With the majority of the world’s ski areas now closed (or just about to), it’s tempting to call it a day and succumb to summer activities like hiking and biking.
But die-hard snowsports fans know that’s not necessarily true, and there are still plenty of opportunities to head to the snow if you know where to look. In fact, there isn’t a day of the year when some ski slope isn’t open somewhere!
On average, half a dozen US ski areas make it through to May (it can vary, of course, from year to year and from week to week), but the best bets usually include Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, Mammoth and Squaw Valley in California, Crystal Mountain in Washington state, and Timberline in Oregon. On the East Coast, Killington in Vermont normally keeps at least one run operating, usually in to June and occasionally July.
The 2014/15 season has, however, not been a normal season – The West (particularly the West Coast) has seen smaller-than-average snowpack, so it has been more a challenge for those Californian and Washington State ski areas to stay open.
Timberline normally operates the longest ski season in North America with the area’s Palmer Express high-speed quad lift. This lift only operates in the spring and summer seasons, allowing them to stay open later than any other resort (usually June 1st through Labor Day in September).
North of the border, Sunshine Village at Banff and Whistler Blackcomb will both be open to mid-May. This season, Whistler Blackcomb’s spring skiing is only being hosted on Whistler Mountain, as a multi-million dollar summer mountain restaurant renovation at Blackcomb is in the works. If you don’t make it before closing day on May 18th, summer glacier skiing starts a month later and will run from June 20th to July 26th. The Horstman Glacier provides two T-bars and terrain park features, perfect for advanced and expert skiers and riders.
Europe’s 2014-15 ski season has also been an odd one. The season started off with very little snowfall in the Alps up until Christmas week, but since then, has seen some huge storms—some with winds so strong that they caused several lift closures across much of the continent. On occasion, unlikely places like Bulgaria and Spain have had 6-7 feet snowfalls within 48 hours, experiencing “once in a generation”-type snow storms.
But spring is settling down to its usual pattern of end-of-season closures and, as in the US, the usual suspects are staying open later, with the snowpack on the glaciers quite healthy –The deepest snow depth was reported to be 5.5m (or over 18 feet) at the start of April.
Like Whistler, many Alpine ski areas close down in May (sometimes late April) and don’t re-open until the summer, or even autumn. However, there are still some relatively safe bets for some late-spring skiing.
Zermatt in Switzerland, situated in a stunning location beneath the Matterhorn is one. Home to Europe’s highest lift at 12,792, there will be about 14 miles of ski runs open year round. These numbers show that even in summer, Zermatt has more skiing than most southern hemisphere ski areas (whose season normally starts by mid-June), albeit with less likelihood of fresh snow. It is one of two ski areas in the world that endeavours to open its ski lifts (weather permitting) 365 days a year, the other being Austria’s Hintertux glacier in the Ziller valley.
In fact, Austria does spring and summer skiing better than any other northern hemisphere ski area with eight different ski areas to choose from, although they’re not all open together until early October. Other Austrian spring skiing favorites that are open until June, normally, include the Stubai and Kaunertal, with the Kitzsteinhorn (near Kaprun and Zell am See) scheduling a mid-May closure this year.
Finally, one of the ski world’s biggest novelties begins mid-May at Riksgransen, a cult ski area that’s 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden. During this time of the season (in May/June), there’s 24 hour daylight, and the lifts re-open at midnight on certain days so that you can ski under the midnight sun. It’s a surreal and very special experience that every skier or boarder should include in their bucket lists to try at least once.
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