As many skiers know, April often brings powerful storms. It’s one reason many skiers refer to spring skiing as the Second Season. Skiing with unexpected benefits: crowds are often nonexistent, bargains abound - deep discounts are routinely seen in the shops - and spring warmth often means shirt-sleeve skiing on soft bumps.
The real allure is the sun. It’s warm and bright. Deck lunches, soft moguls, and sun add sparkle. Attitude is key.
Although we can sense a sadness at the passing of winter the possibility of spring storms should not be forgotten. In New England Mount Snow and Stratton often capture the best snow and often the largest storms in spring. I’ve seen rain in Brattleboro, wet snow in Ludlow, and powder on the mountain.
Realistically, as we all know, most skiers are obsessed with skiing in November and will travel north for thin bases and marginal terrain. Yet, curiously, many folks simply toss the skis in the basement as soon as the ground begins to thaw. By early April many skiers have placed the skis into storage. But, those who despise midwinter cold, and only equate skiing with cold weather, know that spring skiing is not always cold.
Okay, it can be cold one day and warm the next. It’s spring. And it can be cold early in the morning and the snow hard, while afternoon may bring warmth and slush. That’s spring, too.
Skiing in the spring, whether enjoying classic spring skiing on the North Face at Mount Snow or hiking and skiing without the aid of lift-serviced technology at Mount Washington’s Tuckerman’s Ravine in New Hampshire can bring infectious smiles.
Where do you stand? Will you risk a spring weekend away from the homestead in favor of spring skiing?
Will you follow a spring weekend in Vermont with a summer vacation skiing at Portillo in Chile? After all, the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere.
Let’s stop. Let’s be realistic. Let’s talk reality. Summer skiing in the Southern Hemisphere is expensive.
But spring in Vermont is affordable. Alas, spring conditions are fickle. Conditions change quickly. Weather is not predictable. And the excitement has a different draw. You see it in the lodge. Services dwindle. People are lost in thought. Gone too, though, are the whines and complaints of families shuffling for a place to sit on a busy winter weekend. Looking around the base lodge, too, one knows that the romance of life as an instructor or patroller has another side. Soon, a few will head to South America. Most won’t. Some will work in summer resorts, relocating to places the like of Cape Cod or Nantucket. Most won’t. Most will work outside the industry. That’s reality.
Most skiers will move on to other sports. It’s sad. It’s life.
Still, the last runs of the season remind us of the first tracks we enjoyed months past. Some folks smile. Some seem desperate to capture their final turns before the season closes. Watching everyone play, momentarily, outside the mainstream of life, spring seems both upbeat and sad. Yet it simply marks another passage forward in time. For those who make skiing a major life focus, whether by vocation or avocation, this passing does seem sad. Soon some will be gone. The lodges will close. The restaurants will be frequented mostly by locals. Some will ski, as we said elsewhere, but most of us will replace winter escapes with mountain bike rides, hiking, or beach adventures.
No matter our choice the season is changing. As you too change, take a moment to dream of your next season. Picture the mountain in white. But as you wait, savor spring. Tips for spring adventures:
1) Bring sun block.
2) Dress in layers.
3) Consider a vest.
4) Be prepared for changing conditions.
5) Expect the unexpected. You find midwinter snow!
6) Ski early. Stop early.
7) Enjoy the camaraderie.
8) Savor lunch outside.
9) Shop for bargains.
Savor the day, from your first run to your last run.
Tony Crespi is a former ski school supervisor and coach whose work has appeared in publications throughout the United States. His column is published throughout the season.