Spring skiing consists of sunshine, slushy turns, and lots of fun. Not only are the groomers fantastic, but the temperatures are warm and the winter crowds have thinned. Spring skiing presents a unique time to relish the last few weeks of winter, but there are a couple of things to know in order to do it right.
Time and Place
While the occasional spring snow storm will roll through, you can typically depend on warmer weather with temperatures as high as 70 degrees. This doesn’t do anything good for the snowpack, though, and when the post-lunch slush shows up your ski day is done. Overnight the snow tends to refreeze and become extremely hard and icy, or “bulletproof,” by the time the chairs start spinning in the morning. Come mid-afternoon the snow, especially down low near the base areas, turns into a sloppy mess. To make the most of the variable snow conditions, you’ll want to find those magic few hours where the snow has softened up just enough that you can engage an edge.
This type of snow is referred to as “corn snow,” and it’s the result of large grains of snow freezing together overnight and loosening up as they are exposed to the sun. I would say that, depending on conditions, your optimal ski window on a warm spring day is between 10:30 am and 1:00 pm. This is the time frame that allows the sun to heat the frozen snow and still get you off the hill before it turns to slop. Higher elevation runs will last longer into the day, but anything that gets direct sun won’t stay together in the afternoon.
Skiing in any capacity is an aerobic sport and you’re going to be generating a lot of heat. In warm weather, it is important to layer up correctly in order to stay at the right temperature.
Lightweight layers are a great place to start. A thin baselayer made from polyester or nylon will wick sweat from your skin and move it to the outside of the fabric to dry. Add a softshell jacket over the baselayer to provide wind protection while still venting any hot air. Softshell pants, backed up with a synthetic or wool baselayer, will act much the same. Even though softshell fabric isn’t exactly waterproof, most pieces have a durable water-repellent (DWR) treatment to repel light moisture. Spring gloves, too, block cool air while still keeping your hands from getting overly hot.
We’re big fans of ski helmets and goggles and advocate wearing them all the time – no matter the conditions or time of year. Properly protecting your head and eyes is important, and a beanie and sunglasses just won’t cut it.
Spring skiing is as much about ski culture as it is skiing, if not more so. Once late March and early April come around, you’re free to drop the “no friends on a powder day,” “first tracks,” and “first chair” mantras. Spring skiing is about having a good time with friends and enjoying the sunshine while welcoming in spring and ushering out the cold, dark days of winter.
So find your favorite après ski spot and order up a cold beverage. Once you’re done skiing, sit back and enjoy the sun. This is a great time to reminisce on the season and look forward to your summer plans. And please, above all else, dress up in hilarious costumes that praise the fashion of skiing’s best decades, the ’60s through the ’90s.
Wax is an important element of skiing, no matter the type of snow. Corn snow and sloppy slush can be particularly hard on your bases, oxidizing and weakening them. Ski wax protects your bases in addition to improving glide. Spring skiing means the snowpack has a higher water content, especially later in the day. Using a warm-weather-specific wax with a fluorocarbon additive will make your bases very hydrophobic, meaning they will be able to glide better over soft snow. Our Tuning Your Skis for Spring Skiing Blog covers the basics of spring ski tunes. Or, you can always drop by your local tune shop or Rennstall in Park City to discuss the snow conditions and wax you need.
By: Paul Boyle, Marketing
*Post updated on March 4, 2020