Those of us old enough to have skied many years knew we had six more weeks of winter after Ground Hog Day. But now that Easter is behind us, when the season will end is anybody’s guess.

While I know better than to pick a date, I can safely predict that skiers will unknowingly make the decision.

Dave Irons, Ski Columnist

There will come a time this month or next when skiers will stop showing up to buy lift tickets, and that is when the season will end, at least riding lifts to ski. Once there are not enough lift tickets being sold to pay the bills, ski areas will shut down for the season.

I have skied Sugarloaf in May, and I am sure there will be enough snow left to ski there in May this year, but it’s unlikely any lifts will be running after mid-May.

I am certain there will be some locals who are willing to hike for their skiing who will show up at the ’Loaf and at other areas after they close, but before you hike to ski, check with the area because some have policies forbidding such skiing.

It probably has to do with the area’s insurance, which is why ski areas frown on skiers hiking to ski when the area is open. This is a true safety issue, having hikers going up while other skiers are skiing down. The area faces liability issues, which is why a lift ticket is often required even for those walking up where it is allowed.



For many years, I would finish my ski season on Mount Washington, either hiking up the fire trail into Tuckerman Ravine or, later, when the Auto Road opened, driving up to ski in the Snowfields.

I have skied in the Ravine in June, and later in the snowfields, but those days are behind me. I will leave those adventures to younger legs, but will offer some advice: take the challenge of Mount Washington seriously.

For the hike in, make sure you have a well-fitted, sturdy hiking boot. My Limmers (which were only $50 at that time) were made for my feet at Peter Limmer and Sons in Intervale, New Hampshire, in 1971, and while they could use a resoling, they are still a perfect fit.

Typically, once we pass mid-April, the first part of the fire trail is bare ground. Not far up, it turns wet with slippery rocks and mud.

The second important piece of equipment is a good pack frame, by far the easiest way to carry skis and boots. And don’t overload it. The hike to Hermit Lake in the lower part of the ravine is 3 miles and about 3,000 vertical feet. And it’s another half-mile and 1,000 feet up to the bowl, where you will ski such well-known runs as the Chute, Right and Left gullies and, of course, the Headwall.


And unless you are comfortable and able to control your speed on very steep terrain, don’t ski there.

While it may seem cool to ski in shorts, my recommendation is jeans.

I remember vividly one young lady in shorts who came sliding down at us as we climbed up the Chute. We were climbing single-file and had to step out of the way as she slid by. Most of us tried to grab her to at least slow her down, but she slid to a spot just above the rocks at the foot of the Left Gully.

She found out how abrasive that spring snow can be, as both her legs were covered with blood. Other than those scrapes, she was OK and able to walk away. I never skied in shorts again after that day, and she probably didn’t either.

You might not need ski pants or warmups in spring, but keep the legs covered. I have a pair of unlined powder pants, which work fine and are better suited than jeans in fitting over ski boots.

One thing I hear that makes me cringe is Rock skis. I see these in spring when skiers don’t want to subject their best skis to a chance encounter with something other than snow.


Often, they are beat-up old skis with ancient bindings. Leave these in the barn or wherever they might be stored. With the changing conditions we experience in spring, you need properly tuned skis, quick enough to maneuver around suddenly appearing bare spots. And you want the best bindings.


The best source of information on Mount Washington is You can link onto the Mount Washington Avalanche Center and get updates on the danger levels. Considering the steepness of the ravine and other parts of the mountain, conditions are often favorable for slides, so it’s best to check before you head for the mountain.

For a year I lived on Paris Hill, high enough so I could see Mount Washington. If the summit was sharp and clear in bright sun, I knew it was a good day to head for the big Mountain. If I couldn’t see it, maybe waiting for another day would be a better idea.

Of course, anyone who has spent much time on the Northeast’s biggest mountain knows how quickly the weather can change there.

I remember one year in early June there was a day that was warm and sunny by the AMC HQ at the base, but in the ravine that day we experienced fog, rain, wind and sleet. Best to check that website. A phone number for Friends of Tuckerman is 603-367-4417.

Enjoy the rest of the season 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 

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