SPRING MIGHT BE the best time to ski this year. Snowpack—i.e., accumulated layers of snow at high altitudes—is currently at or above average across the Western U.S., meaning that even if there’s zero snowfall for the next six weeks, you’ll still find plenty of swooshable terrain until at least late March. Not only does the weather warm up as March and April unfold, you might just ski better, thanks to what travel agency and booking website Ski.com’s Dan Sherman calls “corn snow,” a spring-specific phenomenon of kernel-like “snow balls” that makes it easier to carve turns.
Even for skiers chasing fresh powder, spring can be fruitful. In Colorado, March is usually the snowiest month and 25% of the season’s snow falls in April. A key consideration: elevation. Any resort at or near 10,000 feet is more likely to get snow—and that snow is less likely to melt.
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But even if flurries fail to materialize, there’s a silver lining: When it’s warmer, you can sleep in. “When the snow surface slushes up during the day, it freezes at night,” said Joel Gratz, founding meteorologist of OpenSnow.com. He recommends hitting the mountain between 10 a.m. and noon, when the snow has softened and is “really fun.”
The other bonus: Longer days mean you can pack in extra activities, like mountain biking or zip-lining. The truly ambitious can go for what Aspen-based Mr. Sherman calls “The Nines”—skiing nine runs, playing nine holes of golf and watching nine innings of a Colorado Rockies baseball game. With these persuasive arguments in mind, here are some inviting North American ski spots to try this spring.
Home to three ski resorts—Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Mount Norquay—this destination’s mountains are higher in latitude than many other hot spots. A lower sun angle means the trails will stay wintry through mid-May. The sun doesn’t set until 8 p.m. in late March and early April, leaving time for a soothing soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs after a demanding day on the slopes.
Last year, Aspen Mountain welcomed skiers on weekends until mid-June, making the 2018/2019 season one of the resort’s longest in recent memory. On a sunny spring day, there’s little better than skiing Aspen Mountain and stopping at Ajax Tavern, where you can indulge in oysters and truffle fries on a slope-side patio. True Coloradans would follow that up with fly fishing in nearby Roaring Fork Valley.
At 9,600 feet above sea level, “Breck” is one of Colorado’s higher-elevation mountains. You can ski into late April—and sometimes even May. Combine that with an increased roster of open-air après-ski events (facilitated by milder temperatures) and the destination is “a sure thing for spring,” according to Ski.com’s Mr. Sherman. In late-March and April, decreased demand can reduce the rates of ski-in, ski-out condos like One Ski Hill Place to half what you’d pay during December break, making Breckenridge a luxurious and economical option.
Whistler’s snowfall has been a bit under average this season, but fear not: OpenSnow.com’s Mr. Gratz says he expects snowfall to rise to normal levels this month, and according to Mr. Sherman, March’s average snowfall is 8 feet. Like Banff’s resorts, Whistler benefits from late sunsets and low sun angles in spring, and, in fact, has one of the longest ski seasons in North America, closing late in May. If it’s inspiration you’re after, visit from April 16 through 26, when you can watch style and speed competitions at the resort’s World Ski & Snowboard Festival.
ALPINE ADVICE / INSIDER TIPS TO ELEVATE YOUR TRIP
Pack your puffy jacket
Skiing in the warm sun might call for a T-shirt, but there’s a drastic difference between day and night temperatures. Don’t forget that sunscreen, either. Extra-high altitudes and reflective snow mean a greater risk of frying.
You can save up to 40% on a spring trip compared to the winter holidays—but the best deals might be in unexpected places. Ask a specialist at agencies like Ski.com for a great, but affordable experience—agnostic of destination.
Alpine Adventures’ Rick Reichsfeld says you can often save up to 20% on passes and rentals by booking in advance. Due to decreased demand come late March or April, the savings potential is greater.
Watch the snow
When it comes to condition reports, “Resort websites can stretch the truth,” said Mr. Reichsfeld. Instead of relying on your hotel and its optimistic interpretations, check the forecast on sites like OpenSnow.com.