Spring Skiing – all About Timing

Mar. 22, 2017

By Janet Lawrence


Spring skiing is the umbrella drink, party hat, pink flamingo part of the season!

Some of those same ravenous December skiers will still be on the first and last chairs of the day, but it is time for light hearted, sun soaked, ego snow skiing. It is time to squeeze the last best days out of the season. Lucky for us here in Colorado, we have a couple months of last best days to ski!

Timing- Spring skiing strategies and the Freeze / Thaw pattern

One of the best features of spring skiing are the gorgeous, blue bird, sunshine filled days. That blazing sun does great things for our souls and for our snow. But as soon as the sun goes down our newly wet, melty snow starts to freeze solid again. At night, the ungroomed snow, with all the contours left by our own turns, are frozen in place like a monument to our day. The next morning, that frozen surface is tricky to ski and makes you fear for the fillings in your teeth. So let’s avoid that whole part.

There are two great strategies for timing your morning.

  • It’s vacation. Sleep in a little. While the sun is rising and working to warm up our snow, go treat yourself to the Lumberjack Special breakfast, (my personal fav). You would never do that on a work day, (unless of course you are maybe a Lumberjack). Then ski it off, hit the slopes mid- morning once the surface is soft and ready to be carved easily like a huge “sno- cone”.
  • It’s vacation. Get up early.  Don’t miss a thing. Ski the groomers. We have a gazillion beautifully groomed trails just waiting for you. Once the snow has softened the ungroomed miles of bowls will be ready for you.

Where to ski once the sun is up.

Follow the sun. Once the sun has started its work you can start on the east and south facing trails and bowls, and as the sun goes down, chase it around to the northern facing slopes and start all over again. You’ll be chasing the soft corn snow and mashed potatoes getting every last bit. Who doesn’t like mashed potatoes and corn….. is it time for dinner?

Trails that seem to always deliver; Ricky’s Ridge, Cow’s Face, Morning Side, Genghis, Sweet and Sour and Gandy Dancer are some of the first trails to get mushy for you each sunny day.  Over Yonder, Shangri-La Glade and much of Blue Sky Basin are partly protected from real melting by their trees and the snow seems consistently drier. Blue Sky Basin always delivers. The front side houses so many great groomed trails that are ready from first chair to last. We’re in pretty good shape early on despite the Freeze/ Thaw season.

But it’s thicker.

Spring snow, like mid -winter snow can be very variable. If the day gets really warm, the snow can feel deep and thicker. Momentum is your friend. Just like in the fluff of cold December snow, keeping your upper body charging, (facing) downhill will make it easier for you to steer your feet and  initiate your next turn. If you’ve had a big exhausting day and are leery of skiing back down to the base you can always relax and download either Gondola or Chair 6.

What if it rains?

Spring can bring anything. We’ll all be happy as long as we don’t get the big “R”….. come to think of it, two of my absolute favorite days of skiing were in the rain. Yes, I’m addicted to skiing; there is no denying that at this point. But honestly the rain on a warm day makes the top couple inches of corn snow cut like butter under your edges. This is ego snow like no other. Get your best Hefty trash bag and cut yourself a neck hole and space for each arm and ski like a champ while the lightweights run for cover.

What if it’s sunny?

Wahoo!! The bumps are soft and forgiving, the groomers are SMOOTHE, the music is blasting (even if it’s only in your head) and there’s a chance a costume party may break out. So dust off your Oakleys, slather on sunscreen, strap on your Wonder Woman cape or full body Cow suit.


Author: Janet Lawrence, of the Vail Ski and Snowboard School. Janet grew up skiing in Upstate New York and came to Vail in 1997. She has been working in the Vail Ski and Snowboard School since, first as an instructor then a Trainer and a  Supervisor in the Golden Peak Children’s School. In the off- season she sails and bikes and works with children at an outdoor day camp.