As the cross country (XC) ski season winds down most XC ski areas close because of lack of skiers rather than lack of snow on the trails. The sun comes out, the temperature rises, and the XC skiers quit. Why? Are we infected with winter fatigue? Is the lure of spring time recreation too strong to ignore?
XCSkiResorts.com spoke with some ski area operators around the nation to get their take on spring skiing. Many areas host springtime season pass holder parties and offer big discounts for purchasers of season passes for next year. Lapland Lake in Northville, NY commented that their trails are compacted on a daily basis so the snow does not disappear like in the city or open areas in suburbia. Lapland's Kathy Zahray encourages skiers and snowshoers to get out and enjoy this weather and these great spring conditions!"
Zahray admits that "the reality is that in the spring it costs more for grooming and staffing than the amount of income earned from diminishing skiing patrons, however this is one of the most fun times of the year to enjoy the outdoors. The milder temperatures and discounted rates are terrific for everyone and it is fun to ski in shorts and t-shirts."
Breanne Torrey at Jackson Ski Touring Center in NH says "The best reason to ski at JXC in the spring is the exceptional snow management combined with the fact that several of the trail systems are in higher elevated areas. When the cover is thin the groomers know what to do to prolong the season and the trail systems like Prospect Farm and the South Hall are in higher elevations with greater snow coverage. Another reason is that a season pass for next season can be purchased at a discount!
In Minnesota at Maplelag Resort, proprietor Jay Richards concurs "that people want to get on the snow early but get tired of winter and ready for warm spring days." During the spring, they average about a dozen skiers a week and do not offer special incentives to encourage spring skiing. He feels that "skiers in the Midwest are conditioned to colder and drier snow compared to skiers in other regions who are more accustomed to a wider variety of snow conditions."
At Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI they run spring events on machine-made snow such as a paintball biathlon, and their March Madness sale offers great deals on equipment and clothing. Proprietor Lynne Frye commented that "it is easier to be outside for a longer time in the spring - the days are longer, but the skiing is not over yet!"
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT also offered passes for next season at a great rate. The ranch's ski director said "guests ask why the trails are being closed while there is so much snow on the ground and we are seeing good weekend numbers, but it is much slower than any other part of the season. We'll continue to groom the trails regularly but we have easements on the private property that end on or before April 15."
The Breckenridge Nordic Center in CO opened a new facility last year and skiers are enjoying the patio and hanging around with a glass of beer or wine. They've held some well-attended fundraising events this spring and expect to remain open through the second weekend of April. Owner Matt Dayton said "We're having really warm days but own snow holds up really well."
At most alpine ski areas there are usually weekend spring parties and incentives with lower prices as the trail counts begin to dwindle. BBQ lunches and live music are popular as are pond skimming and costume days on the slopes. At XC ski areas, it makes sense that more events and incentives can be conceived and scheduled to encourage more visitation at the end of the year. Photo: Groomed trail with blue skies at Byrncliff Resort.