Friday, April 4, 2014

Spring Flings

Whistler Blackcomb, BC: Paul Morrison
Spring Skiing is an oxymoron to many people who associate April with the beginning of summer rather than the end of the winter. You can't blame them: it's a natural hankering for sunshine and fresh air after a long, tough winter. 

This month, newspapers and magazines everywhere switch from ski stories to summer travel, hiking, biking, horse-riding, watersports and camping. Retailers fill their stores with summer clothing, garden furniture and beach accessories well in advance of actual need. 

However, while all this wishful thinking is going on, savvy skiers are getting in some of the best turns of the season, squeezing full value out of their season pass, taking advantage of special spring pricing or taking a late season ski vacation and getting much needed Vitamin D. 

Some ski resorts close down in early April, but many are open until the end of the month and, a select few, like Sunshine Village in Alberta and Whistler Blackcomb in BC, well into May. 

So what can skiers and snowboarders expect from Spring Skiing? Silver Star's Anne Haight has it down: “Spring skiing is a special time for many folks. It’s a long-running tradition that many look forward to every year,” she says. “Unlike during the regular season, there is no rush for first chair and first tracks, but rather, it is a much more relaxed vibe with goggle tans and socializing becoming priority.”

Brand new ice bar at Lake Louise's renovated
Whitehorn Lodge - photo Dan Markham
If you're lucky you might get an overnight snowfall followed by baby blue skies with powder all morning until warm temps make it soupy. Alternatively, the resort may have had a balmy afternoon the previous day followed by an overnight freeze. In this case, your best bet is to ski corduroy on the groomers first thing while temps are still crisp. When the corduroy is shredded, stop mid-morning for coffee or brunch plus scenery-soaking on a panoramic patio such as Lake Louise's new Whitehorn Lodge patio and ice bar. Then, when the lunch bunch starts swarming, get back on the uncrowded slopes just as the midday sun is melting the refrozen snow. Ski the now-softened bumps, glades and other ungroomed areas all the way through until 3 or 4pm when it is time for al fresco apres ski. 

Many resorts hire bands for patio parties in April/May, set up al fresco bars and barbecues and run special spring-themed events. Here are a few examples, firstly around Canada and then the USA:

Banff Mt Norquay 80s Day April 5
Banff Mt Norquay - 80s Day is coming up this weekend. Other events include the Bozo Cup with a guest appearance by Olympian Jan Hudec who won Bronze in the Sochi Super G.

Nakiska's Spring Olympics return again this April with DJ's pumping tunes in the base area and non stop family fun including obstacle course races, the Easter egg hunt and a visit from the Easter Bunny.

Sunshine's DJ music tent and spring beer garden opens this weekend, launching a long series of outdoor musical, culinary, and ski/board events which culminates with the Annual Slush Cup May 19.  

Lake Louise is hosting a KROWD night club event Sat with 1000 partygoers dancing in the daylodge all night. All KROWD participants get reduced lift tickets over the weekend. Virgin Radio is also taking over the apres-ski action at Kokanee Kabin Sat. And there will be music on the deck every weekend until season's close on May 3 as well as a long list of races, Easter activities and charitable fundraisers.
Great powder at Marmot Basin

Marmot Basin, Alberta has a full calendar of spring events including concerts, Hawaiian-themed races, and an Easter celebration. There's a great deal for all season pass holders from rival resorts anywhere in Canada or the USA: 40 % off lift tickets at Marmot from April 6 until the end of the season, May 4. 

Fernival Festival at Fernie, BC
Fernie, BC, finishes off the season with the 6th annual Fernival concert April 12 and Slope Soaker contest April 13. 

Last weekend of the season at Kimberley, BC rounds off with a Spring Splash this Saturday and Dummy Downhill Sunday. Make sure to stop off for an Alpine dinner afterwards at The Old Bauernhaus just down the road from the slopes. 

This weekend is the first of two Sun Splash Funk Fests at Kicking Horse, BC including concerts and an innovative team decathlon snow blades contest. 

There are still two more weeks skiing left at Panorama, BC which has extended the season due to late snowfalls until April 20, the longest season there in 14 year. Spring celebrations there this weekend include a Superhero Sunfest featuring a peak to valley challenge, concerts and a two-day banked snowboard slalom event. Closing celebrations are Easter themed April 18-20.

Whistler Blackcomb's World Ski and Snowboard Festival, the largest annual wintersports festival in North America
March was the snowiest month of the season at Whistler Blackcomb which chalked up 91cm more new snow last week. Spring skiing has been extended there until May 26. Known for its mega spring concerts and piste parties, Whistler is hosting the annual World Ski and Snowboard Festival Apr 11-20 featuring hip hop group De La Soul along with a full program of live music, skiing and arts.

Big White's Dummy Downhill
Skiers and riders at Big White, BC are gearing up for the Dummy Downhill next weekend. Their homemade contraptions will speed down the tube park with dramatic take offs and crash landings all contributing to the jollity. 

Whitewater, BC is running a Tribute Throwdown Slopestyle this weekend and then finishing the season off with a Beach Party Apr 6 featuring Fat Bike races, live music and a pet-friendly Dogstacle race.

A first at Silver Star, BC this season is a couch race this Sunday with five-man teams negotiating the village course on couches mounted on skis. This is part of the annual Showdown Throwdown Hoedown event, now in its 9th year.

Mont Sainte Anne, Canada takes spring skiing to a new level with five weekends of festivities dubbed Spring Madness, encompassing activities such as yoga, spa, live music from rock and blues to contemporary, banked slalom contests, sugar shack, Easter egg hunts, blow-up castles, and barbecues.  

Copper Mountain, Colorado has reintroduced its Sunsation Spring Festival this April with two weekends (Apr 12-13 and 19-20) of wacky activities and live music, including a Slopesoakers event (rail jam meets pond skim) and the first ever on-snow Color Run - a 5k run on a manicured snow path. 

Spring Fever has already hit Breckenridge, Colorado which has also extended its season an extra week until April 27 due to an extra deep snowpack. The Spring Fever Festival runs until season's end with activities on the hill as well as in town as well as four dedicated concert days. Easter weekend features egg hunts and a sunrise service at Ten Mile Station.

I'm going to be skiing both Breck and Copper from next weekend, so look out for my Colorado Capers coming up soon!



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