Editor’s Note: This is the final Winter Notes column of the season.
My kids have started spring soccer practice, there are crocuses blooming in the little garden by the front window, and the Red Sox have their home opener next week. All signs point to springtime.
But if you’re not skiing these next couple of weekends — and maybe beyond — you’re missing out. There is still a ton of snow in them thar hills, and plenty of fun planned into April. Skiing in April is awesome; here are five other reasons skiing why:
Sweet, sweet snow
“Look at all the snow,” a ski coaching compatriot exclaimed from the chairlift last weekend, lamenting the sad fact that the mountain was loaded with snow, but only open another couple of weekends.
There’s a reason snowmakers pile up the manmade early in the season, and that reason is spring skiing. Yes, they want to get trails open early in the winter, but those giant piles of snow the guns lay down in December, January, and February — along with whatever Mother Nature drops on top — also provide a pillow that lasts into April.
It’s really a shame more folks don’t show up to ski in April, because the coverage is generally much better than it was in December, the snow is soft, the daylight lingers much longer, and — if we’re lucky — the spring sun shines.
Goggle tans, shedding layers
While many folks plan getaways to warmer climes in the unpredictable weather of April in New Hampshire, the skiers among us are soaking up the vitamin D however we can.
We lean heads back on chairlift rides and face into the sun. We eat lunch on the deck. Because that spring sun is so bright, we leave the goggles down, creating the telltale shading of tanned face — except around the eyes, and only from the goggle line to the neck.
A few good bets for working on the goggle tan: Wildcat Express chair at Wildcat, which faces into the sun all day; mid-morning break at Waterville’s mid-mountain Schwendi Hutt; lunch on the Camp III deck at Loon; Slopeside Pub deck at Bretton Woods.
Après ski tailgating
The April après ski scene is stellar. The sun doesn’t set until well after the lifts close, which means more time for hanging out with the ski buds after a day on the hill.
At any given ski area on any given afternoon in April, you’ll likely find folks enjoying an icy beverage on the tailgate of a pickup truck. But no one has an April après scene quite like Sunapee. Spring weekends there feature The Beach, a slopeside scene unlike any other: tents and grills, beachballs and coolers, sunscreen and friends. If you want to Beach it, though, you’d better get there early. The Beach — a stretch of snow between the slopes and the parking lot between Spruce Lodge and Sunapee Lodge — fills up early. And this is the last weekend to get into the action.
Other good bets for April après: the patio at Ragged Mountain, where there is often a beer cart outside for easy access; parking pods at Cannon if you’re bringing your own eats or the Peabody deck if you’re not; T-bars deck at Waterville; recently expanded deck by the Paul Bunyan Room at Loon, with access to 32 beers on tap.
Fun and frivolity
Even if you don’t want to après, there’s plenty of April fun left to be had.
This weekend, Sunapee hosts its annual Intragalactic Cardboard Sled Race Saturday, Waterville and Gunstock have pond skimming contests, and Cannon throws down its annual Tug-of-War contest. Saturday is also ’80s Day at Loon.
For a full day of fun, check out the Wild Corn Shindig at Black Mountain Saturday — preceded by WILD POW Friday night at Tuckerman Brewing Company in Conway. The Shindig is a back-country ski take over at Black, with tons of alpine touring and splitboard demos and games like “transition rodeo” (how fast can you switch from skinning up to skiing down) and the Avalanche Shovel Race. There are costumes, cowbells, and three bands playing throughout the day. Find out more at www.granitebackcountryalliance.org.
With so much great snow left to be skied, it seems wrong that ski areas offer such great deals this time of year. But deals there are!
At Waterville, tickets after this weekend drop down to $55 for adults, $45 for teens, and $39 for juniors and seniors. Online deals (www.waterville.com) are even better.
Loon is offering a Spring Pass for $179, which gets you unlimited skiing until closing day, April 14, and other online ticket deals at www.loonmtncom.com.
Cannon has a 2-for-$79 ticket deal for the rest of the season.
One of the best spring ski deals around is Bretton Woods’ annual Patriots Day ticket: $17.76 to ski April 15. Tickets between now and then are a bargain $29 per day.
If you’re thinking about a season’s pass for next year, most ski areas have those passes on sale now. And they’ll let you use a 2019-2020 pass for the remainder of this season.
Wherever you ski, swing into the shop between runs. Ski areas are trying to unload any leftover winter inventory before changing seasons, so you’ll usually find some great deals now. They’d rather sell it cheap than store it for the summer!
Here’s a rundown on ski areas still open for the season:
Through April 7: Gunstock (alpine and cross-country), Sunapee, Ragged, Great Glen Trails.
Through April 14: Loon, Black Mountain, Cannon (may reopen the weekend of April 20-21), and Waterville Valley, with Bretton Woods open an extra day and closing April 15.
Wildcat expects to remain open through April and hopefully into May.