It’s March. Does that mean spring skiing?

The answer is: sometimes. Which means once the sun gets this high, surface conditions will come and go with the weather.

Dave Irons, Ski Columnist

If you want to know the best weather for spring skiing, check with those who produce our maple syrup. They know that warm days and freezing nights cause the sap to run. It’s the same thing with spring skiing.

This time of year, we have a full winter’s accumulation of snow, whether natural or manmade. And with today’s grooming, we can expect smooth surfaces each morning.

With the high sun, those surfaces will quickly turn wet, into what we call spring skiing. If it gets too warm, then instead of nice, forgiving surfaces over a firm base, we’ll have a heavy, wet snow.

What we need to be most aware of are changing conditions. When the temperature moves above freezing, we might start a run from the top and part way down hit a place where the sun has really softened the snow.

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The first truly warm day, this can result in very grabby surfaces. To get the soft, wet snow we call “corn,” the snow needs to soften, refreeze and soften again.

This makes wax especially important.

WAX FACTS

My skis are always waxed with a universal wax with a wide temperature range. If you’re not sure about what wax to use, check with the ski shop. Most shops on the mountain are set up to apply the most-appropriate wax for the day’s temperatures. They also have rub-ons that can be applied during the day, and some of those packets of paste wax work well. Whatever wax you use should be applied to a clean base.

I hand-tune my skis every two or three days of use. I always start by cleaning the base with a citrus-based cleaner. These won’t harm the base like a petroleum-based cleaner will. I use a diamond stone on the base edges and do the side edges with a diamond stone in a multi-tuner set at a one-degree bevel.

Then, I polish the edges with a gummi stone. I apply my universal wax, which is good for temperatures from 20 to 50 degrees, the same wax I use for all skiing. That range works for mid-winter or spring. The folks in ski shop will know what you need as the temperatures climb.

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BEWARE VARIABLES

The next consideration is how we ski when conditions are changing.

So far, we haven’t had to be concerned with any extreme melting, which can produce bare spots, but as temperatures climb, we need to be aware that these can appear as the day progresses.

A run with full cover can develop bare spots in the time it takes us to ride the lift back to the top. Mostly, all this means is keep our speed at a level where we can avoid such newly formed hazards. Most of this applies to April more than early March.

The usual rules apply. Always be aware that blind spots can hide hazards, so approach them with caution.

All this adds up to one recognition. One word can be used for all ski reports in spring. That word is “variable.” And it means be prepared for anything. Conditions will vary depending on where you are on the mountain and the time of day, and the later the season goes into spring, the more the conditions will vary.

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BRING YOUR BEST

Another question is choice of skis. Often I hear skiers talk about getting out their rock skis and it makes me cringe. I picture a pair of old skis with old bindings, sometimes bindings that still have retention straps instead of ski brakes.

With changing conditions, you need all the ski you can get. They need to be skis you can maneuver quickly and need to be perfectly tuned. I have some old skis, but they will never see the snow under my feet again because I want my high-performance race skis with the best modern bindings.

If you have rock skis, they are probably not fit to be skied in any conditions. Go with your best.

Don’t forget the sunscreen and we’ll see you on the slopes.

 

Dave Irons is a freelance writer and columnist who hails from Westbrook. He has been contributing to the Sun Journal for many years and is among the most respected ski writers in the Northeast. He also is a member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. Write to him at [email protected] 


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