The dark, cold winter months are gone. But the skis shouldn’t be put away just yet. The late-season, from about mid-March to the when the last lifts stop turning, is not only still a great time to ski, but is maybe the best time of the year to hit the slopes. After this season’s remarkable snowfall, resorts will still provide incredible skiing through the spring, offering the chance to shed a couple layers, switch to warm temp wax, grab some sunscreen and enjoy the best of Ski Country.
Now, I am not one of those ridiculous “native” Coloradans that seems to want to wrap a large velvet rope around the Front-Range, everybody and anybody is welcome (as long as they treat the outdoors respectively) to enjoy the wonderful offerings of Ski Country. However, I—and I think most skiers are in agreement here—enjoy skiing even more than usual when there are fewer people on the slopes. Luckily, late-season, when people are more focused on planning their summer beach vacations, getting the bikes ready, or lounging outside with a beer than skiing—all admirable pursuits of course—means that there’s a distinct lack of people sharing the snow with you.
The weather is great, you know this. It’s sunny and warm, and if it does storm, it returns to sunny and warm almost immediately. There’s really nothing like spending a day skiing and then being able to go out the night after without layer upon layer. The great weather means summit picnics, patio beers, and gloveless lift-rides. But, while the sun might be greeted with open arms, sunscreen is definitely a must. A goggle-tan? Cool. Looking like a lobster after five minutes on the slopes? Not cool.
In turn with the weather, the snow during late-season is incredible. You have two options for snow from March to May: intense, deep, beautiful powder (which lasts long cause of the aforementioned lack of crowds), and buttery, soft, surfy, sun-kissed slush. Obviously, that fresh-powder is the snow king, but hot-laps on a slushy day are almost—almost—as enjoyable. Also, the soft slush is great for warm days in the park and surprising good-times in the trees, but beware the melt! The only issue with late-season snow is shared by its opposite at the start of the season, lookout for exposed parts of the mountain you don’t really want to rake your new skis or board over.
The late-season is the absolute best time to try that trick you’ve been thinking of, or lap a run you’ve been eyeing since fall. This is due to three factors. Firstly, late-season means softer snow, so falling isn’t as much of a big deal as it is in the icy throes of winter. Secondly, because it’s the end of the season, there’s less risk in trying something a little more testing. If—Ullr forbid—you hurt yourself, at least you won’t be missing out on the rest of the season, as you would if you went for that backflip back in December. Plus by springtime, you’re probably operating at peak skiing ability due to months of “training.” Lastly, late-season is the best time to take a risk with your skiing simply for the fact that—as much as we might hate it—it means that the end of ski season is nigh. You will have to wait months to try whatever you’re thinking of again, and it’s better to end ski season with a bang, with a new trick or a conquered fear than regrets.
There’s something in the frozen water during the late-season that seems to make everybody just a little kinder and happier on the slopes. The late-season is a time of camaraderie, especially as we creep towards summer (see y’all at A-bay in June!), it seems that the slopes are full of people with a devout love of skiing and the community that comes from it. This late season collection of diehards, the ragged few who say “bah humbug” to summer and ski until it becomes impossible, make the late-season a lesson in persistence and making the most of what’s there. Of course, this energy among the skiing populace also results in great late-season activities like pond-skims and all-day slopeside parties. When spring is in the air, the hills of Ski-Country are full of people who just can’t put the planks away, and that makes the whole difference. There’s no better time to be a skier in Colorado than during the spring, and no better time to meet new and exciting friends on the slopes.
Justin Cygan is a fourth-year student at the University of Denver, where he studies International Relations and Journalism. Born and raised in Colorado, he learned to ski and snowboard at his home mountain of Loveland, where he still regularly rides today. When not chasing pow he can be found skateboarding, writing, reading, cooking and taking pictures in Denver and throughout the state. Justin is the proud father of a year-old aloe plant. Read more of Justin’s stories here.