Why We Love Spring Skiing
We love spring skiing. In fact, we love it so much that 17 of us (nearly three quarters of our team) have been skiing in March or April this season. Everyone has their own reasons for loving spring, from a deep snow base and fresh powder to the high potential for bluebird days.
In our final snow report of the 2017/18 ski season, we take a look at the snowiest spring resorts and hear from team members who've been enjoying them. But first, why spring?
Many resorts receive their greatest snowfall in March, adding to a deep snow base that has built up throughout the season, and these spring storms often continue well into April. Just this week (25 April), Lake Louise and Sunshine Village received 24cm of new snow overnight, providing a welcome late season powder day. Rupert often deals with the misconception that the snow isn't as good at the end of the season. His advice?
"Don’t be fooled into thinking that snow will be an issue late March / early April and that it is too late - over the years some of the best ski days of the season have been had in April..."
Even if it doesn't snow too much while you're in resort, the snow base is generally deep enough by March that you can still expect great skiing. As the temperature is warmer, you're also less likely to encounter icy patches! This can sometimes mean slush lower down the mountain, but that's not necessarily a bad thing if you ask Luke:
"Personally speaking, I LOVE slushy days late in the season (mid-April onwards) as the snow is soft and more forgiving all over the mountain."
It's not just snow you can expect more of, spring is also the best time for long, sunny days and warmer temperatures. Think sun terrace après or even skiing in a t-shirt (just watch out for sun burn!) Even better when you're treated to a bluebird day after it has snowed all night.
"I love skiing in spring as the temperatures are usually milder and allow for plenty of relaxation and après beers in the sunshine." - Kirstin Thatcher, Operations Supervisor
"Everyone's dream is skiing empty slopes and no lift lines," according to Rupert, and that's exactly what you'll find. Resorts tend to be quietest in March and April, even over the Easter break, so you often have entire runs to yourself, no queues whatsoever and you're virtually guaranteed fresh lines on a powder day.
So where is particularly good for spring skiing?
British Columbia and Alberta have both had abundant snow over the past two months, which was great news for the seven team members who've been out there on research or personal trips. Sun Peaks and Whistler received close to five metres, with the most snow of the season falling in March. Historically Whistler's best month for snow, the snowfall this March was the second highest ever total, so this year has been especially good.
"Who would have thought skiing Whistler for the first nine days of April there would be snowfall amounting to 81cm!! The conditions were amazing and the views through the clouds for the snowmobiling, snowshoeing and Superfly were fantastic!!" - Sheila Martin, Tour Coordinator
"So much snow! Skiing in April this year we had fresh turns almost every day." - Richard Rice, Founder & Chairman
With Extremely Canadian you can have a real adventure in one day - even in spring. Sometimes you to have to work a little to get to the good stuff (as Richard's photos show), but with 56cm of snow falling this week in Whistler Blackcomb, it was easier than usual for April! @extremelycanadian @whistlerblackcomb #extremelycanadian #backcountryadventure #springskiing #whistler #whistlerblackcomb #ski #skiing #backcountry #backcountryskiing #skiers #skisafarimoment
But it's not all about the snow. Late season is when resorts tend to host their events and festivals, as the weather is likely to be better and there's more daylight.
"It was good to have the World Ski and Snowboard Festival on whilst we were there. There were some good bands playing, lots of events and a real buzz in the village. Whistler does both the skiing and the non-skiing very well!" - Richard Rice
Five of our team spent time in the Okanagan in March and April, exploring the three resorts of Big White, Silver Star and Sun Peaks, and were treated to snow, sunshine and quiet slopes. Sun Peaks received more snow than any other resort on our programme this spring, with 498cm.
"After skiing in Banff and Lake Louise, we headed east to the Okanagan. Big White, Silver Star and Sun Peaks were incredible. We received fresh snow three or four times during the week (mainly at night) which, coupled with blue skies on most days, made for perfect conditions. We didn't have to queue once and felt like we were the only three people on the mountain at times. We tried cross country skiing for the first time while in Silver Star. Again, the blue skies and mild temperatures meant it was the perfect time to give it a try." - Claire Jones, Operations Manager
"I am 100% a spring skiing kind of gal, and that’s exactly what we had! A mixture of sunshine and snow, but the sunny days prevailed over one or two poor vis days. Extremely quiet slopes allowing for lots of fresh tracks and no lift queues. Sunshine and steep, rolling groomers, perfection! Specifically in Big White, Silver Star and Sun Peaks, they still had an abundance of snow and it continued to fall, it almost seemed a shame they were a week away from closing, seeing all that snow, which was soon to be untouched." - Kirstin Thatcher
In Alberta, the resorts in Banff National Park are open right through to May. After 40cm over two nights this week, many of the resorts have now had over three metres of snow in the past two months.
"Wow, I had forgotten how beautiful Banff is - the Rockies are absolutely stunning! The end of March is a great time to go; still cold and snowy at Sunshine Village and Lake Louise, but warm and spring-like back in Banff. I was really impressed with the town this time with its cool coffee shops and funky eating places - it's got a nice vibe." - Richard Rice
In March, our Scandinavia team headed to Åre and the Arctic. As well as two powder days in the south in Åre, they enjoyed light and fluffy snow in the northern resorts of Björkliden and Riksgränsen. Although Scandinavian resorts don't receive as much snow as those in North America, the snow tends to stay in great condition late into the season. Andy explains why:
"With the Scandinavian destinations it’s all about latitude rather than altitude. While the resorts aren’t high compared to better known destinations in the Alps, their northerly latitude more than compensates. In fact, so much so you can ski Björkliden & Riksgränsen through into May and beyond. Even Åre, which is that bit further south, historically reaches its peak snow base in March, when other resorts are starting to close down. This makes all of these destinations a safe bet for spring snow – the benefits of long sunnier days, but without the disadvantage of high temperatures turning the slopes green." - Andy Hemingway, Scandinavia Product Manager
"Spring has always been my favourite time to ski as you tend to get long, sunny days and great snow. This isn’t always the case in Europe but thankfully it was in the Arctic! We had some epic powder, glorious sunshine (for part of the days anyway) and best of all, barely anyone else around. Even though we were in the Arctic Circle, it wasn’t cold and the snow stayed fluffy and light." - Kat Bouch, Scandinavia Sales Consultant
Vicky was so impressed with the terrain that she immediately booked another trip to explore more of the terrain in Riksgränsen via helicopter and split-boarding.
"It was so good that I went back for more over the Easter weekend. The backcountry terrain to be accessed by heli and split-boarding is huge, and I can honestly say if you prefer to stay off the pistes then this is the place for you, there is a lot of powder to be had!" - Vicky Bamford, Marketing Coordinator
After a day skiing in Riksgränsen last month as part of a research trip, Vicky couldn't help heading back for more and has spent this week on an arctic heli-ski adventure. Here are a few of the photos she sent over to make the office jealous. @riksgransen_photos #riksgränsen #sweden #heliskiing #snowboarding #snowboarder #snowboardlife #spring #offpiste
Most of our customers travel to Japan in January and February in search of chest-deep powder, but on a research trip in late March to Niseko, Kiroro and Rusutsu we found that spring might just be as good a time to visit.
"The snow is still good late March, just not with the regular/big powder falls that you might get in Jan/Feb. The weather is likely to be better too as a result." - Matt Pavitt, Managing Director
Some of our customers don't see the huge and magnificent Mt Yotei at all during their trip due to low visibility, but we had a crystal clear view almost every day. We were treated to two powder days with 10cm falling the night before each day - so we still experienced some of Japan's legendary powder but also enjoyed plenty of spring sunshine. As we were there late in the season the slopes were practically deserted, especially off piste, so we could find fresh lines all day on the powder days. The snow was so good that half of our group were able to go cat-skiing on our last day in Niseko.
Arriving in Tokyo for a day before heading back to the UK, we were delighted to find that the cherry blossom had started to bloom. It's one of Japan's most famous sights, and something our customers rarely see. It was also pleasant enough to walk around in a t-shirt and light jacket, a much easier way to discover a huge city than bundled up in winter clothing! I had a similar experience last year skiing Whistler and then staying in Vancouver, so it seems spring is the time to combine skiing with a city stay!
Although none of our team travelled to the USA this spring, the phenomenal snow is still worth mentioning. Here's a quick round-up of the snowiest destinations.
Further south in California, the Lake Tahoe resorts and Mammoth are justifying staying open through to June with up to 365cm of spring snow, adding to record breaking snowfall this season (now over 18 metres in Squaw Valley which this week reported a snow base 300% deeper than average).
Jackson Hole closed for the season on 9 April but no one told the weather systems - this week alone the resort received 75cm and they had to dig out Corbet's Cabin! Although the iconic tram is at a standstill, local skiers have been enjoying the ample backcountry surrounding the resort - the long days giving them time to get a few turns in before and after work:
"In Jackson Hole we average just under 12 metres of snow on the mountain, but this year by season's end we were at 15 metres. It has continued to snow and that number is now well over 16. There has been incredible skiing in the backcountry since the resort has been closed for the season. Jackson Hole closes in early April (April 8 next year). Winter conditions in the mountains of Wyoming, however, can last well into June." - Patrick Nelson, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Experience it Yourself
Book your 2018 spring ski adventure now for the best price and choice of accommodation. Request a quotation online or call our ski specialists on 01273 224060.
One of the handful of non-skiers before joining Ski Safari, I've now skied in North America, Europe and Asia. After my first taste powder and tree skiing in Japan last winter, I'm looking forward to getting stuck into more off-piste adventures!