Spring Skiing is Here with a Few Tricks up its Sleeve
Perhaps your flights are booked and you’re on your way to Park City, Utah for that long-awaited spring ski vacation. Maybe you’ve merely entertained the idea, but remain undecided and reluctant to commit to such a weather-dependent adventure. Maybe still, you live within driving distance, but need more than a moment’s notice before loading up the car and heading to the hill.
Regardless of your situation, and regardless of your expectations, spring skiing in Utah is a unique and exciting time of year. It is also a time of year that far too few people come and experience firsthand. From sunny days, to powder days, to sunny-powder days, nothing happens in moderation during spring in Park City.
As the end of another ski season creeps into view, a slow, and frequently interrupted, transformation begins to take place in the mountains of Utah. Indecisive weather becomes increasingly erratic — at times bringing temperatures that show grass on the golf course, then changing its mind with lingering storms and feet of powder. For those of us mourning the passing of winter, and those of us who can’t wait for bike season, it is a confusing and tormenting time.
Not even seasoned locals know how to handle these fluctuations gracefully, and their behavior begins to mirror the uncertainty of the weather. Some days are spent tinkering with new mountain bikes and riding the first hints of southern facing trails that peek through the snow. Some days the 80’s tribute clothing comes out of hiding and an afternoon party is brought to the resort. Other days, storage wax is hastily scraped from powder skis and the scramble for first chair begins.
But never mind the disjointed behavior of us locals. This is a disorienting time of year. Some bizarre blend of cabin-fever and too much Schnapps has taken hold and we’re acting strangely.
The Best Skiing is Yet to Come
To all of you who have taken advantage of the affordable rates offered for spring ski vacations, or who are making the gamble on catching a legendary March storm, worry not. Spring in Utah is the best part of ski season.
Admittedly, the images brought to mind when picturing spring skiing are of t-shirts, sunglasses, and apres-ski sessions that don’t exactly start “after” at all. The imagined scene is fun and lighthearted, undoubtedly, but conveys a lack of seriousness. It’s crowds of people drinking away the last few weeks of the season with ski boots on their feet. Fun in the sun, with the occasional lift ride in between.
But what about the snow? That all-important substance required for the real skiing to take place. The skiing worth paying for.
Again, worry not.
Take, for example, 92 inches. That’s the average snowfall at Snowbird and Alta during the month of March. Which, believe it or not, makes March the most powder heavy month of the year. Throw in an additional 66 average inches during the month of April, and you start to get the picture of spring skiing in Utah. When it’s not patio weather, it’s dumping.
Groomers, too, age gracefully with the season. Above 7,000 feet, nighttime temperatures still consistently drop below freezing through March and April, allowing runs to regenerate over night. With the world class grooming of Utah’s top resorts, trails that ended the previous day overheated and scarred are restored to perfectly smooth, frozen hardpack by morning. This cycle of melting and refreezing produces the famed corn snow associated with spring skiing in the west, and when it comes to groomers, produces a daily variance unseen throughout the rest of the season. From hold-on-tight speed in the mornings, to laid-over hero snow in the afternoon, spring groomers are as consistently entertaining as they get.
The Right Skis For Spring
For visitors to Park City, however, these constantly changing temperatures and snow conditions present a dilemma. The daunting task of selecting your wardrobe aside, if you’re fortunate enough to own a quiver of skis, which pair do you reluctantly entrust to the hurried efforts of baggage handlers? Or, if like an increasing number of visitors, you’re renting when you get here, what balance do you strike between waist-width, length, and that ultimate of debate-starters, rocker?
Luckily most rental shops have the fleet of skis required to match Park City’s unpredictable spring weather. And with few exceptions they will let you swap skis within your rental package accordingly. So if you ignore the outdated stigma attached to rental skis, and take advantage of the price-competition that keeps rates downright affordable, you can effectively grant yourself access to the same quality of quiver that even the most diehard locals have assembled. And since most fleets are comprised entirely of skis less than two years old, and feature the latest and greatest technology the ski industry is pumping out, you’ll be skiing the same skis as the locals too.
There’s an additional, and often overlooked, bonus to trusting your spring skiing experience to the guidance of the rental shops. As snow conditions change according to the season, and temperatures fluctuate wildly, the grind structure and wax applied to the base of your skis becomes increasingly vital. And without detailed and accurate knowledge of the structures and waxes that are working best at any given time, skis can feel downright sluggish. Beyond just providing you with the right ski for the current conditions, rental shops will provide you with the behind-the-scenes tune work that can make or break your day.
While locals may condemn this exposition as traitorous, the secret is out. Endearingly bipolar weather, affordable airfare and hotels, and the fleets of rental skis necessary to adapt to the ever-changing conditions make March and April the time of year to be in Park City. Spring skiing isn’t all t-shirts and PBR’s. The snow keeps coming, the groomers have reached perfection, and if you’re willing to roll with the ever-changing weather, the best part of the season is yours for the taking.
Nate Tomlinson, Content Writer