Spring is here and for winter sports buffs, that means just one thing – spring skiing and snowboarding.
Skiers love it because March tends to be the snowiest month of the winter, but temperatures are generally warmer, and a giddy atmosphere of celebration marks the approaching end of the season.
West Coast resorts this year are doing backflips over the recent snow that has helped recoup lost revenue from a disappointing early season, and some ski areas are looking to maximize that windfall by extending the season as far into spring as possible.
Breckenridge Ski Resort, for example, will add a week to the season, closing April 27 instead of on the 21st, thanks to heavy snows in January.
Pat Campbell, COO of Breckenridge, said that even with a month and a half to go in the regular season, “we are confident that we will be able to offer terrific conditions in the extended week.”
Visitors will find reduced lift tickets that last week, and season passes will be valid until the last day. Open terrain will include Peaks 6, 7 and 8, offering access to approximately 1,600 acres of terrain.
The Ski Lake Tahoe resorts, comprising Alpine Meadows, Heavenly, Homewood, Kirkwood, Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe, Northstar California, Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, Squaw Valley and Sugar Bowl, are typically among the last to close for the season. The resorts remain open through mid to end of April, with a few - including Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley – staying open as late as May.
Parties will go on all spring in Tahoe's mountains, ranging from welcome back festivities honoring the Lake Tahoe athletes who participated in the Sochi Winter Olympics to concerts with big-name performers and family-friendly activities and parades.
And while most people connect spring skiing with the West Coast, some resorts in the East are also projecting late closing dates, including Stowe in Vermont, which expects to close April 21, several weeks past its regular season closing date.
"We've seen cold temps and consistent snow so far this season, and with March being one of the snowiest months of the season, we expect to have good snow pack well into April," said Sarah Wojcik of Ski Vermont, noting that Killington and Sugarbush are projected to stay open until May 5, the end of their closing date range, which starts in April. Jay Peak, meanwhile, is pushing its projected closing date to Mother’s Day, May 11.
Wojcik also credits the state's 80% snowmaking coverage for early and late-season snow. Overall, Vermont’s season has been a bit behind last year, but to put it into perspective, 2012-13 was its second best season on record.
Of course, while spring skiing has its legions of fans, there are also detractors. The soft snow that industry insiders refer to as “ego snow,” because you tend not to hurt yourself when you fall, can also present a challenge on warm days when the snow turns to the consistency of mashed potatoes.
In addition, only a fraction of terrain may be open in late season, which can be limiting, especially for skiers and snowboarders who are uncomfortable on expert terrain and find themselves stranded at the top of the chairlift without any suitable runs by which to get down.
None of these minor deterrents are likely to put off avid ski fans, however, who can rejoice in what looks to be a promising end of the season around the country.
Just don’t forget the sun block.