Spring is back, the weather is beginning to turn warmer and with that comes the beginning of the end of another snowboard season. And snowboarding in spring can be the best. But as the season moves forward, the ski resorts situated towards the southern-most areas of the region begin lose snow- especially when they get rain. Eventually the mountain loses enough snowpack that it starts closing trails one by one. Some ski areas try to conserve what snow they have left by shutting down during the week and re-opening on the weekends. But this strategy is short-lived, and it usually means that the mountain will close within a couple of weeks. The farther north you go the later the season can generally be extended because it stays colder- at least at night, which is enough to save a good amount of snow.
There is another reason that ski areas close down in April. It has to do with simple economics. Like any business, in order to continue providing a service or product, there need to be customers. If the customers stop showing up and spending their money- whether it be for lift tickets, or food, or lodging- then the management will not be able to continue to keep its staff working, facilities in order, or its lifts running. For this reason, a lot of ski areas close down prematurely. Last year, the ski area we have season passes to shut down with over 90% of its trails still covered in snow. The same happened this year and we suspect it will not be the last. This sucks if you have a season pass because the weather is nice, the snow is beautiful, and the mountain is not crowded like what you would find during the holidays.
Spring riding is also the best time to start dialing in new tricks on your favorite features in the park, or practicing your switch riding on those uncrowded trails where you don’t have worry about getting run over. The snow is soft and very edge-able, which gives you confidence to expand your skill set. It’s a lot less painful falling on soft, mushy snow then solid boiler-plate ice. Ever thought about hitting that 25 foot kicker and landing a switch frontside 180 or trying your first back flip? Well now is the time. The weather is often so mild that all you need is a t-shirt and a lite jacket and you are good to go!
So why do so many people stop showing up at the ski areas during what is some of the best riding of the season? A lot of it is psychological. If people don’t see snow or feel the cold they some how think that that is what it is like on the mountain. Also, their thoughts may switch to summer time, getting the kids to the soccer filed or getting the garden in order. It’s too bad, because they are missing out on some of the best skiing and riding of the year. In addition, because there are less crowds, the ski areas offer lift passes at incredibly reduced rates. You can often get tickets for prices at 50% off and more.
Ski areas normally start laying down a base of man-made snow when the first stretch of below freezing temperatures comes into play in the fall. Normally 4 to 5 consecutive days of temps below 32 degrees is enough to freeze the ground. At that point they open up the snow guns and begin laying down a base. This base acts as buffer between the warmer ground and colder air. When it snows, the snow does not just melt into the ground when the temperatures rise, but is insulated and preserved on the base of man-made snow. It is even more efficient if there is natural snowfall mixed in. This is a crucial part of the process as it allows ski areas to stay open when the inevitable mid-winter thaws come on. The last couple of years we were able to start riding well before Thanksgiving, feeding our insatiable hunger for shredding that builds during the off-season.
So if you get the urge to head up to the mountains but think there won’t be any snow left- think again. The more people that take advantage of this awesome time to ride, the longer the ski areas can stay open and the more fun for everyone!