Springtime in the Rockies

You remember those dark, dark December mornings where you’d brave icy highways by headlight to freeze in -25 degree temperatures and ski mountains coated in a thin, shallow snowpack. Keep those days in mind as your cruise control smoothly rolls on dry pavement under sunny skies, and you slide into ski boots, malleable and unfrozen, and cover your face in sunscreen. Laugh at those winter days as you glide over snow where there was only rock three months ago, and give a toast to frostbite as you sit in the parking lot comfortably enjoying a cold drink after the lifts close, the sun still high overhead.

Springtime is magic in the Rockies. Don’t let the weather in the city fool you either; there’s still plenty of skiing to be done. This past week has been fantastic, as is often the case this time of year. There were soft park laps, carvable groomers, and a couple of great powder days. 

Even more than the rest of the season, you want to watch the weather forecast at this time of year. Keep an eye out for those intense spring squalls that produce sneaky powder days, and your reward will be the best skiing of the year with no lift lines. North facing slopes are holding their deepest, most reliable snowpack of the entire season right now. 

The other weather you are watching for is the clear blue sky days when sunny slopes soften. If you like to ski the terrain park or rail turns down soft groomers, this is your time to shine. Just avoid the icy, cold, overcast days when no new snow has fallen.

So, in the spirit of Spring skiing in the Rockies, here's a list of reasons to get out skiing this week.

Why you should get out skiing before the hills close:

No crowds or lift lines. It’s been a tough season of dealing with the masses at our resorts, but that’s all behind us now. Liftlines are basically non-existent this time of year (unless it’s Slush Cup, and that, unfortunately, won’t be happening this year).

Tailgate lunches and patio beers. It’s been the  Season of the Tailgate Party, as indoor spaces have been limited or closed with different restrictions. Finally, it’s true tailgate season as temperatures get above freezing in the parking lots most days, and we all need to be more worried about sunburn than frostbite. So pack the cooler and some camp chairs and get ready to enjoy the community vibes in the car park.

Family time. The kids have been cooped up a lot this year. And it’s been tough to ski with little ones on the colder days, due to a lack of indoor space to warm up in. But we’ve reached the time of year where even the youngest kids can ski comfortably and enjoy the soft snow. Note: they’ll still want hot chocolate.

Delirium Dive. The Dive is usually at its best in April and early May. Its high north aspect keeps the snow cool and dry, and the snow that coats its chutes is well settled and trustworthy. This is the time of year to get creative and ski that line you’ve been looking at all season. Right now, the Wild West is still holding in there, too, which is surprising but welcome. Super laps!

Chris Rubens, enjoying the sun.

Pays to live here. When other ski hills across North America start closing in early April, Ikon and Mountain Collective pass holders start travelling to extend their season, and they inevitably end up here in the Canadian Rockies because we’re the only lifts left spinning. This year, with travel restrictions, the local hills are all yours to enjoy without any tourists. This is your chance to be the person, just once, giving everyone else FOMO on social media.

Multi-Sport days. With the long days and dry valley bottoms, this is the time of year to do it all - in one day. Around Canmore, people are out rock climbing on sunny cliffs. Closer to Calgary, mountain bike trails are ready to roll. Skateparks everywhere are dry. Golf courses are opening. How many outdoor activities can you cram into one day? Prove it.

Slushy park laps. Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, and Norquay all have terrain parks open this weekend, and if the sun comes out, the landings will be soft. It’s time to spin laps with friends who will push you to try a new trick and follow you with the camera rolling.

Jemma Capel in Delirium Dive, April 13, 2021

Get weird. Spring is in the air. It’s time to bust out that one-piece from the ’80s and the matching straight skis. Costumes, monoskis, and Hawaiian shirts are all encouraged. If the sun comes out, you’re bound to see swimsuits on the slopes. If you’ve never tried skiing in denim, now is your chance! You’ve never been more comfortable on a chairlift.

Camping and skiing. It’s finally warm enough for anyone to spend a weekend in the mountains camping and skiing. The Lake Louise campground is a nice sunny spot that’s booked solid all summer but has plenty of room during the ski season. A night sleeping under the stars after a great day of skiing will make for one of the more memorable weekends of the season.

Sunglasses vs Goggles. Skiers these days are embracing sunglasses over goggles more often, but come spring, it’s a no-brainer. Unless you really cherish your goggle-tan, you can rock sunglasses and shred in comfort, not to mention style.

Zinc. White is great, but why not add some colour? https://zinka.com/

Gear sales! It’s a great time of year to find deals on ski gear. Maybe you should get a pair of carving skis for next season? Buy them now, and you can trench the soft, slushy groomers for another month this season. The Line Blade is on sale, by the way. “The Blade will reignite the euphoria of the turn.”

Wouldn’t you rather break in a pair of boots this season while it’s warm? Your feet will be happier next season if you do! What about a new pair of Full Tilt First Chair 120s? They’re on sale, and the Intuition liners will easily mould to your foot this season and be ready to charge again in the fall.

Remember, every September, you are struck by a terrible desire to ski. In just a few short months, the longing will return, and you’ll wish that you had squeezed in every single spring ski day you could! We’ll see you out there this weekend.

Eric Hjorleifson spring skiing, Sunshine Village, April 28, 2004

Lake Louise: Final day May 2, 2021. Sunpits are a tradition on the final day, so bring a shovel and your party supplies.

Norquay extended its season this year until May 2. Are you looking for a shorter drive, chill vibe and a great patio in the sun?

Sunshine Village, as always, will be open until Victoria Day, Monday, May 24, 2021. How many sick days can you get off work before then?