Peter Greenberg | Spring skiing: Bluebird days on the slopes
Why go to the beach for spring break? Spring break falls during the prime season of some of the region's best ski areas.
From the die-hard powderhounds to the weekend warriors, spring conjures up images of bluebird skies, brilliant sunshine and some of the best ski conditions of the season one could ask for.
Spring can have a nasty side as well. No one knows that better than New England skiers. After all, the Northeast is where skiers jokingly refer to our famous boilerplate (hard pack) as "New England powder."
Spring conditions include Wet Snow, powder that is thawing under higher temperatures. It slows you down and also makes catching an edge easier. Wet snow often becomes Wet Granular, which leads to either (or both) Loose Granular, packed powder that has thawed, frozen and then re-crystallized into loose granules, and Frozen Granular. Finally, Corn Snow, soft granules that are corn- to grape-size.
Here are some tips to make sure you don't get caught up in the spring slush or, as we New Englanders say, Mashed Potatoes.
Spring skiing conditions can change very quickly and dramatically over the course of the day. Your approach needs to be flexible.
Strategy should be as much a part of spring skiing success as very strong carving skills, to plow through that variable terrain garden in the spring. Know your local weather forecast and be on the hill for the ideal corn snow-skiing window.
Don't ski when conditions are solid as a rock and try to avoid the late day melt-down, when the ski experience becomes more like the one you'd find behind a boat on water skis.
Stay away from sun-soaked slopes in the morning. East-facing slopes will soften up by mid-morning and ice over (from use and cooler temps) by the afternoon. In the afternoon, try to seek out west-facing slopes for softer snow. As a typical rule, south in the morning, north in the afternoon.
More important, the ski tune must deal with the wet snow that comes later in the day. Wax essentially waterproofs the bottom of a ski, so it glides on small ball-bearing-like beads of water. For the wet snow, a "warmer," softer wax is the key.
If the water can't escape in bead form out from under the ski, it will "sheet" rather than remain beaded, and this creates suction. This is what will happen when the skis lurch to a halt or slow intermittently as you ski between shade and sun (wet and harder snow) in the late spring.
Here are things you may want to remember:
• As the sun climbs higher and the temperatures rise, it is essential for skiers and riders to remain hydrated. Not only can warmer temperatures lead to dehydration, exercise may rapidly deplete the body of necessary water. Drink plenty of water.
• Proper preparation includes making sure you not only have the right clothing, but also that your gear is ready to go. Skis and snowboards can be tuned differently to address the variable conditions you find after February.
• Sunscreen is important in the springtime. With your skin being covered up all winter, it'll be more sensitive to the warmer spring sun.
• Goggles are also essential to remember. Make sure you have a proper pair or sunglasses that have a very high UV rating.
Peter Greenberg learned to ski at age 3, and is an avid skier who has taught skiing in the Berkshires for more than 30 years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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