PHOTO: James Brooks
Whether you’re closing down the resort in bikinis and Hawaiian shirts, party skiing down a perfectly carved mogul run, or bashing slalom gates on tele skis, spring on skis might be the best time of year. Just about every mountain in the United States throws a killer end-of-season party, but a few events stand out. We’ve rounded up the can’t-miss costume parties, competitions, and pond-skims so you can achieve maximum fun these final months of the snowy season.
This legendary amateur mogul competition gets so rowdy that Killington had to publish “party tips” for attendees and competitors to ensure they wouldn’t have to cancel the Dos Equis-sponsored event. Killington tried to cancel the 35+ year old event back in 2012, citing hard-partying as a liability, but met so much outrage that they backed down and let the games continue. Spirited tailgating, tandem knee-bashing mogul-mashing, and plenty of wacky outfits make the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge one of the most classic events in American skiing.
Mother’s Day on Mount St. Helens: May 14
Do you love volcanoes? Do you love your mother? Drop $22 on a permit for a Mount St. Helens climb on Mother’s Day and join the well-heeled crew who climbs and skis the iconic volcano in honor of good ol’ mom. Despite the fact that you’ll be climbing 4,500 feet and covering 10 miles of terrain, you can forget the Gore-Tex and down. Instead, keep with 30-plus years of tradition and don the most ridiculous dress you can find (bonus points for sequins). Make sure your ski socks match. Don’t forget the “Hi Mom!” sign for the summit.
Springtime in Tuckerman Ravine
Though this isn’t a specific scheduled event, if you hike into Tuckerman Ravine on any fine-weather weekend in late April or May you’ll find yourself a legendary New England party. Not only is the ravine and surrounding terrain among the steepest, most technical skiing in New England, it’s also a perfect natural arena. Watch as fellow skiers hike, huck, and--occasionally--tomahawk down the classic lines. Beer and nudity abound, but watch out for the police and rangers, known to hike in and hand out tickets when things are getting just a little too loose.
Cloud Nine is known for legendary parties year-round, but closing day at Aspen Highlands takes things to a new level. Hike the Highlands Bowl and work up your appetite for champagne (a staple on the sunny Cloud Nine deck overlooking the Maroon Bells), and make sure you get a front-row spot to watch Schneetag, an event where teams of four build questionably sound water crafts and attempt to sail one team member and their homemade boat across a pond at the base of Highlands, with bonus points for style and creativity.
Reggae Fest: April 6-9
Sugarloaf, Maine, might just host the highest density of white-guy dreads and neon gear in the world for one beloved weekend in April. Reggaefest is going on 30, and despite the unlikely location, consistently pulls together an incredible lineup of classic and up-and-coming reggae acts. Get beachy, work on your goggle tan, and make sweet, slushy spring turns all weekend to the dulcet tones of acts like New Kingston and John Brown’s Body.
Big Sky Pond Skim: April 15
There are pond skims, and then there’s the Big Sky Pond Skim. Big Sky is home to the “biggest skiing in America,” and their pond skim lives up to the tagline. After a season of Montana cold smoke, skiers challenge themselves on something a little more high density: two ponds of frigid water (and, we assume, a little beer). Hundreds of competitors sign up (or duck the rope and hope they get caught after they make it across the water) to test themselves on one of the most classic lines in skiing.
Sun Valley’s Scorpion Nationals: Closing Day
We all know what a Chinese downhill is (right, kids?), but Scorpion skis might be a new concept for you (or not). Like snowblades but less practical, Scorpion skis are all tip and no tail, and were supposed to help with pow skiing back in the day. The design was abandoned, as was a pile of scorned scorpion skis in a Sun Valley basement. When they were uncovered in 2008, a group of local skiers decided they were the perfect tool to ring in the season, and the Scorpion Nationals--a Chinese downhill on a run aptly named Scorpion, ending with a chugging contest at Apple’s bar--was born.
Frank World Classic, Alta, UT: April 16
The most-talked-about closing party in the mountain West, Frank Day at Alta features a mid-day, free-form competition on a Hollywood air under the Wildcat Chair, a mountaintop party to close the day, and costumes, fireworks, and tons of hot dogs and hot-dogging. The crowd is full of Alta employees sending their season of cabin fever, endless powder, and employee housing-driven bonding off in style, but any and all are welcome. If you’re lucky, you might even catch legendary local act Stonefed shredding in the Gold Miner’s Daughter parking lot.