If you haven't yet had your fill of winter skiing, don't despair at the imminent equinox. Cherry blossoms or not, there's a lot of snow in the Appalachians; southern Pennsylvania received another blanketing last week, and the Rockies have had a boom year after last year's blizzardless bust.
Spring skiing promises to be fantastic, though it usually lasts only a short time. To make the most of these final weeks here are a few tips.
First spring conditions vary, and demand varying techniques.
Hope for "corn snow," which occurs when well-packed snow repeatedly thaws during the day and refreezes at night.
When it's broken up again and again by skiers every day, the snow turns into little kernels of ice. Corn snow provides fast, spectacular skiing, as every turn blasts up a shower of crystals.
However, there are always occasional cold days. So if the snow is hard and icy, and doesn't soften during the day, be certain to keep your weight low and drive your knees forward so your weight will be forward rather than on the tails of your skis, where it could make you lose control when you turn.
If the snow thaws quickly, it gets heavy and sticky. Your weight should still be forward, but the emphasis now is on strong "down, up, down" motions.
In ski jargon that means your turns should begin by sinking down in the knees, then rising up with the knees, shifting your weight as you start your turn, and sinking down again as you carve your turn. Heavy, sticky snow requires good thigh muscles - you almost have to unstick yourself at every turn. At the end of the day expect some icing again.
Second, carry sunglasses. Bright sun and bright snow, particularly in the Rockies, can cause temporary snow-blindness.
Third, spring is the time to pay attention to the amount of snow depth or "base" at local ski areas. The best statistics will be coming from those areas that took advantage of the cold winter to make a lot of machine-made snow. They will be open longest and will be the last to show bare spots that carve up the bottoms of your skis.
Fourth, in New England winter has been kindest to Vermont and Maine. In spite of a couple of heavy snowfalls, the winter has been drier than usual, so again look to the areas with area-wide snow-making capacity. In Vermont, Killington hopes to be open until May, and Jay Peak and Sugarbush received nine inches of snow early this week.
If you take a spring vacation to New England, a good side trip is to Mount Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Usually in late March the U.S. Forest Service blasts the avalanches off the "headwall" at Tuckerman's Ravine on the mountain. There are no lifts on Mount Washington; you climb for an hour and a half from the A.M.C. lodge at Pinkham Notch before reaching the ravine. But the skiing is spectacular, and on a clear day you can see a glimmer of the Atlantic Ocean 120 miles away.
Finally, local spring carnivals are scheduled for March 17 at Jack Frost, March 17 to 19 at Camelback and April 1 and 2 at Snowshoe.