When I referred to March as the best month to ski I wasn’t anticipating one of the coldest month’s on record. Not only did we get a lot more snow than normal, but thanks to January like temperatures, most of it is still on the slopes.

Unless we get an unusually warm April, skiing could easily last not only until the late Easter (April 20) but through the month and into May. I can predict the skiing will last into May, but I can also predict that there will be few if any lifts in operation that late. The reason is simple. Ski resorts can only operate as long as there are skiers riding those lifts, and I’m not talking about season pass holders. It takes day tickets and lots of them to meet the payroll for running those lifts, operating a base lodge and grooming the runs each night.

Of course, this year could be different in one way. A year ago there were golf courses open in early March. This year fairways in Maine are still snow covered. Skiers won’t be drawn away by other outdoor activities. The lakes are still frozen, eliminating boating and fishing as options. Maybe skiers will hang on a little longer, but if the past is any indication, skiers will quit before the snow melts and the lifts will stop turning. At least no one is saying, “It’s time to rake the yard.”

A few weeks ago at the Maine Golf Show in Portland, the folks from Cape Cod were talking about golf courses already open, but this past week they got a foot of snow. As this was written conditions were mid winter everywhere. We never know what the weather will bring, but if we get warm days and freezing temperatures at night the skiing will be good. We’ve been hearing about the maple syrup season being late because of temperatures staying below freezing most days in March. Freezing nights and warm days make the sap run and it’s also best for spring skiing. Corn snow is created by repeated thawing and freezing. When it doesn’t freeze overnight the snow turns to mush and stays that way so hope for freezing nights.

While this week’s ski reports were all winter conditions, reports will switch to spring conditions. Surfaces will be described as granular, wet granular, corn or simply spring. The one word that best describes spring skiing is variable. Surfaces will vary with the time of day, elevation and from sun to shade. If surfaces have set up enough overnight for grooming, look for machine groomed loose granular on those runs to start the day and frozen granular elsewhere. The first runs to corn up will be in the sun, the East area at Shawnee Peak, King Pine Bowl at Sugarloaf and North Peak at Sunday River. A look at any trail map will show you which trails face East. Ski those early because they will also be the first runs where the snow will get heavy later in the day.

As the sun moves around the mountain, the snow will soften. Just move with the sun to find the best conditions. Also be aware that conditions can change when skiing from sun into shade. Spring skiing conditions demand full attention to controlling speed. Getting out when the lifts open is the best guarantee of good conditions and it’s even more true in spring.

If your skis haven’t been tuned this season, it’s critical now. The wax you used to make them glide easily on cold snow will not work on warm snow. There may also be build up of grime on the base which will really cause the skis to grab. You can take them to the shop for a tune up and they will take care of it. Or you can do it yourself. First, clean the base with a non-petroleum cleaner. A citrus-based cleaner available at your supermarket will do the job and will not harm the base. Next, iron in a wax good for a range of higher temperatures. I use a universal wax with a range from 20-50 degrees Fahrenheit. I also carry along some rub on wax for changes during the day.

Heading into this weekend, all of the bigger areas were either open or planning on opening for the weekend. Lost Valley also extended its season, but it now closed due to warmer weather and the threat of heavy rain. We also received word that Mt Abram is considering an extended season. Their main chair has developed some problems so it will be T-bar to the top, but they are planning on operating next weekend and all day tickets are $30. After this weekend it will be important to check ski reports before heading out. The easiest way is to check area websites which are updated daily.

There are a number of areas in Maine and New Hampshire with reputations for staying open late and for having a great party atmosphere once the snow turns heavy later in the day. At Sugarloaf, it’s the area known as the Beach immediately in front of the base lodge. Sunday River has three spots, South Ridge, White Cap and Barker Base where the old timers can usually be found. Shawnee Peak’s Patio and deck are warm and sunny even on most winter days, and really nice in the spring. Saddleback’s new base lodge has a huge deck with plenty of sun. A favorite in New Hampshire is Wildcat where the 2,000-foot base elevation helps maintain snow late. Food and beverage offerings will vary, but look for BBQ’s and beverages at most.

Without a sudden warmup, we should get at least three more weekends, and you can even plan your Easter Sunday on the slopes with sunrise services, parades and other activities. The area of your choice will have the details on their website. See you on the slopes.

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