You can’t tell from the snow on my deck, but according to the calendar, it’s April 3.
Yes, it’s been an awesome winter here in Vermont. But as Tom Waits says, you can never hold back spring.
And it’s true. For me, it means ski season is drawing to a close. No, I’m not going to South America or Mount Hood or someplace else to ski into the summer months. I just don’t have the $$ for that, though a big thumbs up to those of you who do. For most of us, however, spring brings — surprise, surprise — spring skiing. And here in the northeast, that can mean rock hard, frozen snow in the morning, and snow that’s either soft, slushy, or sticky as the day warms up.
So what advice do I have? I’m not an expert, but there are a few things I’ve learned over time about spring skiing:
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: 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.
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) Be aware of hazards: Rocks and bare spots have a habit of blossoming this time of year. And what a difference a day can make! A perfectly covered slope may not be so perfect only hours later. Be especially careful when you approach a rise and can’t tell immediately what’s on the other side. It could be an ugly surprise.
8) 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?