Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Spring Skiing

Nothing beats a nice spring day on the slopes. The warm sun beams down, with its barely-filtered UV rays piercing through the thin air and frying all unprotected skin. The snow starts out icy, but before long it becomes soft and smooth, with slushy snow flying out at every turn. The weather can be really crazy - a couple years ago, Vail reopened for an extra weekend after closing when it was hit with a snowstorm that dumped 3 feet of snow.

Vail EpicMixOne of the best Spring skiing days I've ever experienced was nearly two months ago at Vail, a week before the closing date. Due to some lucky weather events, I experienced all three main types of snow conditions in a single day: ice, slush, and powder.

The day started out like any other: hard snow covered the trails, frozen solid from the cold night before. Turns were difficult to make on this surface, as the skis could not carve on the ice. Clouds covered the sky. It was cold, but not frigid.

Vail beautiful sky
View of the back bowls and Blue Sky Basin, taken from the front side

Before long, however, the clouds began to break up and the sun came out. Everything got warmer, and the snow softened into slush. The sky was beautiful - the clouds were like giant cotton balls, piled up high in the sky.

Skiing in dumping snow at Vail

Vail blizzard

As the end of the day drew near, the clouds got thicker and covered the sky, and then it started dumping snow. It was a complete blizzard! On the chair-lift, I was astonished when I realized I could barely see two chairs ahead of me, and I could not see the ground. Within an hour, at least an inch of fresh powder had accumulated on the slopes. It was amazing.

Vail is long closed now. The snow is half melted and the resort is already preparing for summer activities. Arapahoe Basin, however, is nowhere near closing. Last week when I skied at the resort, it still had plenty of snow, and was only just starting to get to where Vail was when I visited it in April. As with my Vail trip, the weather was quite interesting: this time, the sky was full of puffy clouds, and at random times throughout the day it would start snowing for about 20 minutes at a time. Then the snow would stop and the scorching sun would come out, only to disappear an hour later. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the soft snow and the refreshing mountain air.

Arapahoe Basin beautiful skyArapahoe Basin dumping snow
Conditions can change quickly in the Spring - these photos were taken just 30 minutes apart.

There isn't much that can compare to spring skiing. The air is warm, the snow is amazing, and the weather is beautiful. Who would have thought that some of the most enjoyable skiing is at a time of the year when the fewest people think about snow?

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