Extra harsh winter brings excellent spring rewards
Go anywhere in the U.S. and they’ll talk of spring like a lovely maiden curtseying away the last of the cold and ushering in the romance of summer. Come to Alaska and what do you get? The haunting aroma of dog poop and four more weeks in your X-Tra Tuffs.
Yes, for Alaskans spring is just another reminder of what we’ve known all along – ya gotta be a little bit tougher to handle what the seasons throw at you here. But, for those willing to face that axiom, there come the spoils: spring skiing. And, this year’s winter, fraught with subzero temperatures and piles of snow, proves that if you’re willing to take the cold, you’ll reap the rewards. So, whether you quench your thirst for snow in the backcountry, at a resort, or on a local trail, here’s how I plan to cash in my winter street cred and enjoy the splendors of the season.
Thankfully, this winter actually felt like winter, with plenty of cool temps and powdery goodness to last into the early spring. And, I don’t know about you, but after spending the winter freezing on a chairlift, I’m heading to the resorts a little less bundled and with a goggle-tan objective.
Korin Homestead of Hilltop Ski Area says to look forward to all the snow holding over well into spring.
“It’s beautiful out there. We’ve got beautiful snow conditions,” she says, noting she’s hoping for people to stay local this spring and get out and enjoy the remainder of the season on the slopes. And, while there’s potential for an extended season out at Hilltop this year, it’s a good idea to get yourself and the family out before a thorough thaw opens up the area to summer frolfers.
Of course, there’s also Alyeska, which should make it on every snow-sport enthusiast’s list of spring skiing. Because after all, the only thing better than the “zip” of your skis running over corduroy is enjoying a beer at the Sitz afterwards. Our own Ben Napolitano of “White Pages” says that there’s much to look forward to at Alyeska this spring, including (drum roll) an extra week of skiing! That’s right Alyeska will be extending their season to April 23 this year, leaving more time to get some sunny skiing in. So, somewhere in between their veritable smorgasbord of events – including slush cup, and a downhill Easter egg hunt. I’ll be enjoying the extra sunlight and their spring ski hours of 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Spring always seems to bring with it that itchy, gotta-get-outside-at-all-hours feeling, and for me there’s no better way to temper that spring mania than to spend a day out in the backcountry. There’s just something about mixing the cardio intensity of a snowy hike with the euphoria of cutting some fresh lines that makes the drive out and parking lot battles completely worth it.
My personal favorite place is, of course, the Turnagain area. And, even as patches of dirt start to appear, nothing beats that nice corn snow, characteristic of the area. As a bit of a beginner myself I stick to the terrain I know, with a preference for Tin Can. And, as always, I prioritize avalanche awareness, as should anyone traveling out to the backcountry. Wind slabs were noted earlier in the year and spring brings its own set of avalanche risks, so if you plan a trip out, leave room in your pack for your beacons, shovels, and probes.
If only my favorite way to exercise weren’t limited only to the snowy months. Sigh. At any rate, with the warmth of spring, getting out on my skate skis starts to feel less like an arctic ordeal and a lot more like a pleasant full-body workout. Tamra Kornfield of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage anticipates the season lasting much longer than previous years noting that the 2016 season ended mid-March due to lack of snow, while this year’s heavy snowfall bodes well for a long spring season.
Moral of the story? You’ve got more time this year to get your snow jollies in and plenty of ways to do it. I’ll see you out there!