Spring Skiing is the Best Skiing - Change my Mind -John Cameron-
The changing of the season means some of the best skiing of the season is finally here.
Spring skiing is all about the timing. With longer days and sunshine, conditions can change by the hour but with a little planning you can find some of the best lines on the mountain.
Warm days and cool nights send the snowpack in the mountains back and forth between freezing and thawing. Choosing the right elevation, wind, aspect and time of day can land you on the snow at that perfect moment when the snow is not too melted nor too frozen. Over time the snow begins to form rounded kernels of ice called corn. And when the conditions are just right the harvest is on.
There is a certain festive feeling that comes with spring skiing in Colorado. T-shirts, goggle tans and pond skims are in and so are beers in the parking lot.
Corn skiing is like carving skis into soft sand or a mountainside covered by frozen slush drinks. The snow is forgiving to ski but abrasive if you fall.
In the spring there is less pressure to ski before anyone else. The early morning snowpack is frozen solid from overnight temperatures. First tracks, which are prized during the deep and cold winter, are now nothing more than yesterday’s frozen ruts. If you take your time getting to the mountain and allow for the temperature to warm, the conditions will improve.
Skiing too early will send you chattering across a frozen ocean of ice. The skier waiting in line for first chair might as well have the whole mountain to themselves.
Sit back for a bit and observe.
South-facing slopes are the most sun affected and are the first to soften on a spring day. They are also the first to melt past the point of perfect piste.
Finding the best runs of the day mean chasing the shadows and sun across the mountain. Somewhere the conditions are just right.
While corn is prime, spring in Colorado also brings more snow. April is historically the snowiest month in Colorado. Warm air, which is able to hold more moisture than colder air, primes the mountains for big storms and deep snow.
Timing is again critical for finding the best conditions. During the storm is often the best time to ski because as soon as the sun comes out surface layers begin to melt.
For those working at ski areas across Colorado, the countdown to closing day is like the is exciting like the last day of school. Soon it will be time to pack away the cold weather gear and start working that summer job.
Housing leases come to an end and ski bums everywhere pile their storage units full of household items and set off for the next seasonal gig. Corn laps in the spring are the last chance to ride with winter friends before setting off in all directions.
Every year there is the small hope that at least most of your ski partners come back to do it again when the snow returns next season.