Spring skiing offers its own glorious vibe with more comfortable temperatures, soft snow (after the sun has a chance to warm it up at least), and often a fun party atmosphere (see “Mountain Festivals to Attend This Spring.”). For advice on how to best take advantage of the spring conditions, check out “5 Spring Skiing Tips You’ll Thank Us For Later.” For ideas on where to try out those tips, this list of resorts highlights some of the most renowned spots for late-season skiing and boarding.
1. Arapahoe Basin
With a base elevation of 10,780 feet on the Continental Divide in Colorado, Arapahoe Basin benefits from its lofty location for excellent snow preservation often into June. For spring-breakers thinking of a trip to the beach instead of the mountains, A-Basin does at least in name have “The Beach”— a slopeside parking area famous for tailgate grilling and partying during the spring.
2. Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows
If Arapahoe Basin is party central for Colorado spring skiing, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows is its California equivalent. The Tahoe-area resorts have even trademarked the “Spring Skiing Capital” moniker. With record-breaking snowfall in February, Squaw Valley has already announced plans to stay open on summer weekends until July 7. Alpine Meadows has plans to operate into May.
Complete with a hot tub at 8,200 feet, Squaw Valley’s High Camp is the “capital” of the party scene there. The insiders at Squaw Valley were kind enough to offer a suggested schedule for the day to time the best snow on the various aspects at the resort. Neighboring Alpine Meadows shared a similar schedule for the day for the smart strategy to hit the best snow there.
3. Mammoth Mountain
A few hours south of Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain typically stays open at least through Memorial Day weekend. Enjoying the same sort of amazing snow year as the Tahoe resorts, Mammoth has already extended its season through July 4. With the highest summit elevation among California ski resorts at 11,053 feet and lots of north-facing terrain, the snow at Mammoth preserves particularly well in the late-season.
Located in Little Cottonwood Canyon just outside Salt Lake City, Snowbird usually stays open well after the lifts at other Utah resorts have stopped spinning. Many of Snowbird’s legendary steeps face north, so the snow stays longer. Of course, the fact that Snowbird averages about 500 inches of snow a season also helps the supply last typically until Memorial Day.
5. Mt. Bachelor
Featuring 360-degrees of skiing on a dormant volcano overlooking Bend, Oregon, Mt. Bachelor can provide an unusual spring skiing experience. Given that the mountain is basically one huge peak sticking out of the high desert, the temperature change can be particularly striking. Along the highway from the mountain back down to Bend, it’s common to see people playing an afternoon round of golf.
Killington embraces spring skiing perhaps more than any other ski area in the East. While the Vermont resort can’t match the elevations in the West, it does have a world-class snowmaking system that spends the winter building an impressive base and stockpiling snow. The crews create the “Superstar glacier”- a white ribbon of snow on the Superstar trail that provides bump skiing usually into May.
Located in British Columbia, Whistler/Blackcomb has real glaciers, so not surprisingly the huge resort has lots of terrain open late in the spring and beyond. Held April 10-14 this year, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival in Whistler claims to be North America’s largest festival of snow sports, music, arts and mountain culture.
8. Lake Louise/Banff Sunshine
At a more northern latitude than Whistler, the Canadian resorts of Lake Louise and Banff Sunshine provide particularly long days of spring sunshine (quite fitting considering the latter resort’s name). The long days translate into full days of spring skiing followed by hours of apres-ski on an outdoor patio.
Now that you know where to go to get turns in this spring, we’ve got some tips that will help make the most out of the rest of this season —
5 Spring Skiing Tips You’ll Thank Us For Later
1. Follow the Sun
Spring’s higher temperatures and sun angle create a freeze-thaw cycle that affects how you ski the mountain. The snow typically refreezes each night, so going off the groomers first thing in the morning can be an unpleasant experience. While warming up yourself on the groomers, look for the slopes with an eastern exposure that are warming up in the morning sun. Those runs will soften up first.
After a few hours, the softer snow turns to corn, the holy grail of spring skiing. Corn snow is sometimes called “hero snow,” because it is really forgiving and easy to ski. Corn snow turns to wetter slush after a few more hours, so the strategy is to move across the mountain staying on the trails that are in that precious time window of corn.
2. Use Warm-Temperature Wax
When the snow surface gets too wet in the direct sun, it can get sticky. The effect is especially evident on a catwalk with sunny and shady spots. Skis or a snowboard will glide easily over the shaded stretch then grab on the wet snow in the sun. A wax rated for warm temperatures can reduce that water suction effect.
3. Still Pack a Winter Jacket
Despite all this discussion of warm temperatures, plenty of storm days do happen in March and April. At Alta Ski Area in Utah for example, March is the ski season’s snowiest month with a monthly average of about 100 inches. Even April receives an average of 80 inches. Base depths can be the deepest of the season during the spring.
4. Find the Party
Ski resorts love to throw parties in the spring. Virtually every major ski area has some sort of concert, pond skim or festival to wrap up the season.
At Squaw Valley in California and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado in particular, the party vibe is a famous daily tradition. Both resorts stay open into May, June or even July, depending on the year. Squaw Valley has its mid-mountain High Camp for outdoor pool and hot tub frolicking. A-Basin has “The Beach,” an area next to the base parking lot for tailgate barbecues.
5. Find the Deals
The beauty of skiing or boarding in April or later is that the masses do not realize that the ski season is not over. The industry’s little secret is that many resorts close for the season due to a lack of skiers, not a lack of snow. As a result, everything from hotels to lift tickets can be less expensive in the late spring. Not to put in a blatant plug, but for evidence, just compare the March and April prices here on Liftopia for almost any resort.