Ahhh….Spring! The sun is higher in the sky, the days are longer and noticeably warmer. Heavy winter coats are discarded for lightweight jackets, windbreakers and even short-sleeve shirts. Goggles are replaced with sun glasses and afternoons on the deck with a favorite beverage are the norm.
But what about the skiing? Spring skiing conditions can range from slushy snow, perfect corn, teeth-rattling boilerplate and even great powder. But how do you know what conditions you will find?
Several years ago, I had the good fortune of skiing Val d’lsère in France late one April. After a snowfall the night before, we awoke to bright blue skies, warm spring temperatures and were eager to explore the mountain. As this was my first trip to Val d’lsère, and not knowing the mountain, I had enough foresight to hire a guide for the day. Our guide took us all over the mountain – long, groomed slopes, wonderful off-piste skiing and high Alpine glaciers.
Spectacular vistas were equaled by the spectacular skiing. But to make my point…at the end of the day we went back to the hotel for beers in the lounge where we met a couple of British gents who had also skied that same day. Their experience was quite the opposite. They had terrible snow conditions everywhere they went. They complained that they had one of the most miserable days of their ski lives, while I had one of the best. So, what was the difference? We were on the same resort on the same day.
The key to spring skiing and the one that all locals subscribe to is “Follow the Sun”. Now what do I mean by this? As I mentioned at the beginning, spring skiing can offer a myriad of conditions and where you go and when you go will determine what conditions you find. With warm days and cold nights, the snow will soften up during the day and refreeze at night. So, first thing in the morning the key is to head for east or south facing slopes. These slopes will have had the sun on them the longest and will soften up first. Then, as the day progresses and these slopes become too soft for enjoyment, start heading toward the more northerly facing slopes and finish off the day on the west facing slopes. As the sun traverses from east to west, the north and west faces will change from teeth-rattling boilerplate to wonderfully soft snow and very enjoyable skiing.
On particularly warm days, plan your day to get out early and quit early. Ski area decks on a warm, sunny afternoon are the place to be for people watching and great conversation.
So remember for spring skiing…..follow the sun and you will rarely go wrong. It may be March, but there is plenty of good skiing to come. The West has enjoyed a great ski season with record snowfalls, so plan a trip to Park City and find out why we love spring skiing.