In Praise of Corduroy

There’s nothing like a freshly-groomed corduroy cruiser to make you feel like you know how to carve when you don’t have a clue. Words :: Leslie Anthony.

Imagine your dream run: an endless fall line screamer tilted at 35 degrees, with a solid base covered in light, knee-deep powder that billows overhead as you rock and roll over berms and sidehills, hundreds of metres downward in a leg-burning spiral. Sounds magical, right?


Sun Peaks corduroy dream. Photo: Reuben Krabbe


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But instead of some backcountry idyll, chances are this dream is most likely to come true for you on a piste; it’s called a cruiser in some circles, a snowed-over, erstwhile corduroy road.

Of course, catching such a run without new snow, when it’s freshly groomed, can also be transcendent. The g-forces pulled while carving on forgiving corduroy are enough to keep a NASA scientist interested. There’s something both edifying and magical about crossing the fall line with your edges slicing through those velvety parallel ridges, knowing that quirky combination of speed, edging and gravity will keep your body suspended only centimetres above them.


The g-forces pulled while carving on forgiving corduroy are enough to keep a NASA scientist interested.


The ski world is full of superb cruisers often overlooked in the current craze for steep, deep and off-piste adventure. Aspen, Colorado, which many consider to be the world capital of groomed snow, keeps its pistes in superb condition, aided by dry snow that preserves especially well at the resort’s 3,000-metre altitude. Ruthie’s Run on Ajax Mountain, for instance, is universally embraced—even by Europeans—to be the finest groomer on the planet. Other winners are found on Aspen Highlands, one of the least-skied of the area’s alpine tetrad: from the Merry-Go-Round mid-station they start wide and gentle before steepening considerably; by the time you reach bottom, you’re flying.


Fresh Beaver Creek groomer. Photo: John Price via Unsplash


France’s Les 3 Vallées is packed with excellent intermediate-level pistes, none more popular than Combe Saulire in Courchevel 1850. It’s a north-facing screamer that drops from the Saulire summit all the way to the resort base. As elsewhere, the corduroy may only be excellent first thing in the morning before the pizza-wedging crowds schralp it to death, but if you get to it early enough there’s huge satisfaction in a non-stop run.

The list goes on: the top half of Inferno in Mürren, Switzerland, where views toward the north wall of the Jungfrau are stunning; Big Dipper in Heavenly, California, an easy groomer with some of the most spectacular views on the planet—azure blue Lake Tahoe on one side and brown Nevada desert on the other; the Parsenn and similar runs down the Weissfluhjoch in Davos to the hamlet of Serneus; Sella Ronda in the Dolomites, Italy, not so much a run as an experience; Sarenne at Alpe d’Huez, France, longest piste in the Alps at 16 kilometres; the “S” and “Super S” at Quebec’s Mont-Sainte-Anne, with their views over the ice-choked St. Lawrence; and, when it’s groomed—usually twice a week—Whistler’s 1,530-vertical-metre Peak to Creek, which even in toe-deep snow, is the closest thing to a heli-run in resortdom.

That dream run is out there. You just have to find the right groomer in the right place in the right conditions. Then tip onto those edges and ride it for all it’s worth.


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