With ski season rapidly closing out, Ashley and I made a last dash up to Waterville Valley on Wednesday in order to eke out some runs before committing our skis/snowboards to the closet. The night before our trip, we were both more than a little hesitant to drive north, not sure of what we would find left for snow. This is the difficulty of living south of where the action happens: despite snow reports and web cams, you can never be sure exactly what the conditions will be like. Not knowing the conditions take a little vision and a leap of faith, knowing the worst-case scenario is that you at least get to enjoy a nice day outside.
I love spring skiing for so many reasons, but the one that sticks out the most is that the weather is warm, the snow is soft, and the crowds are gone (having turned their attention to other activities). This leaves the mountain for “the core” – the people who begin to think about the next season’s skiing the day current season ends. These are the true addicts who seek to gorge on snow before hibernating for the summer. It doesn’t matter that some trails have more grass than snow on them, or that to get on or off the lift you have to contend with giant puddles which resemble moats guarding castles (one of them claimed Ashley in an accident I regrettably did not catch on film; on a positive note, the eighty degree weather dried her off quickly).
Furthermore, when the regular skiers are taken out of the equation, the true addicts are exposed for the collection of eccentrics and crazies they are. The attitude that encompasses a ski resort in late spring is always reminiscent of a Jimmy Buffet concert on snow to me. The sundecks and outdoor bars populate early, with many people spending as much time drinking in the sun as skiing. Parkas, goggles, and ski pants are traded for hawaiin shirts, sunglasses, and, in many cases, shorts. I think that getting everyone out from behind their ski gear makes the mountain more personable and friendly. (That, and not having to contend with others in lift lines, and tanning instead of shivering on the chair ride up.)
The vibe of the mountain is more laid back as well. Ski patrol can be found sunning themselves outside of their patrol houses rather than patrolling the mountain, as they don’t have to worry about sanitizing the mountain for the family ski vacationers or shepherding people who get in over their heads to safer ground. Without having to worry about the “once-or-twice-a-year skier,” the ski patrol adopts a more “ski-it-if-you-can” attitude. We watched numerous people link untracked patches of spring snow by crossing large tracts of grass and mud. Furthermore, we watched a handful of closed lines run by people ducking ropes to gain access. No one seemed to care, and why should they?
Overall the conditions were good enough, and we enjoyed a relatively full day of skiing. We got to enjoy the wonder of skiing in short sleeves and no gloves, and only took one substantial break at lunchtime to hang out, enjoy the sun, and have a couple of beers at the mid-mountain hut. The condition of the snow – while deteriorating fast – was pretty good, with large snowfields connected by narrower funnels of snow. Not a bad way to wrap up the season, albeit a little earlier than I would prefer.
(Girlfriend edit: nobody can “pull off” this outfit. Especially not this lady.)