Yea, I know its April and the weather is getting warmer and people are starting to get on their road bikes and forget about skiing. Well, they are missing out on a fabulous time to go skiing! Skiing in the Rockies during the Spring is literally some of the best skiing in the world! Most resorts will not close until the middle of April. The Silver Star is one of the resort which is good for skiing because of it’s elevation 1915m, Bottom 1155m, Village 1609m.
Many resorts will still remain open until late April and some even through May.
The lift tickets will be cheaper which is great for the pocket book! The weather will be sunny with more blue sky than clouds. And there will be fewer people. Lodging will also be on sale as hotel owners want to capture the last skiers of the season.
It’s a good time for families if they are able to get away on weekends. Less traffic on the highways and less traffic in lift lines and fewer crowds at the restaurants.
Besides resort skiers, Nordic and Alpine Ski Tourers are going to have the mountains.
All to themselves! When good weather hits at lower altitudes people start summer sports like road biking and hiking. They also want to get started on their gardens. Too bad for them, but great for you. Nordic skiers will have lovely days of blue sky and lots of sun.
Don’t forget the sunblock and drink lots of water! What is somewhat problematic is the use of waxable skis during very warm conditions. Nordic skiers often use a special wax for warm days called Klister. New applicators make Klister a little bit easier to deal with. You can spread Klister out in tabs along the bottom of the ski and than spread it out. The smoother you spread out the wax the better the ski will glide. Still try to carry all Klisters in separate plastic zip lock bags so that they can’t contaminate other waxes or get on your clothing inside your back or gear bag. Wax cleaner is always good to have for cleaning your skis and your hands which are bound to get some on them. Of course, the real solution is to use waxless skis! This is one time during the winter when waxless skis really work well. They are perfect for skiing on soft spring snow when the snow has a higher water content.
Meanwhile on the higher mountains, alpine ski tourers and telemarkers will be skiing on hard pack snow. Days of sunshine with less precipitation means a more mature and solid snowpack. This means that the snow is harder. It has had all winter long to consolidate and get rid of any air pockets inside itself. There will be much fewer avalanches since the snow will have had time to bond together. Of course, there is always the possibility of another snow storm. But they are usually of shorter duration with less snow fall so the snowpack is not disturbed.
During the Spring there is a “freeze-thaw” cycle. During the heat of the day when air temps go above 32 deg. the snow is melting (thawing) although you probably won’t notice it directly. At night, the snow freezes again with the cold of the night. This the process by which the snow is melting for the season. It is also allowing the snow to settle and fill in hollow spaces inside itself. During the later part of the day, you could ski into a hollow spot, so be aware that they do exist. It is possible especially at the outer edges of the snowfield where the melting is at its most intense. But they are avoidable with the awareness that the snow is hollow at these sports.
The majority of the snow pack is very solid and makes for pleasurable skiing.
Most skiers have heard of “sugar snow”. Sugar snow is a strange brew of humidity in the air condensing on the snow mixing with water evaporating out of the snow pack during to the days heat. This all creates a layer of sparkling tiny snow crystals on top of the snow making for a remarkable skiing surface that is smooth and forgiving. In the morning it is a pleasure to ski. But by 2 pm that same slope can become slushy and much harder to ski. By 1 pm it’s usually time to find a big rock and have a lunch of wine, french bread and cheese. A great way to spend a Spring day in the high mountains!
So- keep those skis out and be ready to take advantage of the warm clear skies of Spring. The ski tickets will be more affordable. The ski areas will have sales on their rental and demo equipment so it will be a good time to buy. There will be fewer people on the chairlifts and on the slopes. The backcountry skiing will be sublime with hardpack slopes and sunny days with less wind. While others may be home watching baseball games – you’ll be out enjoying some of the best snow of the season!
Jean Vives Ed.D. has his degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Northern Colorado. He has published over 25 articles in such sources as Ski, Skiing and Outside Magazine. His research on skiing won the Charles Houston Grant from the Wilderness Medical Society. He has skied and climbed all over the world. He has done sport science research as Everest Base Camp while teaching at Kathmandu University, Nepal. He has written several books on backcountry skiing. He is a guide and writer living near Boulder, Colorado. Look under “Jean Vives” for other helpful articles and links to other of his web sites such as http://www.skirandonnee.com. His new book “Alpine SKi Touring Handbook” is due out Fall,2013.
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