Don't look now but it's already mid-February, which means there's only about 2 months left in the ski season. Now, I know some ski areas have been getting crushed with snow (Mammoth's current base is 98"-135") but if you read the headlines, you'll notice that Whistler has so little snow that they actually had to truck some in for the Olympics. So it's not necessarily a foregone conclusion that all ski resorts will stay open well past their usual mid-April close dates.
So which resorts should you target for a spring, or even summer skiing getaway? Well, there aren't many. No surprise there. But believe it or not, some North American resorts do keep their lift-lines open and running through May and sometimes even into June. As you might have guessed, the best bets are resorts that are either high in elevation or farther north, both of which make for colder temperatures and slower snow melt.
Arapahoe Basin, CO
As I mentioned in our Top 5 Mom & Pop Resorts article, A-Basin is home to one of the best spring skiing scenes on the planet. The Beach is ripe with good times all season long but it really starts to loosen up once spring starts to roll around. Every Saturday in May is part of the "Shakin' at the Basin" concert series where the mountain offers a variety of jib comps and rail jams along with free live entertainment at the base. Check out their events calendar for the full details. As for the snow, the resort's 13,050 foot summit elevation means it offers the third highest skiable terrain in North America behind Telluride's Palmyra Peak and Silverton Mountain, so it holds onto its snow just as long as anyone, sometimes even into June and, dare I say, July.
Timberline Lodge (Mt. Hood), OR
The only ski resort in the United States where you can ski straight through summer, from early June all the way to Labor Day, and sometimes even into October if the snow hangs around long enough. At an elevation of 8,450 feet, Timberline Ridge's Palmer Snowfield provides skiing for a variety of ski camps and race clubs, but there's still plenty of room for the rest of us so don't fret. Summer lift hours start bright and early at 7am and close around 1:30pm to take advantage of the colder weather early in the day. There's no better place to split your day between some morning turns and an afternoon hike, or even some nearby windsurfing.
Whistler Blackcomb, BC
The fact that Whistler Blackcomb is home to two glaciers (Horstman and Blackcomb) means that there's virtually no end to the ski season there. And the fact that it's a huge resort owned and operated by one of the biggest resort conglomerates in the world, Intrawest, means that it benefits from having the most state-of-the-art snowmaking and grooming facilities around, which help to extend the season as far as it will go. Whistler Mountain usually closes around mid-April but Blackcomb is still accessible through May. And if you're really committed, their Summer Glacier Camps provide instruction and access to the slopes into June and even July. Splitting time between the mountain and the lake? Not too shabby. They even offer a one-day Uber Pass for mountain biking, hiking, sightseeing, skiing, and snowboarding.
Between March 22nd and April 4th of last ski season, Alta received 167.5" of snow. Let me say that again, in a two week span during a time when most resorts are thinking about their closing dates, two of the best ski areas in the country received over 13 feet of snow. With copious amounts of some of the best powder in the world, it's hard not to put Alta/Snowbird at the top of any spring skiing list. The only issue is its location. If you're looking for nightlife and a vibrant scene, you can probably do better. About a 45 minute drive west to Salt Lake City and about an hour drive east to Park City, it doesn't offer a ton of extra-curricular activities. However, Alta/Snowbird is super-accessible due to that close proximity to SLC, so it's an easy trip to make that won't require too much planning.
Sunshine Village (Banff), AB
It's not that it isn't recognized as one of the premiere big mountain ski destinations in North America, it's just that most people don't know about it. With 3 mountains of some of the freshest champagne powder in all of the Rockies, well over 3,000 skiable acres, over 3,500 feet in vertical, and a season that usually last well into late May, Sunshine Village is one of the best spots for the steep and deep late in the season. Plus, the nearby town of Banff is only a 15 minute drive and offers all the amenities of a lively ski town including extensive hiking and biking during warmer months. And having two Fairmont hotels within an hour of each other (The Fairmont Banff Springs and The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise) means there are great opportunities for deals at 5-star hotels as the winter traffic starts to slow down.
So there you have it. These five options should provide plenty of good snow and spring (or even summer) fun at late season prices. If you're interested in exploring rates at these resorts, or any other for that matter, make sure to call our travel experts at 1.800.SKIRESORTS (754-7376) for more information.
photo: Sunshine Village's famous champagne powder is accessible well into May