Spring skiing tips, tricks & pointers

Spring skiing in New England is unpredictable, at best. The conditions vary hour by hour. Temperatures can reach 64 degrees on a Wednesday and by Friday evening, it could be 19 degrees at the summit.

It's bittersweet, really. On one hand, you know that the end of a season gets closer with each run. On the other, it's quite nice to see a hint of sunshine after weeks of cloudy days that end at 4 p.m. with the sunset.

I reached out to Dylan Snell, education and events coordinator at Stratton Winter Sports Club, for some advice on how to stay safe and have as much fun as possible until the mountains close for the season.

"The first thing is being aware," said Snell. He explained that during the spring, one can face rock-hard ice in the morning and super-soft, slush-like conditions in the afternoon. The temperatures vary and logically, the snow will too.

The one constant should be technique, according to Snell. "Keep your balance over your outside foot and stay in a good athletic position at all times," he said.

I found this advice particularly helpful while skiing at Stratton this past Saturday. I was unprepared and only had my bright-light lenses with me. I found it extremely difficult to tell the difference between a puddle of water and glare ice in the early afternoon when the light became flat.

Snell also mentioned that even if it's only bright for a portion of the day, it's still imperative to wear eye protection and sun protection.

"You're getting a double dose," said Snell. "The sun exposure from above and the reflection of the sun from the snow doubles your exposure."

I am a huge fan of my Buff brand multi-purpose gaiter.

The material contains SPF that doesn't sweat, wash or rub off of your skin. Finding a pair of properly-fitting goggles is also key.

The end of the season also means getting some pretty good deals on gear.

As with any retail environment, ski and snowboard retailers typically have surplus merchandise at the end of the season. I always recommend shopping locally. You're going to get far better customer service, knowledgeable salespeople and — bonus — you're supporting the local economy.

Caveat emptor, however. Yes, used skis are fantastic. I have purchased both demo skis and used skis. But, it's necessary to be a discerning customer when going the pre-loved route for hardgoods. Snell recommends bringing any used hard goods to a pro for a thorough inspection.

"Always check for damage on the bases. Make sure there's plenty of edge left for sharpening and definitely get the bindings inspected."

Spring is also a great time to take a trip into your local shop to get a wax

and tune.

"This also helps address the variable conditions," according to Snell. "Equipe Sport, The StartinGate and The Norse House can all help you out."

Take a look at the fasteners and hardware on your boots, too. Make sure that everything is still tight, remove dirt and mud and keep your boots buckled when not in use.

Helmets don't last forever. They do expire, in a sense. If your helmet is older than a few seasons or you had a hard hit, definitely consider a new one.

While you're out there, respect the mountain and the elements. If a trail is closed, don't ski it. If you see a hazardous condition that isn't marked, don't be afraid to let a ski patroller, resort host or lift operator know.

The season isn't over until the mountain closes. Stay safe and alert and have fun out there!

Alex Cianciosi is a Journal contributor.


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