, compact and even ski surface ready for the next day.

Like this one below..

Fresh corduroy waiting to be skied

How is Corduroy Snow Made?

As mentioned briefly above, corduroy snow is the by-product of the slope grooming process.

Grooming makes the slopes more consistent by removing accumulated piles of snow and covering ice or bare patches left over from the day.

The more popular a ski run is the more work that needs to be done to smooth and prepare the slope for the next day.

Some ski runs are also positioned in such a way that skiers and snowboarders end up making a turn in the same area. By the end of the day, this area on the slope will have large moguls and piles of snow making it very difficult to ski.

Snowcats use an array of modern equipment to repair and prepare the snow for the next day.

At the back of a snowcat, you will find the cutter bar. The cutter bar spins to churn up the snow before evenly distributing it across the tiller. The driver is able to adjust how fast the cutter bar is spinning to change the snow’s consistency.

This churned-up snow is then evenly distributed by the comb or grooming mat giving it the corduroy effect.

If you’re interested in this then make sure you check out the video below showing just how hard these machines work to prepare the slopes for your skiing and snowboarding adventures.

Is Corduroy Good For Skiing?

Fresh corduroy is good for skiing because it is smooth, fast and predictable. As a skier, you have better visibility and traction and the slope looks good too!

And while it might not get the attention that powder does, there are few things better than getting a first track run on some fresh corduroy in the morning.

One of the benefits of corduroy, particularly in the early morning, is that you’re able to get a better edge.

And a better edge means better control and faster skiing!

When is the Best Time to Ski Corduroy?

For most people, a powder day is not something you get to experience that often.

But corduroy snow is one thing that is guaranteed because the slopes are groomed every night!

We’ve got some tips on how to make the most of this corduroy before it disappears:

1. Get Up Early

If you’re going to enjoy the fresh corduroy in the morning you need to be one of the first on the mountain. Snoozing or having a leisurely breakfast is one way to miss this opportunity.

2. Plan Ahead

Make sure your ski equipment (socks, gloves, goggles, boots etc.) is prepared the night before so that you aren’t delayed. 10 minutes can make all the difference.

Make sure you check the weather report the night before so that you’ve got the right equipment prepared for the conditions of the day.

Make note of the time the lifts open. No point in getting up early to enjoy the freshly groomed slopes only to realize the lifts opened 30 minutes earlier.

3. Stay in Ski-In Ski-Out Accommodation

One way to make sure you get fresh tracks in the morning is to stay in ski-in ski-out accommodation.

You’ll be able to access a slope directly from your hotel or chalet and get down to the lifts before anyone else.

This will increase your chances of getting up the mountain and enjoying the fresh corduroy before anyone else.

4. Buy a First Tracks Ticket

Many resorts offer a lift ticket known as a First Tracks ticket. These lift tickets allow holders to get up the mountain before the lifts are open to the general public.

This is a great way for you to experience a freshly groomed slope before anyone else does.

While the ski conditions may vary, you’re guaranteed to enjoy at least one day of cord all to yourself.

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