By Pieter van Noordennen
The end of the season is a special time in ski towns. On mountain, the freeze-melt cycle of cold nights and warm days creates corn snow that skis almost as well as powder. Gone are those frenetic mid-season days that start at dawn and end at the closing bell are no more. Springtime skiing has a cooler, more relaxed pace, letting you wake up late, ski a few runs and then head to the sundeck for an IPA. Before it’s too late to savor a ski vacation, head to these three resorts for end-of-year parties that capture the spirit of spring, and still have plenty of terrain open in April as well.
TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival, Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
One may think that Whistler, one of the most vibrant international scenes in skidom, would have stopped to catch its breath after last year’s Olympic extravaganza. Hardly. TelusFest celebrated its 15th year just weeks after 2010 Winter Games’ closing ceremony, drawing 250,000 people for a 10-day fete of winter, and plans to do so again this year. High-flying competitions in big air, slopestyle and superpipe please the sports fans, while music and arts appeal to all. This April, Gogol Bordello and Mat the Alien highlight the outdoor concert series, while the Pro Photographer Showdown pairs the best shooters and athletes in snow sports.
Parrot Head Weekend, Sunday River, Maine
We’re not exactly sure the connection between southern Maine skiing and Jimmy Buffet, but that doesn’t seem to stop thousands of fans from converging on Maine’s biggest ski resort every April. The party kicks off at the Foggy Goggle pub and continues for three days of tribute bands, costume contests, spam sculpting (what?), and, yes, margaritas. Saturday night brings a family-friendly fireworks display, while Sunday has pond skimming and pie-eating contest. Naturally, it’s key lime.
Spring Back to Vail, Vail, Colo.
Nowhere in the U.S. will you find a bigger, better place to spring ski than Vail. Sure, skiers can enjoy Vail’s 5,289 acres any time. But as the season extends into April, temperatures climb into t-shirt weather and the Colorado high country experiences bluebird skies like no other. So why not celebrate? Spring Back to Vail lasts seven days and hosts the World Pond Skimming Championships, a competition that locals take seriously even if they’re wearing wacky costumes and trying to skim across a 100-foot pool of icy water at the time. A week of events in Vail Village is capped by a massive concert in Ford Park featuring national acts that have included Snoop Dogg, Kid Rock and G. Love & Special Sauce.