Even As Spring Arrives, Powder Days Can Be Found
Spring break is upon us which, sadly, means the end is near. But it's still snowing and, with the right conditions, there should be plenty of powder to track up.
Historically, March is the snowiest month in the Rockies followed, surprisingly, by April. Witness this season's mid-March dump from the Front Range of Colorado to Continental Divide.
So powderhounds should not put away their fatties quite yet, especially if they seek out north-facing slopes and catch conditions before they crust up. SnoCountry checked in with PowderChasers Luke Stone to get some tips on where to find the final pow' of the season.
In the Sierra, heavy dumps usually have heavy winds that can produce sketchy conditions and lift closures. If it snows heavily again around Tahoe, Stone recommends the lower steeps at Squaw Valley -- steep enough for deep snow and somewhat protected from the winds. Recently, a "moderate" snowfall and lack of winds made Sugar Bowl attractive.
In Utah, Stone homes in on Snowbird for spring powder. Much of the mountain faces north, narrow and steep Little Cottonwood Canyon is shady, and the elevation is highest in the Wasatch. All these factors mean drier snow for longer -- plus The 'Bird stays open into May. Others in Utah tend to be too wide open, face more into the sun, or sit at elevations too low to catch spring storms.
For Colorado, Aspen Highlands sticks out. Tucked into a snowy corner of the valley, Highlands has steeps -- no greens, 75% blacks -- protected by facing north and hiding among trees. The plunges off of Top of Oly rarely get sun. Hike-to Highlands Bowl (12,392 feet elevation) is Stone's favorite, a steeply cupped cirque facing north and east.
"The Rockies are a complex terrain, tricky to forecast but full of powder stashes," Stone said.
It may sound odd but, despite its southerly latitude, Taos Ski Valley can be a springtime pow' secret. Few mountains in the Rockies hold their snow all season like Taos. The front side faces due north have tons of glades, and the sun sets early on the tight canyon. Winter conditions often persist to closing, especially on shaded Castor and Pollux.
One upside has been the number of resorts that have announced extending their seasons beyond the official closing date. They will undoubtedly catch a storm or two before the lifts stop turning.
Meanwhile, in the Northeast, spring storms often roll in from Canada, and even the late-sean Nor'easter have delivered late-season powder to Killington, Jay Peak and Stowe in Vermont, Wildcat in New Hampshire, and Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine.