Slush season is upon us, folks.
Spring is a polarizing time of year: one day everything is sunny and gorgeous, next the sky is puking snow and tossing directly into our cranium. With this, come to terms with the fact that our beloved winter is leaving us and along with it, the consistent snowpack and the soft fluffy stuff. There are positives, of course – even the most die-hard powder hounds will concede that it’s more pleasant to be outside when the temps aren’t in the negatives, and who doesn’t like working on their goggle tan?
Taking this into account, here are a few tips to making the most out of your spring skiing experience:
Mind the dust on crust!
Dust on crust, a phenomenon we pay lip service to often here, is quite possibly the worst possible surface to find yourself skiing on (let’s leave the East-Coast ice and early-season machine-made “snow” out of this one. Sorry guys.). There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing a fresh 6” on your favorite run, only to remember that the week prior has been nothing but sunny with temps in the upper 30s. Riding up the lift, you hear the crunchy scraping sound of the unlucky souls below, and fear begins to fill your heart.
Not all hope is lost though! In order to salvage your day, be mindful of the following:
- North facing slopes receive the least amount of sun, and therefore stay in the best conditions year-round. Take a kind gander at your trail map and see which trails follow this pattern and head for those. It might still be a bit crunchy, but the exposure in this case makes a yuge
- The higher the elevation, the colder the snow stays. If you find yourself at a mountain with high-alpine skiing, that’s your best bet. The snow higher up goes through less of the freeze-thaw cycle, especially in the spring, and if you can combine it with some north-facing exposures, you might be in for a surprisingly good run.
- If it’s sunny, wait until the slopes soften up. What you want are slopes facing south and east. Even with some new “dust”, the runs should be ready to go by about 10 am on a sunny day. It’s a spring kind of powder.
Eat your mashed potatoes!
This ain’t your grandma’s kitchen. This beautiful snow condition goes by many names, but our favorite is probably mashed taters. Similar to point 3 above, you can ski a different sort of “powder” on those beautiful bluebird days. Here’s a few things to think about if you want a helpin’ or two:
- South and east exposures are the way to go. Let the sun reheat them, and you’ll find yourself slushing through the run. Moguls can be especially fun, and it feels like you’re taking off the top of them with each turn. Because you are.
- These have an expiration date (or time): don’t bother with these slopes if the sun is not out yet, or towards the end of the day when the shade begins to cover the trail.
- Yeah it’s slush, so you might need to change your technique a bit. If not, you might be forced to eat the mashed potatoes in one heaping mouthful.
Party on, masters of the spring! (Where to kick back this spring)
Skiing is rad, but so is having a righteous time on the mountain. Thankfully most mountains have at least one or two great places where you can sit outside and take in the sun, here are a few of our favorites:
- Snoasis, Winter Park, CO
While the building itself is horribly dated (long live the architectural style of the 70’s!), there is a patio out front where you can grab a chair, take in the sun and watch as crazy folks launch themselves off 40 foot booters
- “The Beach”. Arapahoe Basin, CO
You might have to get here early to snag a spot on “the beach”, which is really just the base parking lot at the mountain. If you’re lucky enough to do so you’ll be treated to the sights of various people interpreting the word party. Along with the scene, a great view of people tackling the gnarly Pallavicini side of the mountain awaits
- Literally anywhere at Squaw Valley, CA
Squaw is the epicenter of spring skiing utopia, like to the point that they actually call themselves the Spring Skiing Capital. This place is no joke. There are over 19 outdoor decks and patios to sun yourself and get working on your summer bod. I mean, it’s California after all.
A final note.
Yeah, winter pow is rad, but spring is straight up fun. People start wearing fewer clothes and suddenly your mindset changes from charging hard to get the goods, to throwing back a few beers with the amigos and cruising down some soft slopes on your own time. No matter what you do, you’ll have a good time under the sun. And hell, maybe we’ll even