KEEPING THE DREAM ALIVE
Five Resorts to Help You Stretch Your Seasonby TJ Parsons
Closing day is creeping up—or has already happened—at many resorts in North America, but that doesn’t mean the shredding has to stop when your local hill shuts down. Since not everybody can afford an all-inclusive summer camp or a trip to the Southern Hemisphere, we decided to highlight a few spots still accessible to the snowboarding proletariat after most other mountains pack it up for the year. If you’re willing to put in the miles (and you can deal with the aroma of sweaty boots filling your car), it’s possible to add months to your season. Posse up with a few friends to split the cost of gas and lodging, and you’ll find that tacking on some bonus days can be easier (and cheaper) than you think.
If long, steep runs are your thing, Snowbird is tough to beat when it comes to late-season riding. The crowds clear out nicely after spring break—and more often than not, the resort stays open until at least late May. Weather’s always a crapshoot this late in the year, but thanks to the Wasatch Mountains’ legendary lake-effect spring storms, your chances of getting either fresh powder or spring-conditions cruiser laps are about equal. Either way, on the tram’s 2,900-foot vertical drop, you’ll find top-to-bottom runs full of cat-tracks, wall hits, and rollers to launch. The park isn’t much to write home about—and is often closed late in the year anyway—but the Bird is much more about natural terrain features anyway.
Many local shops carry discount day passes, or if you plan on staying a while, you can pick up the $299 Spring Pass that includes unlimited riding from April 1st until the resort closes. A good variety of hotel rooms are available on-site, but if you’re on more of a “Ramen-and-hot-dogs” budget, you’re probably better off finding a cheap motel in Sandy (on the south end of Salt Lake City).
ARAPAHOE BASIN, CO
A-Basin boasts the highest-elevation terrain at any ski hill in North America—and as a result, its super-long seasons often stretch from early October into June. With tons of parties, contests, and concerts happening every year, the late spring and early summer scene is well-known among Colorado riders who just aren’t quite ready to let their winter expire. The well-groomed Treeline terrain park stays open until closing day and includes a broad range of features from technical kinked rails to mellow flat boxes. If jibbing isn’t your thing, there’s also a good variety of cruiser runs available, with natural lips and rollers scattered all over the place.
You can drive up from Denver each morning (just over 90 miles), but there’s also a variety of reasonably-priced places to stay scattered throughout Summit County. The free Summit Stage bus system offers service to and from all the small ski towns in the area, which is clutch if you plan on having a few après-shred beverages. A word to the wise: wear sunscreen, and lots of it. With a base elevation of just under 11,000 feet, it doesn’t take long to get fried, even when it’s cloudy. Überpro Todd Richards once got such bad sun poisoning here that he actually splattered his drawers in the middle of a pipe contest (read his autobiography if you don’t believe us).
If you live on the East Coast, you’ve probably been rolling your eyes up to this point at the feasibility of trekking cross-country to ride for a few more days. However, Killington is within realistic road-trip range of many places around the East—and thanks to world-class snowmaking that covers over 70% of the total terrain (plus about 250 inches of natural snowfall every year), it’s consistently home to one of the longest riding seasons east of the Rockies. While spring weather in New England can always make things interesting, Killington has had great snowfall so far this year and should be open until at least the first week of May. Whether you’re lapping the multiple parks or just laying down some high-speed carves, the grooming staff is always on point to keep the snow in good shape day after day.
As the heavy tourist season winds down, nearby hotels and rental condos usually offer some decent deals, and many of them also sell discounted lift tickets. If you’re short on buddies to pitch in for a place right near the resort, you can always just snag a motel in one of several small towns in the surrounding area, depending on which direction you’re coming from.
MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, CA
There’s a good reason a veritable army of pro riders calls Mammoth home—with some of the most progressive freestyle terrain around, you’re likely to spot both established superstars and hungry up-and-comers destroying the main park pretty much every day of the week. When you factor in flawless grooming, ten separate park zones, and 300-plus days of sunshine every year, this is one of the best places in the world to step up your riding. The season usually extends until at least June, thanks to snowmaking on about a third of the runs (the 400 inches of natural snowfall Mammoth averages every year doesn’t hurt, either).
Once the melt-freeze cycle starts late in the season, you’ll most likely want to take your time getting up on the hill in the morning to let the snow soften up a bit before you start chucking your carcass. But you don’t have to worry about getting enough runs in—all the major park runs are accessed via high-speed lifts, which means you can hot-lap until your legs turn to rubber. While on-hill accommodations can get pretty pricey, there are plenty of budget-friendly options around Mammoth Lakes, and riding the free bus up to the resort is a breeze from most places in town.
TIMBERLINE LODGE, OR
Home to one of the longest riding seasons anywhere in the world, Timberline Lodge is the only place in the United States where you can lap lift-accessed terrain all 12 months of the year (as long as Mama Nature cooperates a little bit). Timberline is almost always open through Labor Day—and often stays open on weekends all the way through September and October. It’s a pretty good sign when a resort labels the last day of May the end of its “winter”. T-Line offers five parks stocked with features for all ability levels, which makes this a great place to dial in those last few tricks you were working on when your local mountain closed up shop.
If you plan to ride for more than one day (duh), the $99 Spring Pass should be a no-brainer; it’s valid until summer riding starts June 1. Once summer operations begin, a good chunk of the park is only available to High Cascade Snowboard Camp patrons, but not to worry—there’s still a public terrain park available (not to mention a 2,600-foot vertical drop on the summer-season chairlifts alone). You’ll find plenty of inexpensive lodging options just a few miles down the road in Government Camp—or if you feel like roughing it to save some coin, you can post up in one of several top-notch camping zones in the surrounding area.
Late-summer withdrawals may be pretty much inevitable, but they're easier to manage if you did everything you could to maximize your ride time. When you’re mowing lawns and sweating buckets, daydreaming about bottomless turns, the last thing you need is soul-crushing regret due to slacking off when you should have been schralping. And don’t forget—the later this season ends, the less time you have to wait in agony before the next one starts.