Here’s why spring is the best time of year to hit the slopes, in order of importance: 1. It’s warmer, so no frostbitten fingers, 2. Tourists are mostly off to golf and tennis, so you have more of the trails to yourself, 3. It stays lighter longer, so you’ve got bright sun until the lifts close, 4. Everyone seems to be in a good mood, 5. Ticket prices start getting cheaper.
You know the saying about this time of year: In like a lion, out like a lamb. But it looks like we’re going to have the lion of winter for a while longer, so even the drawbacks of spring snow—the slushy, grabby texture—are still a ways off. The snow now is so good that most of the resorts have extended their closing dates (see below)—and may extend them further if the snowpack stays good.
But spring snow riding is different from other times of the season. Weather is variable this time of year, and you can end up on grabby snow that slows your base or causes the “herky-jerkies” that splat you into a wet face-plant. Here are the locals’ secrets to spring snow riding that will keep a smile on your face all day long, regardless of weather and snow conditions.
Layer well. A backpack is a good thing. You may need a jacket in the morning but only a vest at noon, while just a shell will prevent wind from bothering you later in the day. Stuff layers—and lots of water—in your pack, pull out whatever you need and you’ll be comfy no matter how the weather changes.
Bring a scraper. The snow will keep its stable and solid structure for many a warm and sunny day. But then, overnight, that structure collapses into spring slush that is topped with sticky pine tree pollen and grooming-machine oils. Your ski and board bases act as a magnet for this stuff, and it stops them from gliding over the snow—thus, the herky-jerkies. A plastic scraper—or even a credit card—will work to get most of the gunk off, but even better are several products available at shops to prevent your bases from picking up the stuff in the first place. The best product is Zardoz NOTwax, but it’s hard to find. A simple technique is to scrape the gunk off at the end of each run, then rub on some kind of repellent you bought at a shop. And, because much of the snow is salted when it gets warmer to make it harder, your bases get damagingly dry. Wax your base with yellow wax, which is made for warm, wet snow. If you have the bucks to spend for a fluoro wax, that’s the best option.
Stay away from dirty snow. A dark layer over the snow is pollen, oil and dirt. Your base will pick it up instantly, so ride around the dirty patches (often found under pine trees and at the base). In addition, as it gets warmer, watch for patches of low-lying snow with thin layers of water on top. This will cause an instant stop and a splashing splat that will be amusing to observers but not to you.
Sun block every half hour, lip balm after every run. Sun protection sweats off quickly in spring. One application lasts only a short time, so keep applying it often, including re-applying lip balm after every run.
Extended closing dates can change quickly. The snow is so good that this may be the longest season in Wasatch Front history. But, we could also get a heat spell that quickly ends all snow-riding dreams. Here are projected resort closing dates as reported by Ski Utah (SkiUtah.com), but it’s still wise to call each resort to double check if the date is still accurate before you head up to the mountains.
(updated March 30. Dates may be subject to change)
Alta Ski Area: Open through April 24, then one final weekend, April 29, 30 and May 1, for limited skiing.
Brighton Resort: April 24
Brian Head: April 24
Canyons: April 17
Deer Valley Resort: April 10
Park City Mountain Resort: April 17
Powder Mountain: April 10
Snowbasin: April 17
Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort: Memorial Day Weekend
Solitude Mountain Resort: April 17 (pending conditions)
Sundance: April 3
Wolf Mountain: Closed