Spring in your step? Grab one more run
by Tony Chamberlain/
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of New England Ski Journal.
In my backyard, under a blue tarp, is a boat. A very nice boat to go fishing, waterskiing or just ride around in the summer heat. As late as two weeks ago, there was a foot of snow on top of the blue tarp, making the boat look, not so much like a boat at all, but some permanent implantation of winter — an igloo maybe.
So now the snow is gone, the sun is so strong I wear a baseball cap (under threats of my dermatologist), and crocuses have long since poked up along the garden wall. And my boat has a sudden possibility that it just may return to its natural habitat of Duxbury Bay some day soon.
Of course, I’m talking spring. It happens. We rejoice that spring happens. We have nothing but spring things to do, the good (boats ’n’ stuff), the bad (lugging out bags of lime and fertilizer) and the ugly (annual garage muck out).
Nowhere on that mental checklist is the one about throwing the skis in the car and hitting the road for Bretton Woods or Sugarbush — stuff that was second nature only a few weeks ago.
The strange thing about this time of year is that skiing (and riding) is absolutely primo right now, even though our psychology has shifted with the light and temperature, away from snow in some planetary way.
Here’s the paradox. In fall, when the skiing is lousy, we’re at the very height of excitement about getting out and clicking into the boards for first run. Of course, the reason is that we’ve had at least seven months off the skis and all that pent-up energy to get starting is fed by the new rounds of magazines, ski shows and radio ads.
So we’re up there at Thanksgiving scraping over rocks and tufts of turf sticking up through the scant snow. Only a few runs are open, and not the ones we love most. This year, with a big Christmas holiday dump after several snowmaking nights, the skiing was terrific. Just what it should be for a big holiday week, and everyone was happy.
Moreover, with just a couple of warm-ups, the snow stockpiled so deep that the Christmas week carried right on into February vacation time. What a season, right? In fact, the skiing has been so good that probably the appetites are getting just about sate by the end of February. If you just finished a quart of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, it might be hard to pop the top on another quart.
But skiing isn’t like that. Consider this:
* The high sun keeps the afternoons warmer even as the snow resets a bit after the peak of the day. Conditions are superb and invite a rhythm of ski early and late, and during the midday slushies, find a nice deck to tanning and peel off the duds and lather on the lotion. This is that perfect sun/snow combination that Westerners have all too much of.
* You’re in shape. Remember those first cranky, thigh-burning, ankle-aching, how-do-I-turn-these-things runs in November? Well, now you have some miles under the skis and your quads have rounded into top condition to deliver you long effortless runs and powerful turns. And that’s when skiing feels at its best — when you’re body is up for it.
* Fewer crowds. Because of the effect mentioned above, the golfers are golfing and the fly-fishermen are angling. So that leaves lots more open spaces up on the slopes. The lift lines are shorter, all those fave runs more spacious, and the spring ski deals have reduced the price tag considerably.
* The ice is … well, not gone. We can’t promise that about spring skiing, but if you find it hard to ski in soft snow, learn a little technique. It might even be worth a lesson to make those subtle weight adjustments that translate into some real fun in corn snow and slush bumps.
* Atmospherics. Boy, does the attitude change with light and warmth! Gone is that sense of gritting teeth and fighting a cold, dark wind that seems to cut through whatever you’re wearing. Now, you loosen the clothes or dress in lighter weights, adjust the attitude to take it all a little less seriously. The winter war is over.
Two years ago, we were at Sugarloaf in spring when an overnight dump off the Gulf of Maine gave us about 7 inches of fresh powder to play in. Remember March and April are traditionally among the snowiest months in the higher northern elevations, so you may find one of these bonus storms as you ski and ride in spring.
So, your lawn may be greening and buds poking through the thawed turf. Golf is calling and, of course, the boat cover has to come off soon. But remember, the northern mountains are still packed with snow and some of the best offering there has been all season.
Throw in the skis and grab one last trip or two. Because when it is gone, it’s just too long until we can ski again. Oh, and remember the sunscreen.
Tony Chamberlain is the editor of New England Ski Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com