It’s both the best of times and worst of times. It’s a tale of changing conditions. The good news is that there are fewer crowds, short or no lift lines, lower prices and some epic days left in the season. The bad news is that rain, fog, and just plain miserable conditions can cause sadness, depression and heartache.
The key- the weather forecast. Look for cold nights and sunny days out 5 and 10 days into the future. Your reward, grasshopper, will be the ability to dress lighter and swap your goggles for sunglasses. Be sure to remember sun block and baseball cap for that cold beer on the deck in the sun after skiing. If you don’t look at the forecast and just guess about conditions, be sure to bring a deck of cards and rain gear. Ugh!
So after having planned ahead, truck to the hill in the morning. If you decide gear up before the sun hits the trails, you’ll want to be sure to have your boards of choice tuned for a sharp edge. The boiler plate, ice snakes and marbles will cause the best riders to have heartburn. It’s basically not fun unless the groomers have had their way with the slopes. Make your first tracks where the sun hits and then follow the sun. If your hill isn’t that diverse, wait for the change from ice to corn snow. That change can take several days of thaw and re-freeze at night. But the result can be a beautiful, carve-able sand like surface.
Springtime can bring awesome sunny days. The best time of day for spring skiing is from 10 in the morning until 3:30 or 4PM, maybe. By mid afternoon the base at the bottom can get more like water skiing vs. snow skiing. That brings up some additional fun on the hill. Let’s call it entertainment value.
Proof that skiing and riding are still good, yet spring is just around the corner is the emergence of two longstanding, wonderful traditions on the hill- the bloom of the bra and or panty trees. As of last week they were not yet in bloom, but I’m optimistic!
Some mountains embrace and embellish the frivolity. Check out the web sites of our local and regional ski centers. Here’s what you may find:
- Pond Skimming Competition. Where and when else can you witness ski instructors and patrollers making total fools of themselves (on purpose)? You can even enter the competition yourself!
- The hill’s restaurant or cafeteria won’t advertise it but most ski centers are glad to have you bring your grill and cooler for a late afternoon picnic on their deck or even in the parking lot
- You may bring lawn chairs, a tarp with a blanket over it, and dawn spring garb, play volleyball, and something to play tunes
Some areas actually have the nerve to close in mid March even if they still have a substantial base. I’ll have some thoughts and workarounds for you next time. For now, there’s still plenty for first tracks.
Scott Launt grew up in Cortland. Much of his misspent youth was at Greek Peak. He is a member of the National Ski Patrol at Labrador and a member of the Onondaga Ski Club