Vail Valley has some of the best spring skiing in North America. Area resorts are staying open until late April or longer because of incredibly favorable weather. In recent years, spring skiing has been just as good – and in some cases better – than hitting the slopes in December, January or February. If you’re thinking about a ski vacation in March and April, here’s everything you need to know. Our Insider’s Guide to Spring Skiing in the Vail Valley has tips and tricks that will get you ready for an epic experience on the mountain.
Know the Sun
In the spring, snow can often freeze, thaw and refreeze several times during the day as temperatures rise above and dip below the freezing mark at Vail and Beaver Creek. This freezing cycle can affect how you ski the mountain. Keep in mind that sections that receive a good amount of sun during the day could freeze overnight and be slick if not groomed overnight.
Our best advice for early morning outings is to stay on the groomers until the weather warms up a bit. Be forewarned if you head off the groomers: It may be difficult to keep your feet under you. Avoid icy, patchy spots because it might be slick. Runs facing east in direct morning sunlight will always thaw first. Remember your sunglasses or goggles!
It’s also important to pack your sunscreen for a spring skiing trip. (While you’re at it, don’t forget to pack the lip balm, too.) Springtime means the sun is higher overhead and can cause a sunburn if you’re not protected. Start out the day with a healthy application to your exposed skin in key areas like your nose, forehead and cheeks. Keep a little sunscreen and lip balm on you for reapplication during the day to stay safe.
Looking for Corn
“Corn” snow (also called “Hero” snow) is awesome for skiing and usually comes a little later in the morning when the snow softens. Corn snow is easy to ski because it’s the perfect mix of icy hard snow and wetter slush. The ideal balance makes turning easy and overall handling a breeze. Unfortunately, the window doesn’t last forever as continued skiing begins to soften the snow, transforming it to more of a wet mush. Luckily, there’s enough terrain around Vail and Beaver Creek that you can easily move around to fresh sections throughout the day. You can usually get the softest turns between 10am and 3pm on bluebird days.
Massive Powder Dumps
In recent years, Beaver Creek and Vail have both received major snowfall during the months of March and April. The totals are similar to November and December, so there’s no shortage of powder days during the spring. It’s not uncommon for well-worn runs to be completely covered by feet of fresh snow the very next day. You can usually get the softest turns between 10am and 3pm on bluebird days. You never know when the next one’s going to hit – but when they do, they’re epic and unforgettable.
Ski the Steeps
Hit the steeps on a powder day for some memorable runs. Later in the season, some of the best skiing is in the steepest section where the snow is still aplenty. Early in the season, some of the steeps don’t have enough snow, so late-season skiing is awesome and untouched after an epic spring snowfall.
Dressing in layers when you ski is a good idea any time of year, but is especially important during the spring. The temperature can be awfully brisk in the early hours of the day, so be prepared if you head out first thing. You’re still going to want that heavy outer layer, thick gloves and heavy socks. As it warms up during the day, you can begin to take off layers as you feel comfortable. By mid-day, it’s not uncommon to see skiers on the mountain in short-sleeve t-shirts or even shorts. Often, it’s a light jacket and comfortable ski pants that fit the bill during the sunnier daytime. Later, after the sun goes behind the mountain, you might want to put some of those layers back on to keep warm.
Keep an Eye on Terrain
On the mountain, you may encounter spots that have thawed too much. These patches can often have exposed rocks, branches, roots or other obstacles to avoid. It’s best to stay away from these areas as they can be dangerous and lead to serious injury. Luckily, these sections are few and far between. Usually, the ski patrol at both Vail and Beaver Creek do an excellent job of marking exposed terrain so you can avoid it. But during the day some sections can wear down due to repeated use. Never attempt to ski a hazard!
There’s a Party Going On
Spring skiing has more of a party atmosphere at many resorts. First, après-ski on the daily is a must for anyone who loves a good get-together and a tasty beverage. There are too many sweet spots around Vail and Beaver Creek to list here. Each one has its own individual flair and delectable menu, so it’s best to investigate for yourself.
There are also several fun events with varying themes throughout the season. It’s not uncommon to see people dressed in costumes skiing at Beaver Creek or Vail. There’s lots of concerts and family-friendly festivals during the spring months that draw big crowds, mostly on the weekends. Both resorts have entertaining events planned for closing day that include competitions and prizes for the best outfit or pond skim. It’s a one-of-a-kind way to wrap up another awesome ski season in Vail Valley.
Use Warm Temperature Wax
When the snow gets too wet, it can feel like you’re wearing a pair of suction cups attached to the mountain. It’s an awkward feeling that really shows up on busy catwalks at other spots with sunny and shady spots. Skis will glide easily over the shady sections and then stick to the wet snow in the sun. Using a high-quality wax for warm temperatures can help reduce the suction effect. Most good ski shops in the area carry warm wax. You can apply it yourself or pay a local shop pro to do it for you. It doesn’t take long to apply and it’s not expensive – but it’s worth it.
Snag Cheap Ski Gear
Springtime is an excellent time to find a deal on discounted ski gear. Ski shops will often cut prices on items late in the season so they don’t have to store it all summer long. Shops also get new inventory every year, so hitting up a shop late in the season could result in finding a great deal on this year’s top models that dealers want to move to make room for next year’s fleet. You can end up paying a fraction of the price for an item that was highly sought after at the beginning of the year. It’s the perfect time to upgrade or score a great deal on some demos or other high-performance gear.
Stay at the Inn at Riverwalk
The Inn at Riverwalk is less than five minutes from the lifts at Beaver Creek and less than 15 minutes from Vail Village. The boutique hotel is a great home base for a spring skiing vacation because guests can take the free shuttle directly to the Arrowhead lifts at Beaver Creek and have access to the entire resort. After an awesome day of skiing, guests can catch the shuttle back to the hotel in downtown Edwards where there are lots of dining and nightlife choices.
Guest rooms are tastefully appointed and have everything you’d expect at a major hotel: flatscreen TVs, plush linens, a luxurious bathroom and free Wi-Fi. The hotel has an outdoor heated pool and hot tub, a 24/7 coffee bar, and a fun Gear Garage that has free outdoor gear and indoor games for added entertainment.