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Outdoor Adventures: Time to think spring skiing

  • A snowboarder carves his way down the Angel Street trail at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, N.H., in late March. A snowy winter has led to a strong, sweet spring skiing and riding season across northern New England. (Loon Mountain photograph)



Special to the Valley News
Saturday, April 06, 2019

Fading snowbanks along the roads and longer, eventually warmer days.

A capella singing on the slopes and al fresco apres enjoyment on the decks.

Lower ticket prices and a miasma of conditions all in one run.

As some ski areas call it quits, skiers and snowboarders travel further to play in the corn snow as resorts tend to curtail the number of lifts operating and terrain open.

Such is spring skiing, and this spring is shaping up to be a memorable one as many resorts expand their seasons. Be sure to check ski area websites for closing dates as some may change.

Natural snowfall, aggressive snowmaking and consistently cold temperatures teamed up for a bountiful ski season since late October, making spring skiing sublime. The numbers back that up. In New Hampshire, Cannon reported some 177 inches of snow, and snow lovers have turned out to the slopes.

According to Ski New Hampshire, current figures show member ski areas visits are up 18 percent over last year and up 11 percent over the 2016-17 season, which ended up as an average year for skier visits.

With spring running the roost, that means some northern New England ski areas pushed their initial closing dates to later in the season.

“There’s nothing nicer than having the ability to wear a T-shirt while skiing in the sun,” Ski NH marketing and communications manager Shannon Dunfey-Ball said in an email.

April 14 is the projected closing date for Black, Waterville Valley and Loon, while Cannon and Bretton Woods plan to finish on Patriots Day, April 15. On that day, lift tickets are $17.76 at the Woods and skiers receive a voucher good for an early-season lift ticket for 2019-20. West Mountain and the T-bar are closed for the season at Bretton Woods. Until season’s end, Black has $25 lift tickets; BW is $29. Cannon may extend its season.

“We may reopen on April 20-21 if the weather looks good and it seems like there is interest,” marketing director Greg Keeler shared.

Bretton Woods is keeping its eyes on the sky.

“We will continue to watch the weather and see if conditions/demand warrant us to extend the season, but our plan is to end the season on Patriots Day,” marketing director Craig Clemmer wrote.

Wildcat, the first ski area in the state to open, plans to stay open until May if weather and conditions allow.

“At this point, we will remain open at Wildcat daily for the foreseeable future,” marketing director Jack Fagone wrote. “No decisions have been made on if/when we switch to weekends only. We base these decisions off a few factors including visitation, weather and conditions.”

Sunday River in Maine will go to weekends only after April 15, planning to reopen on April 20-21. A decision will be made mid-April whether to extend to a fourth April weekend.

Sugarloaf has events planned through April 21.

In Vermont, a host of ski areas plan to remain open this month and May, with skiing perhaps going in June thanks to Killington.

Okemo and Stratton have set April 14 as closing day, while Stowe has targeted April 21. Burke Mountain will be closed midweek and reopen for weekends until closing the weekend of April 20-21.

Smugglers’ Notch is open daily until April 14 and then plans to close midweek before starting up the lifts on April 20 for Madonna and Sterling mountains and then having a finale on Sterling on April 21.

Jay Peak plans to remain open until May 5, while Sugarbush will be open daily through April 28 and then close midweek before reopening for a final Cinco de Mayo weekend.

Mad River Glen hopes to go deep into April.

“The decision is based almost strictly on the snowpack and weather,” said Mad River marketing director Eric Friedman. “We are a natural snow ski area, so if we can be open, we certainly will.”

But ski areas are realistic that as the season fades, skier visits do, too.

“It’s rare that we close for lack of snow,” Okemo and Sunapee communications manager Bonnie MacPherson said in an email. “Sadly, we typically end the season for lack of skiers and riders. Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, ‘In the spring a young man’s fancy (lightly) turns to thoughts of love.’ In New England, a skier’s fancy turns to thoughts of biking, golf, hiking and other warm-weather outdoor activities.”

True. But for many, those thoughts are occurring while skiing and riding down the slopes.

Marty Basch can be reached at marty.basch@gmail.com.