Posted by: Feet Banks
Here in Whistler we live in a bit of a bubble—I’ll admit not all of us locals are up to date on world politics and news from afar but part of that is because the sun is out, Whistler is coming off the third snowiest March in the past decade, and Whistler Blackcomb just announced spring skiing on Blackcomb will extend until May 26, 2014.
Which is awesome news because spring skiing is the best skiing, here in the bubble at least. I was recently informed by a colleague that not everyone loves spring skiing. Apparently there is an entire segment of people who claim to enjoy skiing and snowboarding, just not in the spring.
Obviously, those people are missing out or are skiing in the wrong places because in Whistler spring provides some of the best skiing of the year, if not the best. The Insider asked a few snowsport experts who live both inside and outside the Whistler bubble to wax poetic about spring skiing and we came up with this nifty top 5 list. Enjoy.
Top 5 Reasons Whistler Spring Skiing Rules (and might be better than winter.)
1. Sun and Snow, Together
“For me, the absolute best thing about spring riding in Whistler is the high chance of snow systems coming through at night followed immediately by bluebird conditions the next morning,” says Snowboard Canada Magazine editor Scott Birke, who runs Canada’s biggest snowsports publication from an office in Toronto. “I don’t know enough about meteorology to explain it but that in-between spring season seems to give the best all-around conditions. You rip 20-25 cm of fresh first thing in the morning with nice mild temps and then do warm, sunny terrain park or groomer laps in the afternoon. And of course it’s all followed by good patio times with friends. Spring riding is one of the things I miss the most about living in Whistler….”
Scott Birke enjoying some spring pow.
2. The Vibe
“Winter is great, don't get me wrong,” says legendary snowboard photographer Dano Pendygrasse. “But spring is when Whistler culture really finds its speed—hormones are rushing, people are showing some skin. When I was a kid spring meant going for hikes, finding some rocks to sit on, building a stupid little jump and hanging out.”
Pro snowboarder Helen Schettini explains that not much has changed since Dano’s days except now the jumps are bigger and conveniently located in a terrain park. “The sun is out, jackets are off,” she says, “and it’s buttery park laps and friends. Spring is for all the die-hards who really love snow and don’t care that bike season has almost started or bikini season is coming soon. Everyone is on the mountain, smiling, there’s great vibes and no line ups anywhere. It can’t be beat.”
3. The Long Days
Personally one of my favourite aspects of spring skiing is the slowed-down pace of it all. The snow gets softer as the day draws on and the sun stays in the sky much later than the short days of winter. “Spring means no more rushing for first tracks,” explains Dano Pendygrasse, who literally wrote the book on Snowboarding in Western Canada. “And no more dark trips home. It's just sun, slush, Piz Buin and good times. I love Spring.”
4. The Actual Skiing
“Spring in Whistler could be the best skiing of the year,” says Mike Douglas, the godfather of freeskiing, and creator/host of Salomon FreeskiTV. “A fat snow base combined with alpine powder, no crowds and warm sunny patio action at the end of the day. It’s hard to beat.”
Right now Whistler’s peaks are still buried under the 508cm (200in) of snow we received in February and March so the actual skiing this spring is going to be really awesome. According to legendary ski-patroller-turned-avalanche-forecaster/Ski TV host Joe Lammers skiing spring conditions is all about strategy.
“Once we get into a typical melt-freeze cycle I would stick to the north-facing aspects in the morning where the snow will be more wintery,” Joe explains in this Insider’s Guide to Spring Skiing. “ On sunny days the east to south-west aspects will transition into nice creamy, buttery corn skiing by afternoon.” Mmmmm, corn.
5. The Family that Rips Together…
Spring is also the best time to take your kids out for a rip in the hills. The warm weather means no frozen fingers and toes for the little kids and soft snow for the older ones to land on as they try their crazy teenaged tricks and stunts.
When I was young my parents would always pack a big picnic lunch and we’d camp out for hours on the rocks at the bottom of Blackcomb’s Horstman glacier (the zone underneath the Glacier Express now) to enjoy the sweeping views together and plan our afternoon of “Extreme Skiing!” As a kid, all my “biggest” lines of the year came in the spring, when muscles are in tune, confidence is high and the snow is trustworthy. (Well, there was that time I rolled down the Saudan Couloir but, like my old man says, “if you’re not falling you’re not getting any better.”)
While winter pow days will always offer some of life’s greatest moments, this jury seems to rate spring skiing pretty high for consistency and overall, full-day radness. Of course there are plenty of other reasons spring skiing in Whistler rivals winter (see also: The Multi-Sport Days of Spring and the World Ski & Snowboard Festival) but you’ll have to just come up, jump into the Whistler bubble and discover them for yourself. And your go-to resource, as always, is Whistler.com.