No Sleep ‘Til June
Where to ski in May
We all know closing day at your favorite ski area happens not because there’s not enough snow to ski, but because there’s not enough people for the area to warrant spinning the lifts. Colorado and Utah routinely suffer ironic Aprils, with closing days socked with powder. However, one resort in each region of North America keeps the light on into summer, even in the East this year. While each has its own unique spring experience, the constants will be the same across all areas. The snow will get sticky in the afternoon. The higher you go up, the better the snow. The longer you wait into the month, the less terrain there will be. And very few, not counting Timberline, will let you sleep in their parking lot despite the nice weather. But all will let you ski through the year’s fifth month when you’d otherwise be complaining about mud season.
Timberline, Mount Hood, Oregon
The deal: The $109 Spring Pass at Timberline gets you unlimited skiing from March 4 to May 27. The Summit Apartments (aka “the Scummits”) are the ski bum ghetto come April and go for $450 a month with space for two, but you can also sleep in your car to your heart’s content in the Timberline parking lot.
The scene: While it’s still the quietest time of year on Mount Hood, in springtime the place is a ski bum paradise for park rats. The cheapest spring pass anywhere gets you two and a half months of skiing for a measly c-note, with several places to campe in the area, including the ski area parking lot itself. The springtime also provides skiers with the deepest snowpack of the year and the most vert. With the Palmer Glacier quad spinning, Timberline’s vert expands to 3,984 feet, and there’s usually enough snow to ski all the way into Government Camp, a 3.5 mile run from the top of Palmer that drops 4,940 vertical feet. It can be pretty flat and sticky, though, so go when it’s firm.
But for the most part, May at Timberline is all about lapping the park off Stormin’ Normin’ with liftie skids from around the West who’ve congregated to live out of their cars and slide rails for an extra month before the glacier camps start and the place turns into a zoo. The West Coast Session, a casual spring park shoot, returns May 5 to 9. Andy Parry’s been doing the spring routine at Hood for years, and has some advice for first-time Hood transients: be prepared to get wet, don’t hang out with underage kids, go to the Eagle Bargain Outlet in Sandy for ultra-cheap overstock food left over from supermarkets, and if you really have to camp, do it at the snow-less air strip near Hood River. Oregon’s precipitous spring weather can make trying to live in the parking lot “cold, windy, and shitty.”
The deal: While they don’t sell a spring pass, lift tickets will continue to drop in price from their current April price of $59. Additionally, season passes and lift tickets from anywhere else in the world will get skiers 25 percent off weekend skiing at the window, or 50 percent off midweek.
The scene: If anywhere in the country is all about mogul skiing, it’s Killington come springtime. The mountain was blowing snow on its signature May trail, Superstar, until mid-March, and it has a healthy 19.5 foot base the resort thinks should keep the zipper line party going through Memorial Day. A small park and a limited assortment of other trails around Superstar will be open through Cinco de Mayo, and Killington’s bringing back a few good events for May, including a Meat-Up BBQ, May Day Prom, Cinco de Mayo party, and a triathlon on the same weekend. And while camping in the K1 parking lot isn’t technically permitted, it doesn’t sound like anyone’s going to hound you for it.
The deal: Spring passes let you ski from now until May 27 for $229, or unlimited spring skiing is available for $79 when you buy a five or 10 day Edge Card, or by putting $199 down on next year’s season pass.
The scene: Once WSI is over, Whistler shuts down and Blackcomb keeps most of their lifts spinning until May 27. A relatively cheap $229 spring pass gets you from April 8 to May 27, with the possibility for some decent late-season powder days up high on Horstman Glacier, Jersey Cream Bowl, and off the Glacier Express chair. The Blackcomb park stays in pretty good shape throughout the month, and local pro Rob Heule gives them credit for keeping four 75 foot jumps open all the way through. Heule advises watching out for “bathtub landings” when it gets real warm and the “yellow-jacketed speed patrollers” who might nab you for getting too rowdy on the side hits on the way back down to the base.
Another spring favorite is the 10-day period from May 17 to 27 when both the ski area and the mountain bike park are open at the same time, allowing casual triathlons of skiing, biking, and golfing to go down on the same day. A section on Whistler’s website called “Miguel’s Picks” offers solid lodging deals at upscale properties, while those out on the skid should find a friend’s driveway or a “nice, quiet street” to car camp on since the ski area lots don’t allow camping.
The deal: A $329 spring pass will get you skiing through early June, with $42 day tickets for those with a season pass from anywhere else. Come June, you can pay $18 to ride the tram with your ski gear with the tourists.
The scene: Snowbird’s “second season” as former Powder Editor Derek Taylor calls it, runs daily until May 12, then weekends only until the end of May. With Utah’s famously light snow, a few legitimate powder days are likely even though it’s summer hot down in the city. DT says the spring skiing at the ‘Bird, with the best turns usually found off Baldy and the Cirque, takes the pressure off of closing day and the wait for the canyon’s bike trails to melt out, and can offer legitimate skiing well into June, at which point the entire ski area is considered backcountry. Still, tireless skiers can bring their gear up the tram and ski wherever they like for a mere $17. Live music goes down on the Snowbird plaza deck every weekend, and the urban expanse of Salt Lake City should turn up at least one college buddy who’s got a couch or driveway to crash in.
The deal: A $299 spring pass is available for college students, but $49 lift tickets are available for any other season pass holders. You can just plop down $689 for next year’s pass and ski the spring for free, or take Mammoth up on their Springfest Package, which gets you tickets and lodging for $99 a night if you book two nights.
The scene: Spring in Mammoth is a big deal, as the mountain stays open top to bottom and a litany of serious athletes roll through town in waves, either to train gates at the still-frozen hour of 6 AM, practice pipe moves at pretty much the only remaining superpipe in North America, or participate in private shoots for Monster, Salomon, or Level 1. Canyon and Eagle lodges shut down, focusing the festivities at Main Lodge, where a healthy 78-inch base keeps the signature UnBound Park loaded with coverage through the end of the month. The lift schedule will change over the course of the month, switching eventually to a 7 AM to 1 PM range to keep manky skiing to a minimum. For dirtbag accommodations, the multitude of Forest Service campgrounds around Mammoth Lakes will gradually open as they melt out over the course of May.
The deal: A Basin’s $169 spring pass will get you skiing all the way to the ski area’s scheduled closing day of June 2.
The scene: While May at most of the ski areas on this list is fairly quiet, spring is when A-Basin comes to life, owing in large part to the Beach, which is the most lively tailgating scene of any ski area in the lower 48. The Beach is the prime parking real estate and, unlike parking options across most of Summit County, directly abuts the runouts of all the lower lifts. The front row is actually so prized that A-Basin charges $150 to reserve a spot, but as long as you’re there early, you’ll be able to stake your barbequed claim in the sun-drenched lower lot and grill with the thousands of other people who’ve come out to ski a few runs and party at the live shows put on every weekend in May, or sample the goods from the dozen or so Colorado breweries that host a festival at the end of the month. Skiing-wise, the spring has been kind to A-Bay, and so the mountain in planning on keeping open the Black Mountain Express, the Lenawee triple, and the Pallavicini double and its line-up of expert terrain, for as long as possible.
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