Spring Has Sprung
Spring is my favorite part of the ski season. By the time spring rolls around, I’ve started to forget about my goals for the ski season, whether it be to chase as many days on skis as possible, my quest to become a better alpine skier, or my dream to perfect switch tele. As I leave the goals behind, I relegate myself to having as much fun as possible while enjoying the ski season’s last gasp. The best part is that the whole mountain seems to be on board, celebrating the arrival of spring’s warm weather while simultaneously throwing a goodbye party of sorts for winter’s departure. Spring is the time when the tribe seems to come together and wring every last moment of the season.
Once spring arrives, I feel the need to visit all of the mountains I neglected over the winter. Strangely, in spite of being a skier and winter enthusiast, I still do not love the cold. The idea of heading north to ski in the middle of winter often leaves me torn between my love of skiing and my distaste for becoming a human popsicle while riding the lift. The idea of touring is much more appealing to me in the dead of winter, opting for the warmth of exertion over the convenience of lift-served skiing. However, the arrival of spring means more comfortable lift rides, and less crowded resorts which greatly enhance their overall appeal to me. The arrival of spring puts the ski season on a timer, and I feel the need to fulfill all of my fall ambition before it is too late.
Have I mentioned the resorts are less crowded? It is a strange phenomenon, but as the temperature rises and the weather becomes more agreeable the crowds disappear. It seems that if people do not see snow in their backyard, they do not think of skiing. While I believe the backyard effect is a strong reason for the lack of crowds, difficult conditions help as well. While the weather is perfect for riding the lifts, the weather is not perfect for snow or grooming snow. It is a fact: spring skiing is just more work than ripping groomers. The warm weather makes grooming difficult, and whatever manicuring of the trails that does happen is quickly eradicated by skier traffic or the sun. Bumps, sticky snow, and snow that resembles mashed potatoes is more the rule than the exception come springtime.
As the crowds dissipate, it mostly leaves behind the “core”–the people who ski everyday despite the weather or conditions. It is the people who are at the mountain before it opens and are in line before the lifts have started turning. This group is the soul of the mountain. They are the perpetually psyched, the people to follow if you want to find the good snow. This is the group that I have a hard time picturing doing or thinking about anything other than skiing. They are the people that I find myself riding the lifts with a few times a week, and we talk about hardly anything other than conditions, weather, and skiing. I am constantly impressed with their grace on the mountain and am confused as I see them hobble through the parking lot. Off of snow they lose their fluidity and the time on skis has obviously taken a toll on their legs.
I love spring because, by the final few weeks of the ski season, I feel like I know half of the mountain by name. The mountain no longer belongs to everyone but it belongs to the few. With the diminished crowds the mountain takes on a more relaxed and friendly feel. Yelling word of encouragement from the lift is encouraged as the mountain takes on a friendly party atmosphere. The rush to get as many runs in or beat the crowd has faded, as there is no crowd and no need to hurry. Why hurry? It is finally warm out, goggles have been replaced by sunglasses, extra layers have been left at home, and if you start feeling a little tired you can park yourself comfortably in one of the chairs on the deck and work on getting a little sun.