It’s March. Does that mean spring skiing?

The only answer to that question is maybe, or sometimes. The days are longer and the sun is higher, so we may have spring conditions part of the time, or even most of the time from now on. Of course, if there is an official start to spring skiing, it has to be St. Patrick’s Day, which was Friday.

Dave Irons, Ski Columnist

As I have mentioned before, no one before or since has gone to the lengths Jim Kelly did at his Brodie Mountain down in the Berkshires. He actually called his ski area “Kelly’s Irish Alps,” and each St. Patrick’s Day had his snowmakers use food coloring to produce green snow.

This weekend, we can expect to see some green beer served in some of the pubs, but a pint of Guinness makes more sense. Listen for some Irish music in some of those pubs today for après ski.

This weekend not only marks the official start of spring skiing, it’s also the start of a celebration, because spring skiing is as much about the celebration as it is about ski conditions. I have an idea that as many memories are created on the ski decks as on the slopes at this time. The whole idea is to finish the day in the favorite gathering spot for après ski, wherever you might be skiing.

Most ski areas have a special place where you will find a bar set up outside in the sun. Sugarloaf even calls its area immediately in front of the base lodge “The Beach,” and you can always find a crowd of sun worshippers there on any sunny spring day. At Sunday River, the space in front of the base lodge at South Ridge is also a busy spot in spring. With its south-facing deck, Pleasant Mountain has always been a favorite in spring.


Skip over the border and Cranmore Mountain has a great deck outside the base lodge at the foot of the slope, and that’s where you find the celebrants any weekend afternoon. At Mount Abram, the party moves to the deck outside the West Side base lodge. Although Lost Valley rarely has an extended spring season, the deck outside the lodge becomes an extension of the brew pub to celebrate the spring.

In the 1960s and ’70s, a lot of Sunday River regulars would party at the top of Barker Mountain before the chairlift was installed in 1971. Coolers and even grills were somehow transported up the T-bars to the ledges at the top of what is now called Locke Mountain.

At that time, we used to haul rescue toboggans up the T-bars, and those of us on patrol would frequently get drafted to allow coolers and grills along for the ride to the top. Being on duty, we could not partake of the party, as the revelers enjoyed the views of Mount Washington as they cooked lunch on the grills.

Occasionally, we had to give a celebrant, who had imbibed a bit too much to ski down, a sled ride to the base at the end of the day. I remember one Gould student who had a bit too much being given a ride down. Apparently the ride, much quicker than an injured skier would have gotten, was a sobering experience. Interestingly, the young lady actually married a young member of our ski patrol a few years later. I’ll leave out the names, simply making the point that those mountain top parties were a memorable part of the spring skiing celebration.

I’m sure a check of other ski areas will reveal similar activities and traditions. We can expect the parties to continue right through Easter, which is April 9 this year, with plenty of snow to last well past that date. And the celebration isn’t confined to skiing here in the East. A number of my Western trips have been in spring, and I found as many party spots there as here at home.

At Vail, it’s easy to find. The area outside the lodge at Mid Vail has seating and picnic tables and always draws a crowd. It also has the benefit of being at the foot of Look Ma, one of the steepest mogul runs you’ll find anywhere, so revelers can enjoy the thrills and spills of skiers willing to display their skills on one of Colorado’s toughest mogul runs. If your timing is right, you might also get to watch the Lawn Chair drill team, a bunch of locals in ski boots, shorts and Hawaiians shirts parading and doing drills folding and unfolding their lawn chairs to music.

Vail is fun, but you can find plenty of activity right here at home. Enjoy the celebration and the skiing, but remember alcohol and skis don’t mix any better than alcohol and driving.

See you on the slopes, or on the deck.

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

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