More Spring Skiing

In Part 1, of this Blog Article, I described good European Ski Resorts for Spring Skiing.
Now, I am going to describe the snow conditions you can expect, why its a good time to go Ski Touring and list the Advantages and Disadvantages of Spring Skiing.

Skiing in April can be very pleasant.
The daytime temperatures can go well above freezing point. This will cause melting and slushy conditions ,in the afternoons, with a possibility of icy slopes in the mornings. But slushy snow can be fun and spring sunshine is great for the tan. It can still snow though, so be prepared and often heavy snowstorms come in and dump large quantities of powder snow on the upper slopes. This can bring great off piste conditions for one or two days, after a storm, before the snow can become heavy and wet with the warming temperatures. A warning that these particular conditions can create a high avalanche risk, so never ski off piste without a fully qualified instructor or mountain guide.

Another special treat which skiers can look forward to, in the spring, is the development of ‘corn snow’ or ‘spring snow’ as it is often referred to.
Although spring snow can occur at any time, during the winter, it is by nature more likely to form in March and April. Corn snow forms during a cycle of thaw and freeze temperatures. Warm sunny days without precipitation and cold clear nights constantly thaw and freeze the snow. Providing that the snow is untouched by skiers the surface will become ultra smooth usually within 5 or 6 days of this cycle. This only happens off piste, most commonly on south or west facing slopes. Spring corn snow is a delight to ski on. Almost all standards of skiers will be able to cope with the conditions, obviously depending on the gradient. It is crucial to pick the right time of day to ski on spring corn snow. This is usually between 11am and 2pm, although it can vary depending on the temperature. By mid morning, the sun has just melted the top layer, leaving a silky smooth surface with a firm base underneath. After deep powder snow it is generally rated as the most fun snow condition to ski on. Again, when skiing off piste it is essential to understand the potential dangers involved.

A popular spring pastime is ski touring. Even after the lifts have closed in the resort there are endless possibilities to explore the mountains on skis. Ski touring involves climbing and descending with the use of skins on the skis and does not rely on ski lifts. One of the most popular routes is the Haute Route. This is an ancient sheep track which travels between Chamonix in France and Zermatt in Switzerland. It takes several days to complete and overnight stays are required in high mountain huts.

Ski Tourers in Bruck an der Mur, Austria

So, to sum up this 2 part article, the Advantages and Disadvantages of Spring Skiing are as follows:

More chance of sunny weather
Quieter slopes after Easter
Cheaper accommodation
Spring corn snow
Late season powder snow
End of season parties

Lower slope melt down
Potential for rain especially at lower levels
Some ski lifts might close down early
Resort staff can be tired and jaded after long season
Lack of ‘winter wonderland’ atmosphere

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Robert Stewart

Ski Editor at Snow.Guide

Rob has extensive knowledge and experience of winter sports and has been qualified to instruct and teach Alpine Skiing for over 25 years. He is also an experienced off-piste and backcountry skier and has competed in freestyle and freeride events around the world. Now a full-time ski writer and Director of Ski Press, Rob is Snow.Guide’s Ski Editor and contributes to many other snowsports, national and lifestyle publications.

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