Spring Skiing

Groundhog Day

A few weeks ago various rodents (ground hogs to be specific), across North America proclaimed nearly unanimously, that we were headed for an early arrival of Spring. For those of you that don't rely on ground hogs for your seasonal weather predictions, there are some more accurate ways to note the arrival of Spring. For the more scientifically inclined of you, we have the "Vernal Equinox", or as the rest of us call it, the first day of spring. Which here at Cape Smokey will fall on March 20th, at around seven in the morning. But for some other folks there is an even more important thing that heralds the arrival of Spring.


Last Sunday, Daylight Savings Time came to an end through out North America (except in Saskatchewan, but don't get us started on that). Here at Cape Smokey, we are rapidly approaching twelve hours of daylight, with the sun starting to break over the horizon around 6:30 and setting a little bit before 6:30 in the evening. So by any measure, spring really is here, which means that spring skiing is just around the corner! 

For many folks (and not just those fair weather skiers out there), spring skiing really is the best skiing of the year. As the mercury slowly inches its way above zero and the days become longer, it really is the best time to hit the slopes. Gone are the days of driving up to the ski hill in darkness and driving home in darkness. Gone are the days of skiing down the hill bundled up like a mummy, shivering from head to toe. Soon you will be able to shed all of those excess layers and embrace the best of spring skiing.

So what are some things to know about spring skiing? What should you wear? Or not wear? What are some of the spring skiing traditions out there? 

The rising temperatures mean that you might be tempted to shed your ski jacket entirely, you may even be tempted to ski in short sleeves. This is all well and good, but don't forget, that bright spring sun is not just a danger beating down on you from above, but it's also going to be reflecting OFF the snow as well. And it's that last bit that people forget sometimes. In fact, it is widely thought that the sun reflecting off the snow can be as harmful, if not more so, than the rays coming down from above. So make sure that you have good sunglasses with suitable UV protection and lather up ever bit of exposed skin with a nice strong sun screen. 

Speaking of bits of exposed skin, there are all sorts of fashion options to consider for spring skiing and especially on closing day at most resorts, it is no holds barred for crazy (and yes, regrettable) fashion choices. In the regrettable column, we have the "jort", or for the uninitiated, the jean short. Its a well known fact that jort sales sky rocket in ski towns in the months of April and May (we actually don't know this for certain, but it certainly seems possible). Moving down the column of fashion choices, we have seen the odd bathing suit and even bikini out there, though thankfully never a mankini and while this may be an excellent way to start your summer tan it also requires a high degree of skill to pull off.

By skill, we really do mean skiing skill and not some other kind of fashion skill, because as awesome as spring skiing is, the late afternoon can bring some sloppy conditions. With rough, granular snow becoming more prevalent as the day progresses - think like when you're drinking a slushie and you've sucked all the syrupy bit down and there's just the crusty, icy, part of the slushie left. You get the idea. Bottom line, it hurts like a son of gun if you fall on it and it is really going to sting if you're wearing shorts and not snow pants. Or so we're told, we've never had that happen to us and we wouldn't possibly know what it feels like.

Ok - we HAVE done it and maybe on more then one occasion, and yes, it does hurt. Not quite a falling on gravel filled pavement kind of hurt, but it still stings. So, let's leave some of these bad life choices behind and see what Cape Smokey is up to this spring and what are some spring skiing traditions at other resorts. 

One of the oldest "end of the season" ski traditions, is the Slush Cup at Sunshine Village, in Banff National Park, Alberta. The Slush Cup basically consists of hurtling your self down a steep hill and then trying to get over a very long and deep pool of water, with about a ten percent chance of actually making it safely to the other side. The event has been held annually since 1928, when it was over a real pond and it opened to the public in 1980. The wilder and crazier the costume is will help in getting extra style points from the judges and make sure to write up an interesting description of your self and/or costume, as this is read aloud to the thousands of spectators gathered below. Past years have witnessed Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, a human pinata, a full tuxedo, leather pants and a road cycling kit. Thankfully not all in the same year. If you insist on actually TRYING to not fall in, competitive ski jumping skis and water-skis have proven successful in the past!

Arapahoe Basin in the Colorado Rockies has been hosting "The Beach" every Spring since the early 80's - which is exactly what it sounds like. Except that this beach is a bunch of sand dumped in a parking lot at a ski hill, so its basically spring break in Florida, meets 12,000 foot high parking lot, with Superbowl levels of tailgate partying. 

Closer to home, Maine's biggest ski hill, Sugarloaf, hosts their own version of the Slush Cup, but it's referred to as "pond skimming", though "pond sinking" would probably be more accurate. Also, for the past thirty years they have hosted an extremely popular reggae festival that weekend.  

Not content with being the biggest ski resort in Vermont (aka "The Beast of the East") AND having the longest ski season in New England, they also have some interesting musical offerings to say goodbye to the ski season. Their annual "Dazed and Defrosted" party, which often seems to feature Grateful Dead tribute bands and similar offerings for "Deadheads" everywhere, is a hugely popular end of season option. They also have pond skimming, though there's more t-dye shirts to be seen.

Moving a little more upscale, ok, make that ALOT more upscale, there is the champagne soaked excess that is the end of season at Aspen Highlands in Aspen, Colorado. It's not the oldest end of season party (see Sunshine, above), or the highest elevation party (see Arapahoe, also above), or even the latest in the year (see Arapahoe above), BUT for sure it's the most expensive, foo-foo, bougie party of them all. Ground zero for this party is an old converted cabin turned restaurant called "Cloud Nine".The biggest account for Veuve Cliquot Champagne in all of North America is Cloud Nine Restaurant, which is only open for four months of the year and is only ski in-ski out,  which sort of says all that needs to be said about the matter.

Aspen also takes a slightly more artistically inclined approach to pond skimming.  Their annual "Schneetag" (pronounced Sch-knee Tog), which is the German word for “snow day”, consists of teams of four, which conceptualize and build human-powered crafts which will carry them down a slope and (hopefully) across the ice-melt pond located in the Aspen Highlands base area. The teams are not only judged on their skimming, but also on a costume, theme and choreographed skit. All very Hollywood. 

Not to be out done, nearby Vail hosts the (self-proclaimed), World Pond Skimming Championships, which is worldly in the same sense that the "World Cup" of baseball only has teams for two countries on Earth eligible to participate. They also have something called "log races", though it's not immediately clear if this is people on logs racing down the hill or unaccompanied logs racing down the hill. And they have a luau, so bring your best Hawaiian shirt and tiki torch.

Keeping in the theme of hurtling inanimate objects down a hill on the last day of skiing, we have Tahoe Donner's Downhill Dummy Contest. This ski resort nestled in California's Sierra Nevada range keeps it pretty simple; teams build unique dummies to send sliding down the hill and off a massive jump. This year’s theme is “superheroes.” Prizes will be awarded for best design, best air and best crash. Poor Sponge Bob.

Last in the list, but first in our hearts, let's return back home here to Cape Smokey. We will be having our end of the season bash coming up this April the 6th. With music from all over Nova Scotia and beer from all over Nova Scotia, this event is going to be an amazing way to finish off this equally amazing season that we've had!

Stay tuned for future blogs on Summer skiing and skiing in the Southern Hemisphere!



Plan your visit


Stay in touch