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Best time of the year to ski

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
When is the best time of the year to ski? We go every March- it is spring break, huge bases, and in Utah where we go, one of the top snow months. The last 2 years we have been we have been dumped on every day- we got 87" in one week. I talk to an expert who said March is his favorite time.

The reason I'm asking is because I know 4 people who are all leaving this week to go on their early trip. What is the point of going in early December when all of the mountain isn't open and the terrain is spotty and low snow cover. Now, by any means, these people are definately not advanced skiiers-probably beginner to intermediate so I guess this time of the year suits them fine.

When do you think the best time is to go skiing?
post #2 of 14
Depends. In a good snow year (unlike this year in the east), I love early season. Most people aren't thinking about skiing yet, so the crowds are down. And since the mountains are really trying to get things going, they haven't started to let things slide. Plus I'm always really excited about starting again, so that helps.
post #3 of 14
that's a great question. Personally I don't think March is the best time(on average), reason being, the sun is getting high in the sky and days can be warm, even in Utah, that ruins the snow. Those warm spells with a high sun, and no snow for two weeks really ruin things. I distinctly remember two Utah trips many years ago in late March where I had those "sloppy, hadn't snowed" conditions and it was not fun. Plus the mornings are quite slick because of the snow refreezing hard after the afternoon soften it. The steeps become dangerous with the potential of long slide with a fall.

I skied Utah last weekend, snowfall has been 1/2 of average, it hadn't snowed for 10 days, but yet the snow held up and was quite good for the most part, just skied around the spotty rocks(not that many). The sun was low in the sky, temps were moderately cold and i would definetely plan an early December Utah(only!) trip again. In fact I think I would like to make that a tradition, what a great way to start the ski year. Now for resorts that only get an average 300 inches per year, I don't think so, better to wait until January.

I have had a standing trip the past 7 yrs last weekend in Febuary. I've missed the big snowfalls the last few years but conditions in Utah have be sweet every year. To me, nice snow is everything!
post #4 of 14
Not December in the east, that for sure.
post #5 of 14
I like January. Better chances for dry snow and crowds tend to be less of an issue.
post #6 of 14
April at elevation.

Long warm days, great chances for some great skiing.

That said, Cold Smoke in Feb is better.

post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
I can't wait to try February out- just not out of school then. Last year, Utah had a dry spell in March of about 2 weeks before we got out. Then, the day we get there, we didn't seen the sun again for a week. 3 years ago it was very warm (60'-70's) in Salt Lake. We only wore our ski jackets one day- the last day when we got 22 in. The other 7 days we skiied in longsleeve t-shirts (even in early morning) and were fine the whole day. The snow was slushy over at PC and DV, but in the Cottonwoods it was actually quite nice.

The weather in March seems to either be a hit or miss. The day we flew in last year we wore shorts the whole day, but when the skiing started the snow didn't let up.

The only problem that I can find with January some times is the cold temps.
post #8 of 14
I like skiing in late February and March.
I like the sun being high in the sky. Yes, it tends to make the snow a bit sloppy but in the morning the groomers are awesome. Ski the steeps when the sun hits 'em.
By late February there is always good coverage, be it natural or man made back here in the East. Some days in March you get those nice hard packed groomer runs in the mornings and the afternoon has just a skin of melted snow on top. Love those conditions.
I planned my first Utah trip this year for Feb. 28 to March 7. I'm thinking you can't go wrong that time of year.
Don't jinx it!!
post #9 of 14
The main purpose of my website is trying to answer this question.

The simple answer is that short notice, when it just dumped, is best. Flexibility beats any amount of advance planning. As a corollary, booking for February or later at an area that already has lots of snow on the ground in December (ie. Whistler this year, Mammoth 2 years ago, etc.) will avoid the worst case scenario of inadequate coverage.

To generalize, areas with high snowfall but low altitude or sunny exposure (Jackson and Steamboat for example) are best earlier in the season. Areas with low to average snowfall but high altitude and north exposure (Crested Butte and Taos for example) are best later in the season. February is the overlap month that is safe at most areas. There are areas like Utah's Cottonwood Canyons where all of the above factors are favorable and thus are fairly safe from mid-December to mid-April.

I also published a more condensed article focusing on Christmas vs. spring break here:
post #10 of 14
Locally I prefer April (Banff/Lake Louise area), there is still winter conditions, lots of sun, and crowds are starting to thin out (not that it is ever really crowded here by say Whistler standards).

You can have a variety of conditions from storms to sunny spring weather. When the sun is high and the snow is soft you can get some great fast turns on the backside of Lake Louise and never wait in line. Doing spring laps in a shell on runs off Paradise triple/Summit platter is one of my favourite things to ski locally.
post #11 of 14
Originally Posted by wasatchskier View Post
...What is the point of going in early December when all of the mountain isn't open and the terrain is spotty and low snow cover...
Could the point be to ski? After all, isn't skiing on bad snow in December better than not skiing on no snow in December?
post #12 of 14
April. The snow is usually good, we often get huge dumps, and the masses are itching to golf or bike so you have the mountain to yourself.
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
Could the point be to ski? After all, isn't skiing on bad snow in December better than not skiing on no snow in December?
Yeah- except if you only have one or two trips for the whole year. Then, you would want to go when it is best.
post #14 of 14
Short answer: mid to late winter.

Wordy answer:
Where: important and highly variable. In the mid-Atlantic, where I'm from, peak snow conditions usually occur between late Jan to mid Feb, New England it is late Jan to late Feb, central Rockies and far West are beyond my expertise, but generally late Jan to mid March is quite good.
When: while planning distant trips I used to shoot for prime snow times/100% terrain open, crowds and costs be damned, but now I often consider crowd and cost beating alternatives based on the school breaks of my kids. For example, for lower grades the four or five days immediately preceding Christmas or the entire Easter week, both preferably at a high elev/snowsure destinations, for college age early Jan-anywhere or early March in New England. If skiing during primo Christmas or Presidents weeks I'm very careful to choose a small or remote low volume venue.
Why: big party people may want to go during holidays and known spring break periods, crowd intolerant ski-until-you-drop people may want to go from early Jan to early Feb (less MLK weekend), rank beginners can save money and still enjoy sufficient learning terrain during early and late seasons.
What: everybody loves fresh powder, but ironically for a lot of the automobile-centric trips I make, receiving a lot of snow during the trip adversely effects important mobility requirements, although there is nothing like a perfectly timed 30" dump in the middle of a ski week when you've got slopeside accommodations:-)
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