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Powder. Corn. Sun. Smiles. Spring skiing is awesome! // Photo: Aaron Theisen

Spring Skiing Survival Guide

 

Spring time for skiers and riders offers a mix of sun, comfortable temperatures, soft snow, no crowds, and a chill state of mind. Everyone’s likely had a belly full of powder days and sub-zero-groomer-zoomer days. Now it’s time to relax, have some fun and work on your tan. Maximize your time in the sun with these tips.

When and Where to Go

Every weekend in March offers some sort of annual spring ski event at the resorts. This is about the time that the clouds clear out, the weather stabilizes, and the sun starts to reappear. The five resorts in our region typically have similar spring skiing conditions. However, if you decide to make a trek north over the border, things may be a little less spring-like, as the British Columbia resorts tend to hold on to their winters a bit longer.

Do: Attend Schweitzer’s “Schpring Finale and The Big LeBREWski” event on April 8. It’s Schweitzer’s final weekend of operation, and you’re guaranteed to have a great time with fun events, live music, and great beer.

Don’t: Pay full price for skiing if you don’t have to. This is the time of year where many resorts start to see skier visits drop off. They’re eager to get you back up, and most offer spring deals the closer it gets to the end of the season.

How to Ski in Spring Conditions

Spring is a mixed bag that can have you skiing soft groomers one minute and carving through 8 inches of fresh snow the next. Above all, be ready and able to adapt to changing conditions. While spring skiing is known for its carvable corn snow, unpredictable weather can still create some challenges. As the day progresses, the sun’s radiation and the rising ambient air temperature begin to soften the top layer of snow. This is where velvety corn skiing is born. But if the day breaks cloudy and cool (or too windy) after a clear, cold night and then remains so, you’ll have much firmer conditions. In spring, especially in late spring, the quality of your ski experience depends on your timing. It’s not just a matter of giving the slopes an extra hour or so to start softening. Equally important is your choice of where to ski, and when.

Do: Follow the sun. In spring, shadowy north-facing slopes are no blessing early in the morning. Start your spring ski day on east-facing slopes. Then follow the sun all day long.

Don’t: Get too lackadaisical. Soft snow, while forgiving, can transition quickly and without notice to its firmer and nastier cousin, ice. Stay balanced and focus on holding a good edge through every turn so that an end-of-the-season injury doesn’t ruin your summer.

What to Wear

The natural nighttime cold can linger well into the morning and may be accompanied by a chilly wind that feels frigid when you’re not in the sun. Layering is the key here to help you combat whatever Mother Nature has in store. Forget the down jacket and heavy insulated snow pants. You want to travel lightly but still have proper wind and snow protection. A good wicking base layer and a warm midlayer will keep body heat in during the cold period — even if it lasts all day. As the temperatures rise, remove the midlayer if you’re overheating or open the arm and leg zippers now common on most outerwear.

Do: Be sure that you’re wearing a waterproof shell. Rain, snow, hail and sleet are all possibilities on a spring day and nothing will end the day faster than a soggy midlayer jacket posing as an outer layer.

Don’t: Give skiing a try on a nice sunny day with your leather jacket and a pair of Levi 501s. We’re all for folks learning to ski, so long as they’re prepared for weather in the mountains. Jumping into an alpine environment with street clothes is a recipe for disaster – one that the EMTs on the mountain will gladly send you a bill for.

Après Ski Time

This is where things get good. When spring skiing is in full bloom, people love to let loose, drink some spirits, and spread out on the outside decks. Most resorts will bring in live music acts and weekend events such as relay races, slush cups, and other spring-themed activities. If you’re lucky (or unlucky), you may even get to witness those rare spring phenomena known as bikini and man-kini skiers.

Do: Show lots of skin, wear lots of sunscreen, and celebrate the end of another glorious ski season here in the Inland Northwest.

Don’t: Pound three pitchers, leave your poles at the lodge, wreck your skis by using them to get to your car and then tailgate the family unlucky enough to be stuck in front of you all way down the hill. We want everyone to get home safely so that they can enjoy many spring ski days to come. // (Brad Naccarato)

Local Resort Spring Celebrations

March 11: Give the boards a break for part of the day and check out Silver Mountain’s Fat Bike and Snowshoe Race sponsored by Trail Maniacs. The moderate course is a 2.75 mile loop that starts at the top of the tubing hill before hitting all singletrack to the snowshoe trail. Take it as seriously (or not) as you want with one or two laps and have fun!

March 18: Get your Luau on at 49 Degrees North’s Hawaiian Daze. Barbecue on the deck, live entertainment, and fun competitions round out this tropical-themed party on the slopes.

March 18: Your kids will be stoked when you take them to Family Fun Day at Mt. Spokane. Free entry includes a kids’ obstacle course on the bunny hill with slalom gates, hoops to slide under and rollers and banks to cruise through.

April 1: Oyster lovers won’t want to miss 49 Degrees North’s Oyster Feed—trucked in fresh from the Washington coast for this annual celebration of spring in the Selkirks.

April 8: The Slush Cup and Beach Party at Lookout Pass is an end-of-season bash complete with grilling on the deck, pond skimming, and other entertaining antics. // (OTM)

About Brad Naccarato

Brad Naccarato is a Spokane-based freelance writer and a senior contributor to OTM since 2012. Chasing snow, waves, trout, sun, dogs, and microbrews keeps him sane.