The Best Places to Ski This Spring
Skiers are obsessed with the perfect spring snow: Not too hard, not too soft—it's the Goldilocks Principle at play on the slopes. Plus, warmer, longer days mean you can get plenty of runs in and still have time for a little après-ski action before nightfall. Thinned-out crowds that bring down the prices of lift tickets, gear rentals, and hotel stays are a bonus.
But how’s this spring is looking? Ski resorts across the West had a healthy kickoff to their 2018-2019 winter seasons—a promising sign for March and April, according to ZRankings, considered one of the most comprehensive reports on North American snow conditions. And prospects in the Northeast, where ski seasons have been known to run well into May, look equally good. For six of the best places to see for yourself, read on.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows; Olympic Valley, CA
With an average of 450 inches of snowfall each year, this frequent favorite on the USA Today Ten Best list of ski resorts has eight peaks, 6,000 acres—and one of Lake Tahoe’s longest ski and snowboarding seasons. (May runs? Chances are good.) And about 50% of the terrain faces north, so the spring snows stays well preserved.
Who should go: people of all skill levels who love to ski or snowboard—a lot. The same lift ticket covers both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.
What to pack: a swimsuit, for the famous 50-person High Camp Hot Tub.
After the day’s last run: Uphold the long-held ancient tradition of grabbing a drink (or a few) at Le Chamois, also known as aka the Chammy,) in Squaw Valley’s historic base village. If you’re with friends, or just feeling reeeal thirsty, buy a beer punch card ahead of time: $80 for 20 pints.
Mammoth Mountain; Mammoth Lakes, CA
Jutting from the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevadas, Mammoth Mountain offers not just prolonged spring skiing (in 2016, the season went through the Fourth of July!), but truly epic views on long runs that begin above the tree lines and look out onto Yosemite National Park. 65% of the terrain here is north-facing, which means the snow stays well-preserved.
Who should go: casual skiers and snowboarders—about 75% of the trails here fall into the easy and intermediate categories.
After the day’s last run: Hit the Clocktower Cellar, a no-frills joint that’s famous for its selection of 160+ whiskeys.
Telluride Ski Resort; Telluride, CO
Thanks to its remote perch in southwest Colorado, this 19th-century silver mining camp-turned ski resort comes with short lift lines, uncrowded slopes and old-timey appeal. Ski magazine recently ranked Telluride “Best in the West” in the character category, citing the “unmanufactured experience” of being in this “kickin', charming, classic mountain town. And because half the terrain faces north—at elevations of 8,000-12,700 feet—the snow stays cold and well-preserved into March.
Who should go: everyone—for the skiing, snowboarding, history and magic of this once-booming mine town.
What to pack: your best camera. To snap 360-degree views of the San Juan mountains, canyons and Victorian architecture from Mountain Village’s free gondola ride.
After the day’s last run: Stop into Allred’s Restaurant at the top of the gondola, where floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto Telluride.
Okemo; Ludlow, VT
The 2,200-foot drop (give or take) at this much-loved resort is the largest in southern Vermont. The 121 resident trails consistently rank high in Ski magazine for their snow and grooming—perhaps because Okemo turns approximately 450 million gallons of water into snow each season with crews working around the clock to deliver optimal surface conditions.
Who should go: families and groups with varying skiing and snowboarding skill levels. There are plenty of bunny hills and green for beginners—and the Screamin’ Demon and Heaven’s Gate for the experts, with some tree skiing along the way.
What to pack: something festive. You’ll need it for the season’s non-ski activities, which range from Sugar Daze (past headliners at this free concert have included Blues Traveler and Paul Oakenfold), to the St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Scavenger Hunt along the trails.
After the day’s last run: Head to Homestyle Hostel. Not your typical backpacking pit stop, it’s a renovated farmhouse on Ludlow’s Main Street with a drink menu that emphasizes craft cocktails.
Whiteface, Wilmington, NY
Home to two Winter Olympic Games, this Lake Placid retreat has the greatest vertical drop this side of the Rockies (3,430 feet), plus three peaks, 86 trails—and endless Adirondacks views. On a clear day, in fact, you can see Lake Champlain and Vermont’s Green Mountains. The season typically goes into April, and there’s a good chance that the expert-only Slides terrain will be among the 60-ish trails still open then.
Who should go: Cross-country and backcountry skiers and daredevils! The mountain has 30-plus rails and boxes with dozens of jumps. The Sugar Valley Glades offer a challenging, tree-covered steep slope, plus 53 acres of glade skiing.
What to pack: your game face. Whether you try out the Olympic bobsled course, or tour the tour Olympic Jumping Complex, you’ll definitely get a taste of the “faster, higher, stronger” spirit here. To watch others compete, time your trip to the Lake Placid Nordic Festival in March, when thousands of skiers will race on the Mt. Van Hoevenberg trails at the Olympic Sports Complex.
After the day’s last run: Hit Maggie’s Pub at Lake Placid Lodge, a cozy mountain house with board games, pool, puzzles—and a terrace with a fireplace and Adirondack chairs that look out onto the lake. Even better if you’re taking in the view with one of the excellent house cocktails in hand.
Sugarloaf; Carrabassett Valley, ME
This is the largest ski area east of the Rockies, with ski seasons that typically last until May.
Who should go: experienced skiers, and anyone who enjoys other winter sports. Approximately 35% of Sugarloaf’s trails are for intermediate skiers, about 40 % are for experts—and the kid-friendly Moose Alley trail is a great place for newer skiers to ease in. Sugarloaf’s outdoor center offers ice skating on an NHL-sized rink, snowshoeing and fat biking (off-road bikes with oversized tires).
What to pack: a beach towel and a costume. In April, hit the four-day Reggae Fest with concerts in the lodge and outdoors on the “beach.”
After the day’s last run: Ski in to Shipyard Brew Haus at the base of the bunny hill, a local favorite for decades.