Photo Credit: Curtis Devore, Arapahoe Basin
March is upon us, and for millions of students, teachers and parents, that means one thing: SPRING BREAK!!!!!
The days are getting longer, the air warmer and the end of another academic year is in sight. Sure, you could go to the beach, but you have all summer to do that.
Did you know March just happens to be one of the best months of skiing in Colorado? The rocks and stumps are covered by four months worth of snow and the air is warmer than in the brutal days of January. And speaking of snow, March is the snowiest month of the year for many parts of Colorado, so you just might get to ski powder when your classmates who went to Cancun are getting over their sunburns.
Here are ten essential experiences to include in your Colorado spring break, or if you're one of the many whose jobs don't have spring break, to work into a March weekend.
Ski in a T-shirt
Skiing at Colorado's high elevations often means having to bundle up against the elements, but by March the sun angle is getting high and temperatures warmer and that means you may be able to ditch the layers and make some Vitamin D. Shorts are another option, though you'll realize you never knew how much snow flies over your legs while skiing or snowboarding. As for swimsuits, you're welcome to give it a try, though most sane people wait until mid-April for that.
Photo Credit: Aspen Snowmass
Drink some beer or wine with a view
Colorado Ski Country has watering holes with some of the best views in the country, on-mountain bars and restaurants where the majestic mountain views make the beer taste even better. If the weather's nice, many have relaxing patios. There's no better way to take a break from hard skiing than at these establishments far above the base area. Some of the best are the Ptarmigan Roost at Loveland, Powderhouse at Purgatory, Raven's Nest at Wolf Creek, Sunspot Mountain Lodge at Winter Park, Gorrono at Telluride and Cloud Nine Bistro at Aspen Highlands.
Photo Credit: Dave Camara, Arapahoe Basin
Enjoy the Beach at A-basin
Locals' favorite Arapahoe Basin, just an hour west of Denver, is a great place to ski all winter, but spring is especially fun up here. If you get there early you can park right next to the lifts at "The Beach," where parking lot meets snow. You'll hear music. You'll see people in costumes. You'll see hardy folks grilling out no matter what the weather. It's a carnival atmosphere that some years lasts into early July, depending on how long the snow sticks around.
Photo Credit: Jeff Cricco, Wolf Creek
Ski the deepest base in Colorado at Wolf Creek
Southern Colorado's Wolf Creek gets the most snow in Colorado, with 386 inches as of March 4 and a base sitting at a healthy 136 inches, the deepest, of any resort. And March is the second-snowiest month here, with an average of 77.8 inches of snow. Even if it doesn't snow on the day or days you're there, the resort has enough hike-to terrain that you should be able to sniff out some powder days after a storm. There's no lodging at the resort but nearby Pagosa Springs is a popular place to stay, with a hot springs and several breweries.
Photo Credit: Aspen Snowmass
Party down in Aspen
From March 15 to 24, the Bud Light Spring Jam takes over Aspen/Snowmass. There are competitions on the mountains, from freestyle and slalom races to a scavenger hunt/adventure race across all four ski areas that make up Aspen/Snowmass. There are also concerts in downtown Aspen and parties across the area. Just make sure you don't get partied out, it might effect your ski day the next day.
Photo Credit: Echo Mountain
Go pond skimming
A time-honored spring tradition at many Colorado resorts involves pond-skimming - racing down the snow to an icy pool of melted snow in the hope of skimming all the way across on skis or snowboard. Most don't make it all the way but that doesn't stop them from trying. Most of these events are in mid or late April when resorts close, or at A-Basin in June when a natural lake forms, but you can go to Powderhorn on March 30 to give it a try and win prizes. Just don't forget to take your phone out of your pocket, because like we said, most people don't make it.
Enjoy Saint Patrick's Day
Don't spend March 17 waiting for a parade to start or spending time in some dank Irish-themed pub. Spend it celebrating the slopes. Find something green to wear, grab some friends and have a great time revelling in all things Irish. No, the Irish aren't known for being big skiers, but you probably aren't Irish anyway.
Photo Credit: Steamboat
Get Springalicious at Steamboat
They love winter in Steamboat Springs - no town in North America has produced more winter Olympians - and they send off the season with a bang from April 1 to 14. Enjoy wacky events like the Cardboard Classic, in which a team races on a cardboard sled, with extra points awarded for creativity, as well as free concerts and other shenanigans.
Photo Credit: Carl Frey, Winter Park
Ski in a costume
People would stare if you walked down the street in a giant bunny costume in any city so far down the calendar from Halloween, but you may just get high-fives at a ski resort. Fun is in the air in spring and you'll likely see plenty of people in all sorts of costumes. Join the merriment and be sure to get some photos for your Instagram page.
SPRING BREAK SURVIVAL GUIDE
- Wear plenty of sunscreen and bring more to put on later. And put it anywhere the sun or the sun reflecting on the snow can reach, such as the bottom of your nose and your chin, because the sun can blaze in March when it's not snowing.
- If it snowed overnight, get after the powder early because if the sun is out it won't take long for it to turn to spring chowder.
- If it hasn't snowed in a while, plan on skiing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You'll get on the snow after the snow has softened up and get off before it has turned too slushy.
- Dress in layers. Temperatures will vary throughout the day and from the base area to the top of the mountain. If all you have is one huge jacket it's tougher to adjust, so try a breathable base layer, a fleece and a windbreaker, with a backpack to stow unneeded garments.
R. Scott Rappold is a journalist with more than 20 years of experience, including 10 at The Colorado Springs Gazette, where he wrote about skiing, hiking, camping and all the things that make Colorado great. He is now a full-time ski bum who writes when he needs money for beer or lift tickets. He lives in Colorado's beautiful San Luis Valley. Read more of Scott's stories here.