Beth, at the always enlightening Cassandra Pages, has posted an entry that mentions a phenomenon I was familiar with but whose name I had never heard:

But the willows are turning yellow, and the snow is “rotting”, as we call it up here – turning old and crystalized, breaking up into the granular spring consistency called “corn snow”.

My wife (a Massachusetts gal) knows it, so I’m guessing it’s a New England phrase; any of you know the phrase?


  1. Well known to skiers anywhere, I think. Not a good thing. I remember the thing from Minnesota, but can’t remember if we used the word.

  2. Yes from New Hampshire.

  3. We call it “corn snow” in Vermont too. It sticks to your skis.

  4. In Italy skiers call it “salt snow”.

  5. I’ve heard it in Winnipeg too

  6. yep. Iowa.

  7. Well, in Iowa it’s all about corn.

  8. Corn snow is really formed by many cycles of freezing and thawing and refreezing. My husband says when he was a kid in Vermont, in the days before artificial snowmaking, everybody looked forward to early spring and corn snow, because it was a whole lot better to ski on than ice. On natural snow trails, it really isn’t a bad surface. (We New Englanders have a million ways to put up with winter and the spring-that-never-comes.) Thanks for the link, LH!

  9. I agree with “zizka”: every skier — perhaps cross-country skiers in particular — knows the term “corn snow.” When it occurs, you haul out the sticky wax.

  10. In Washington as well.

  11. What, has no one weighed in from Florida yet?

  12. Not from Florida, but in Russia the pre-spring snow of this consistency will be added an adjective “nozdrevatyi”. I’m sure skiers have their own slang word for it, but since I’m not – I don’t know.

  13. We called it “corn snow” when I was a kid but I always thought the name came by analogy with corn salt — the large, mostly hexagonal crystals that are used to cure (and name) corned beef. I’m from northern Maine, FWIW. When I skied competitively in college (downhill racing) we called it “coarse granular.”

  14. Yes from Colorado, too. You can’t make a snow cave in corn snow.

  15. We had the term in Buffalo, and it was common enough to have spawned jokes about white corn vs. yellow corn.
    Come to think of it, it’s fairly rare in my experience in cities the size of Buffalo or larger: too much soot.

  16. Frank V. Pearsall says

    Corn Snow here in Ohio 🙂

    I have written a post over on the Snow Gaper blog titled The Pocket Guide To Corn Snow and would love to see what you think?

    Post here:

    Frank V.

  17. Nice to see this thread revived, and with a link to such a thorough article!

  18. When I first saw the phrase, today and here on languagehat, I thought it was a reference to graupel, which was also a new term I’d recently seen. But I guess not.

  19. January First-of-May says

    When I first saw the phrase, today and here on languagehat, I thought it was a reference to graupel, which was also a new term I’d recently seen. But I guess not.

    I also assumed it was probably graupel, but I didn’t know the English word “graupel” before this thread either – thanks!

    (The Russian word for graupel is крупа, which apparently literally translates to “groats”. Not that I could’ve told you that English word before I just looked it up either.)

  20. Stu Clayton says

    At any rate there is a common German word [die] Graupel. The DWDS says it’s “related to Slavic words of similar meaning”, and probably comes from Sorbian and Polish.

  21. The English word was borrowed from German in the 19th century.

  22. +tapioca snow

    snow pellets
    (Also called soft hail, graupel, tapioca snow.) Precipitation consisting of white, opaque, approximately round (sometimes conical) ice particles having a snowlike structure, and from about 2 mm to less than 5 mm in diameter.

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