Courtesy of Aspen Skiing Company
Photo by Chandler Burgess
In Killington, Vermont, skiers shed their outer layers when the sun hits the slopes.
There’s still plenty of time to get your turns in before summer.
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Spring brings blue skies and warm weather, and it’s tempting to trade the skis for bikes or hiking boots. But for many people, the best time to go skiing is now. During the spring’s melt-freeze cycle—that is, when the upper layers of the snow melt during the heat of the day and then refreeze at night, a cycle that repeats itself over and over again—the snow gets a smooth, buttery texture known as “spring corn.” Give the sun a few hours in the morning to work its magic on the slope, and you’ll find a type of snow that makes for an utterly delightful ride. Plus, warm days mean you can shed the normal heavy layers and move swiftly and unfettered about the mountains, soaking up the sun.
Even better, some of the best ski resorts in the United States and North America have special spring deals on lodging and lift tickets, which is a perfectly good excuse to celebrate the end of the cold, dark days of winter. Here are the best places to go spring skiing this year.
Back in the 1960s and ’70s, Aspen played host to huge après-ski parties at the base of the mountain. Brought together by the area’s potent and long-standing combination of skiing, individualism, art, and progressive ideas, Aspen skiers have never needed an excuse to have fun. But even as town has evolved into a hot spot for the rich and famous, its bedrock spirit of joie de vivre remains.
For avid skiers, it all starts at the Silver Queen Gondola at Aspen Mountain. The gondola picks up intermediate and expert skiers in the center of town and carries them 3,267 vertical feet to the top of the mountain in one 14-minute ride. From the 11,212-foot summit, take in the view of the magnificent Elk Mountains before glissading down any of several long, undulating groomers that go all the way to the bottom. Or join the locals (some of whom proudly sport all-denim outfits) bashing wonderfully slushy moguls on the Face of Bell route.
No trip to Aspen is complete without a hike to the top of Highland Bowl, at nearby Aspen Highlands. The climb goes up 782 vertical feet to the 12,392-foot summit, and most people complete it in around 45 minutes, depending on fitness levels and comfort with hiking at altitude. It’s a challenge to hike in ski boots, carrying your skis, but the views alone make it worth the effort.
This spring, book lodging through Aspen Snowmass and get $60 lift tickets. Highlands will extend its season on weekends only on April 19-21 and 26-28; during that time, any season or employee pass from any resort in the country will get you a $49 lift ticket.
Offering the longest ski season in Utah, Snowbird stays open deep into spring thanks to a prodigious snowpack and an efficient chairlift and tram system. You won’t find as many rowdy parties here as you will at other spring-ski destinations; at Snowbird, it’s still all about the skiing.
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From the plaza at the base, hitch a ride on the aerial tram, which climbs 2,900 vertical feet to the top of Hidden Peak in 10 minutes. From there, options abound, as Snowbird’s varied terrain comes into play. On the back side, the enormous bowl of Mineral Basin softens up early in the day. When that gets too slushy, head over to the Little Cloud area to ski laps on the Road to Provo and Little Cloud Bowl. Kids will want to hit the Wave, a big natural jump feature in the middle of the bowl.
Between April 5 and May 7, get two nights of lodging and two days of skiing at Snowbird for just $125 per person.
Each spring, Squaw Valley’s High Camp—a mid-mountain deck that sports a pool and hot tub—is a haven for spring skiers; revelers set aside their gear to hit the hot tub party at 8,200 feet. With a tub-side bar serving drinks and live music on select dates, Squaw has everything you need to sweat out any lingering winter blues. Post-soak, resist the urge to throw on heavy outerwear and instead do as the locals do: ski in your bathing suit. You’ll see more of that at Squaw than at any other ski area in the country—especially during the Cushing Crossing, the world-famous pond skim competition scheduled for May 4.
If you prefer a more laid-back experience, take the free shuttle to sister resort Alpine Meadows. On the resort’s quiet back side, the high-speed Sherwood Express quad chairlift provides excellent skiing on mellow bowls that offer scenic views of Lake Tahoe. At the base of the chair, the Ice Bar keeps your thirst and hunger at bay while you soak up the California sun. Don’t forget your sunscreen.
There are many reasons why Whistler Blackcomb is one of the most popular ski resorts in North America. Not only do the two mountains include more than 8,100 acres of skiable terrain and a vast backcountry but Whistler boasts 5,020 feet of vertical drop and Blackcomb Mountain has 5,280 feet of vertical. And the town of Whistler has the best mix of culture, art, and food of any ski village in North America.
So when this resort decides to host a festival, you know it is going to pull out all the stops. The annual World Ski and Snowboard Festival is part athletic competition, part art exhibit, and part music show, all wrapped up into the long weekend of April 10-14.
One of the best events of WSSF, however, isn’t even on snow. During the Pro Photographer Showdown, five of the world’s most talented outdoor and action sports photographers showcase their work in slideshows before an enthusiastic crowd of more than 1,400. It sells out every year and has been known to launch the careers of aspiring photographers while cementing the legacies of veterans.
Closing day: April 21
The first destination ski resort in the United States, Sun Valley boasts a ski-town heritage that goes back nearly 90 years. The people here love skiing, and they love to have a good time.
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With a healthy dose of April sunshine, the spring conditions in Sun Valley rival those of any other ski area outside of California—and there are far fewer crowds. Plus, the high-speed Challenger lift grants access to 3,000 vertical feet of fall line skiing. This means you can ski exceptional corn snow on immaculately groomed surfaces all day long.
Next to the base of the Challenger lift, in the Warm Springs parking lot, you’ll find good-natured locals grilling locally sourced wild game and sipping beverages (possibly even locally distilled spirits). It’s one of the most authentic tailgating spectacles in all of skiing.
If tailgating isn’t your scene, check out Apple’s Bar and Grill near the Warm Springs base area. The local favorite is a true skiers’ hangout with friendly service.
Closing day: July 7
With a deep snowpack and high elevation, Mammoth is a prime spot for spring skiing, and this year it will stay open at least until Independence Day. The base area is 9,000 feet above sea level, and the summit tops out at 11,053, meaning nearly everywhere on the mountain is skiable; simply follow the corn as it ripens on the lower mountain early in the day and in the high alpine areas in the afternoon.
Intermediate skiers will enjoy gondola laps, while experts will love the steeps off of Chair 23. And if the snow turns to the slush, there is good fishing, mountain biking, and hiking around the Owens River valley, so there’s always something to do.
Closing day: late May
Despite having a shallower snowpack, Killington stays open longer than many resorts in the West, making the “Beast of the East” the top spot for spring skiing in New England. For many skiers, spring in Killington is all about moguls, which get easier (and more fun) to ski when they soften under the warm sunshine. On the Outer Limits trail, you’ll see some of the best (and possibly worst) moguls skiers dressed in weird costumes and denim, giving a show that puts the resort on the map every spring.
Elsewhere on the mountain, the Roaring Brook Umbrella Bar is a fine place to have a cocktail while you watch others ski down the mountain. The bar sits at the bottom of Superstar, the last run at Killington to close for the season. Catch live music after hours at the Wobbly Barn, a classic steakhouse that’s been embracing skiers ever since it opened in 1963.
In Alaska, spring skiing can extend all the way into, well, summer. For an unparalleled experience, head to Tordrillo Mountain Lodge in June, where you can combine corn skiing during the day and salmon fishing under the midnight sun. A tradition started 20 years ago by the lodge’s owners, downhill gold medalist Tommy Moe and longtime Alaska heli-ski guide Mike Overcast, Kings and Corn has become a favorite among guides and clients alike.
The 12-guest lodge is located in southcentral Alaska’s Tordrillo Mountains and features a hot tub and gourmet kitchen.
Helicopters bring clients to mostly mellow skiing—unlike during the peak heli-ski season of March/April, when groups tackle more aggressive high-alpine terrain. Off the slopes, the lodge provides both fly and spin tackle to bring in monster king salmon from a number of rivers accessible via helicopter or raft. Whether skiing or fishing, guests do not have to be experts; they simply need an appetite for adventure.
The cost is $12,000 per person all-inclusive for five days; simply get yourself to Anchorage, where the lodge staff greets you and reels you into the mountains.
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