Celebrate the spring

 Raven Eye Photography

Raven Eye Photography

Longer days, more sunshine, milder temperatures, non-existent lift lines and an excuse to sleep in. It’s easy to argue the best time to hit the slopes in British Columbia is in the spring.

“Early season people are so gung-ho, but then they often put their skis away in March, right when the conditions are their best. There are so many reasons to ski in the spring. It’s an awesome time to be out here,” says Pat Bates, a Kimberley, B.C.-based photographer and spring skiing fan.
The positives begin with the snow conditions, and Kimberley Alpine Resort is particularly well positioned for spring skiing, he says.

Rather than fresh powder, in spring conditions skiers hunt for perfect corn snow. It’s the phase between frozen and slush, when the snow is soft, buttery and effortless to carve. Consistent corn skiing requires cool, clear nights and sunny, mild days – typical weather in March and April in Kimberley.

“We see a lot of sun here,” Mr. Bates says.

The weather is predominantly clear, the resort isn’t buried in a valley or surrounded by big mountains, and the runs mostly face east. The snow warms up early and the corn lasts for hours. Mr. Bates’s favourite spring skiing run is Anton’s.

“It’s nice and steep and right down the fall line,” he says. “It’s right under the lift and there’s never a lift line, so you can get in a lot of skiing.”

Kimberley Alpine Resort is not the only well-positioned ski resort for spring turns.

At Big White Ski Resort, spring is all about sleeping in. With most runs facing south and west, the snow doesn’t usually start softening up until late morning and just keeps getting better through the afternoon. The best strategy at Big White is to warm up on some groomed runs and then head to black diamond south-facing trails; steeper slopes receive more solar radiation and thaw faster. The Cliff area is a good bet. Then, as the afternoon heats up, follow the sun to the more west-facing areas.

At the big mountain resorts, spring and winter often coincide. With North America’s longest vertical drop – 1,713 metres – the snow can be soft at the bottom of Revelstoke Mountain Resort while still being a fresh tracks powder day at the top. On days like that, most skiers ride the gondola up to the upper mountain and don’t come back down until the last run of the day.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort’s design allows for skiing both seasons on the same run. The resort generally faces east, but ridges dividing the bowls create south- and north-facing terrain, too. When the sun’s warming the south slopes into corn, the shadowed runs remain surprisingly wintery. A top-to-bottom lap could go something like this: negotiate a powdery chute, arc big turns down a groomer and then spray corn snow all the way to the bottom.

Spring often brings the most stable and predictable avalanche conditions of the winter, which allows ski resorts to open terrain that would normally be too dangerous. One of these areas is the Currie Headwall at Fernie Alpine Resort. The super steep runs off the Polar Peak Triple Chair, right at the top of the resort, are occasionally open during the winter, but routinely open come spring.
Skiing in March and April is also synonymous with value. It’s a good time to find deals at many resorts including SilverStar Mountain Resort. Ski and stay packages are particularly well priced. But possibly the best deal at the Okanagan resort is The Ultimate Rental Package. For stays of more than five days, it allows unlimited rental gear trade-ins. Try different models to suit the changing spring conditions or entirely different sports. The deal includes cross-country skiing, fat biking and alpine rentals.

This is also the time of year skiers consider other fun winter activities. At Whistler Blackcomb, a variety of sports activities are available. The resort has the only lift-accessed glacier skiing in Canada, big vertical and a lift infrastructure designed for different seasons at the top and bottom.
By May, the golf courses are green and playing nicely in the valley, and the mountain bike park is open on the lower mountain with lifts shuttling riders to one of the largest trail networks in North America. Meanwhile, on the upper mountain, skiers still have the mountain’s best terrain to play with.

Whistler Blackcomb shows that spring really is the season of abundance in the mountains. Whether it’s that or knowing that the snow season is nearly over, skiers and boarders are in a celebratory mood come March.

Throughout the month of March and into April, music dominates the après-ski scene at Sun Peaks Resort, north of Kamloops. March Music Madness brings live music almost every day at restaurants throughout the village. Those intimate concerts are a warm-up for the Coors Light Snowbombing Canada. Based on one of Europe’s biggest music festivals on snow, this is Snowbombing’s second year at Sun Peaks.  

More than 50 bands and DJs will perform on multiple outdoor stages around the resort. Filling out the April 5-9 weekend are many other fun activities and events including yoga, chairlift speed dating, snow olympics and a costume contest.

Panorama Mountain Resort begins to celebrate springtime with a weekend of music. At the end of March, the resort hosts the annual High Notes Music Festival, a gathering of independent Canadian artists from just about every genre. Bands like Scenic Route to Alaska, Wild Honey and The Jerry Cans play at various venues around the mountain. The concerts range from outdoor and free to ticketed performances.

Like a lot of hills, Whitewater Ski Resort ends its season with a summer-themed bash called the Beach Party. The weekend-long celebration includes events and concerts. The highlight is always the slush cup. The resort digs out a pool in the snow, fills it with icy water and adds a jump at one end. Skiers and boarders hit the jump hoping to skim across the pond. Most fail, which is exactly the point of this crowd favourite.

Back in Kimberley, planning for the end of season party begins in February. That’s when locals begin building a stadium of snow just outside the ski area boundary, says Mr. Bates. People bring instruments up the lifts and hang out in the giant snow pit, jamming and hanging out under the spring sun.

And it’s just one more reason Mr. Bates doesn’t store his skis until the end of April, at the earliest.
“For me, March is mid-season,” he says. “The skiing only gets better from there.”

To view more articles related to this visit globeandmail.com