When the snow starts melting in your hometown, ski resorts begin to rock with sun tans, bikini tops and soft, fluffy runs. For many, spring is the best time to ski. Crisp snow softens into glistening mid-morning corn snow, goggles are swapped for sun glasses, temperatures are mild, no one has to dress for the cold, everyone can eat lunch outdoors and quitting early for sunny apres-ski is part of the experience.
The award-winning contributors to the "Ski America and Canada" guidebook have selected their best bets for great spring skiing. These are resorts where skiing and snowboarding normally continue through Memorial Day and often into July. These resorts have high altitude, northern exposure, steep slopes and massive snow packs or glaciers that will last through the spring and sometimes into the summer months providing plenty of skiing and snowboarding. Some of these resorts actually record their snowiest months in March or April.
When the rest of the world seems to be thinking of playing golf and looking forward to summer activities, these resorts give diehard skiers and snowboarders a place to enjoy the pleasures of spring skiing. Here's their list:
Mammoth Mountain, California
This is one of the kings of spring skiing. This area has perfect weather for spring snow — freezing at night and warm during the day. The altitude varies between 8,000 and 11,000 feet. Some of the lower lifts may close, but the upper mountain remains open.
This is a better mountain for spring skiing and snowboarding than for mid-winter skiing. In the spring the entire mountain is almost always open. In the winter the summit can be closed around 30 to 40 percent of the time because of high winds. Because this mountain has so many exposures, the snow conditions change during the day. This means plenty of great skiing and riding without slush.
Lake Tahoe, California
A handful of the Tahoe resorts offer wonderful spring skiing and snowboarding. Kirkwood is perhaps the best with the highest altitude, followed by Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows with excellent exposures. These areas allow visitors to combine sunny skiing and snowboarding with dramatic scenery and excellent nightlife, especially on the south shore of the lake.
Summit County, Colorado
This county claims the highest altitude resorts in the state. Of the three main resorts, Copper Mountain has the best terrain and exposure for the late season. Nearby, Arapahoe Basin is a spring legend. The steep Palivaccini hold snow well into the summer and some Aprils have four feet of snow and May sometimes adds another two to three feet of snow. The scene at the base area is fantastic with hundreds of skiers enjoying tailgate parties. Nearby Loveland is also a springtime contender.
Whistler/Blackcomb, British Columbia, Canada
This area, especially the upper slopes, normally makes it almost to Memorial Day, however, its coastal proximity means variable spring weather. Blackcomb's big bowls and the glacier make this a perfect place to enjoy skiing and riding in the sun. The slopes into the village can develop very deep slush. Downloading here is not for sissies. It allows a head start on the party that is about as good as it gets in April.
Sunshine Village, Banff, Alberta, Canada
This resort is legendary for its snow. It has no snowmaking. Nature always provides prodigious quantities of the white stuff. And Sunshine keeps its snow amazingly well through the late season. The resort is isolated at the top of a gondola, but Banff with its restaurants and nightlife is only a short ride from the base.
In Utah, Snowbird can claim the best spring conditions. The resort has the highest altitude of any Utah resort and the north-facing slopes keep excellent surfaces, even though the region gets warm. April normally sees more than five feet of new snow. The other nearby resorts in the Cottonwood Canyons can be good depending on the weather pattern. Check before you go.
This has historically been the first-to-open and the last-to-close in New England for decades. This resort conserves snow better than any other northeastern resort. The late season terrain is far more limited than peak season, but the verticals are still daunting. Killington, known for partying during the frigid midwinter, really goes wild in the spring.
Tuckerman Ravine, New Hampshire
Tuckerman Ravine, carved in the side of Mt. Washington where winter winds pack in deep sure spring snow, is a New England rite of spring that can only be reached by a two-hour hike and then a near-vertical climb with skis on shoulders to the snow-filled cirque. The skiing is strictly expert. The party at the base is for everyone who makes the trek.
This mountain is considered the best overall skiers' mountain in New England. The elevation is more than 4,000 feet, the exposure limits the melt, nights are crisp and April is historically the second snowiest month of the ski season. Reggae Weekend, in mid April, is one of the East's biggest spring skiing and snowboarding parties. However, the mountain normally closes in late April – not for lack of snow, but too few skiers.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.