It ain’t over till the fat snowman sings!

2013-02-05-the-bowlspring_skiingPond Skim  PA Pennsylvania Ski Resort  Four Season Resort  Seven Springs Mountain ResortPond Skim  PA Pennsylvania Ski Resort  Four Season Resort  Seven Springs Mountain Resort Or at least until his top hat, carrot nose, and scarf are resting on dry ground. This time of year, a lot of folks are marking the days since the Groundhog made his prognostications up on Gobbler’s Knob. The time change comes, you start to get a temperature and weather break and people are getting spring fever big time. Now, I don’t want to burst the bubble of enthusiasm for spring(John Hinderliter), but there is still some fun to be had in the waning weeks of winter.

Spring skiing is one of the most fun times of the year in opposition to the suffering that we do in the deep winter with cold temperatures, arctic winds, and variable conditions that define the skiing experience. The temperature starts to get warmer, the snow is softer and more consistent, the sun shines on your face and you get that feeling that winter is really not that bad especially this time of the year. You have paid your dues so why not reap some of the benefit with some great spring skiing? Most ski areas have carnivals where you can see skiers and boarders merrily skiing over ponds with costumes and when they don’t quite make it to the other end, the result is a humorous roar of approval from the crowd. The beer flows,the grills in the parking lots are full of brats, burgers, chicken and the like. The party atmosphere is assisted by the sunny weather and it is a fitting end to a great season of winter fun.

There are classic spring skiing venues like Tuckerman Ravine in New Hampshire where the rite of passage can be climbing with an 80 pound pack on your back loaded down with skis, boots, sleeping bags and pads. The rite continues with climbing up the Headwall and skiing the classic routes of the Ravine like the Left Gully, the Left Chute, Dodge’s Drop, and others with spills and thrills to the delight of the beer drinking crowd at Lunch Rocks. The parking lot at A-Basin in Colorado is another late skiing Mecca with the sun worshiping, grilling and party atmosphere that can continue into late spring. The mogul skiing challenge at Bear Mountain at Killingon,Vermont has been revived over the last couple of seasons with a good observation point at the Bear Mountain base lodge. This season can go into May and “The Beast” is a warm weather home to all of those rabid New York skiers who want to extend their season as long as possible. The Yankees can wait – ski the Beast! Every ski area has springtime activities which augment the extension of the ski season. Whether you ski the east or ski the west, or the central part of the country, don’t put the boards away just yet. Let me make my case.

Would you rather take out your golf clubs, go to the course, walk around in the mud up to your ankles, lose a bunch of golf balls due to plugging even when they are high visibility orange or yellow………….or would you like to ski on soft snow in the sunshine with windpants, and a sweatshirt? Would you rather take out your mountain bike and trash the muddy trails, cover yourself and your bike with splooge and ruin your components so that you spend the rest of the day replacing parts and cleaning the bike…………..or would you like to ride up a warm chairlift with a tanned significant other or new found friend? Would you rather go to a lake or a stream with your fishing gear and freeze in the early morning sitting on your can and dealing with frozen bait and the occasional bite of a wayward trout……………or would you stop for a quick brat sandwich and a cold beer after a great day of skiing on groomed granular in the sunshine? Even if it rains, the snow is good as long as you can don the Gore Tex and keep dry.

From my perspective, the last turn of the year is depressing. As much as I like to ride a bike, hike and enjoy the changing of the seasons, that last turn reminds me that I will not be skiing again for at least another 7 months. As I get older, I really value the seasons and the fun that you can have. The ski season is no exception and I mark the passing of the time with happiness and great memories but also with a bit of forlorn in that another season is in the books. There is still some time left to enjoy, and as the noted ski film maker Warren Miller always says,” If you don’t do it this year, you will be a year older when you do.” Carpe Deium folks. The summer activities will come soon enough. Wait until the snowman sings his final song. Thanks for reading.

The Joy of Spring Skiing

IMG00138-20100210-1422 You know, around these parts we have this crazy rodent named Phil who comes out of his hole in February and the prognosticators of Gobbler’s Knob in Punxatawney,Pa. decide with Phil that winter is often on its way out. Then you get a few nice days in March, coupled by the time change and people get looney. They forget about skiing and get their golf clubs out and hack around in the cold and the mud, or they fish in the streams that still have ice on them and tell themselves that it is spring. The hackers look for their plugged balls and often times try to warm themselves with coffee because it is not quite the warm spring day they anticipated. Why do this when you can still ski? So many people give up when there is plenty of snow on the mountain and the warm late winter days soften the snow into very skiable corn snow which can be enjoyed into April and often times later in the season out west.

Most skiers suffer through the brutal winds and icy conditions of winter and when the big payoff comes with spring skiing, their thoughts turn to activities that can be done for the rest of the year. Why rush it? The ski areas try to keep the attraction by reducing rates, having spring carnivals where people dress in costume and have pond skims on skis, and other festivities that celebrate the end of the ski season. From New England to the West, these carnivals keep the season alive but lots of folks don’t attend unless they are diehards like me and my friends. I remember as a kid, going to Holiday Valley in Western New York for a spring skiing weekend where lift tickets were discounted if you wore pajamas and robes. Of course all of us kids couldn’t wait to wear the stuff and we were welcomed by a pancake breakfast at the top of the mountain as part of the festivities with fresh, local maple syrup as the main attraction of the breakfast. I remember green beer flowing on St. Patrick’s Day at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid a few years back where the weather was in the 60’s, the snow was perfect and the on-mountain fun was outrageous. Years ago when Coors Light was in an experimental stage and the brewery was looking for some feedback on a new light beer, the silver cans were first given to all the spring skiers on the deck at Mid-Vail. I remember filling out the survey on what I thought of the light beer in the silver can. Amazing how a product that started as a spring skiing give a way, became a staple of American lifestyle. Guys wearing t-shirts and shorts, girls wearing bikini tops and windpants, crazy hats, bands rocking on the decks, all around good times mark the spring skiing period which should not be missed at this time of year.

Personally, I like all the festivities but what I most enjoy about spring skiing is the opportunity to ski some pretty cool stuff with soft corn conditions out west. As you can see from the picture above, we like to climb to some interesting runs in places like Kirkwood in Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain in California. If you are willing to get a little sweat on,sling your skis over your shoulders, and climb in sunny conditions, you can hang your skis out over some chutes, ravines, and other challenging places with excellent soft conditions that make it easier to ski at spring time rather than the hard, icy conditions the rest of the year. You still have to pay attention and make sure that you make that first turn, but this is what you pay your money for if you make your way to the west for spring skiing. After a number of runs and a number of climbs, that beer at the end of the day sure tastes good and we all entertain each other with stories of the great runs experienced that day. As we get older, the stories get better, the runs become steeper, but like the fisherman who tells of the big one that got away, it all feels good to partake and to tell the tale.

As my friends at home here are getting their bikes ready, I will be heading west soon for some great end of the season adventures with the Eric Durfee posse whom I have posted about previously. These diehards( with yours truly) gather in the spring to end the season together with some great skiing and even greater comraderie. It has become a tradition and I will be posting some live action from the group in the coming weeks. This blog, as you know, talks about the adventures of a 58 year old kid and I am happy to report that the adventures will continue “live” with the end of the season spring skiing. Thanks for reading and stay tuned. When I return, the new season of posts begin with more spring and summer based memories and adventures. Just like Jimmie Durante………….”I got a million of them…..ha,cha,cha,cha,chaaaaaaaa.”