I always welcome spring with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I love the warmer weather, the longer days, and the soft, carvable snow. On the other, spring signals the winding down of ski season. And to me, that’s a big deal. Skiing is more than just a sport to me. It’s a passion. And watching it disappear for 6-plus months is a pretty bitter pill to swallow.
Really, I have nothing to complain about. It’s been a great season. We’ve had a ton of snow here in New England, and as of today, I’ve had 87 ski days — a new personal record. What’s more, I’ve skied at 13 different mountains (four of them for the first time), attended two women’s clinics, and even took a snowboarding lesson. And even though my ski days are dwindling down, it’s important to remember that ski season will come again. Of that I have no doubt.
But in the meantime, let’s live in the moment and enjoy what we have left. Yesterday I skied in sixty degree temps under a bluebird sky. The snow was soft and easy to carve, and the bumps were positively delicious. Really, a glorious day.
Spring skiing is a completely different animal from skiing in say, early season or mid-winter conditions. And though I’m not an expert, there are a few things I’ve learned over time about skiing this time of year (yes, I know — I posted this last year. But good advice bears repeating):
1) Wear sunscreen: The sun is higher in the sky than it’s been all winter. So even if you haven’t dipped into the tube of SPF 30 yet, now’s a good time. After all, researchers have discovered that even a little tan isn’t healthy. More than 2.5 million cancers in 3 million people are diagnosed annually. If you want the look of a goggle tan, try some make-up, instead.
2) Wax your skis: You know that grabby snow that can bring your skis to a stop, while your body continues to travel? Not good. A coat of warm weather wax will fix that right up. Carry some rub-on in your pocket, too, for touch-ups on the mountain.
3) Dress accordingly: Layers are a good idea. It may start out pretty cold and warm up quite a bit, so you may want to peel as the day goes on. Also, no matter how warm it gets, do not wear short sleeves or shorts. Why? If you fall, you’re gonna pay big time. Falling on snow is like falling on sand. The ice crystals will scrape your skin raw, plus you’ll get very, very wet. So protect your skin, stay dry, and wear a shell.
4) Timing is everything: If the temps are still dropping below freezing at night, you might want to start your ski day a little bit later than usual. This is practically sacrilege coming from me; I’m always out when the lifts start running. But if you want to avoid rock hard ice, stay in and have another cup of coffee. Then follow the sun around the mountain. Ski the south and east-facing slopes in the morning and the north and west-facing slopes in the afternoon, so you can catch the snow as it softens up. Conversely, if you don’t get an overnight freeze, get out there as early as you can so you can ski before the snow turns into a gloppy, sticky mess.
5) Softer and wider is better: Set aside your narrow waisted carving skis and go for something wider. Powder skis have a bigger surface area that lets them to surf over the heavy stuff without getting bogged down. They also have a softer flex, which allows them to bend more, so you don’t have to steer as much.
6) Ski it like you mean it: Keep a balanced, even weight on each foot. Also, steer lightly by tipping the skis on edge ever so slightly to turn. To put it simply, slow moves, long turns. Let the tails follow the tips, and don’t twist your feet too much. Commit to the fall line and don’t spend too much time shopping for good stuff.
7) Enjoy! A lot of people end their ski season when they no longer see snow in their own backyard. This is good for those of us who stick it out. The mountain is a lot less crowded. Quieter. Just the way I like it.
So what’s your spring skiing tip?