In most parts of the US, our season has sadly reached its end. While those in Tahoe are anxiously awaiting another couple feet over the next week, in the Midwest many folks have packed up their gear and given in to the warm weather. I, however, have been holding on to every last bit that I can and spent the last couple days at closing weekend of one of my favorite local spots despite it being 60 out. Here are a few tips on going riding when it practically shorts weather.
Use Sunscreen – This one should be obvious but its importance cannot be understated. For those of us that don’t see a lot of sun in the winter, it’s simply not top of mind. However, UV rays reflect off the snow at almost a 90% rate making any exposed skin a prime target. The idea of a goggle tan might seem cool but that pale skin that’s stayed hidden for the last 4 months is more likely to fry. Bring the chapstick too.
Dress Appropriately – Observing others will tell you that the appropriate dress is board shorts or a bikini, but I’ll argue that being covered has its advantages. Not only are you going to keep from getting burned both by the sun and the snow given you take a spill, but the right layers will actually keep you dry and cool despite the heat. For me, an old Ride Shacket, a waterproof breathable button-up, did the trick, along with some shell pants and pipe gloves. Another route to go is some shell bibs with a flannel with dryride or some degree of waterproofing. Good lightweight breathable base layers are also key when it comes to wicking that sweat away.
Wax Appropriately – When it gets this warm, things sure do get slow and sticky. A dry board mid-season might mean your buddies blow by you on the cat track, but late season it could mean some serious walking. I brought two boards on my little 3 day excursion and one became completely unusable by the last day of the trip. Not only was I getting stuck in the flats but the friction was so strong that even with some pitch I was feeling the drag. While most warm weather wax’s top out around 50 degrees, it’ll still help in the morning and is worlds better than a bone dry deck. Go the hot wax route if you can.
Bring Your Powder Board – I’ve mentioned in previous blogs how fun today’s powder boards can be in conditions other than powder. Today I’ll argue that they’re your best defense against slush. The extra width and float makes surfing the soft snow feel like you’re actually on water. As the day progresses and conditions get worse, a wide rockered nose is perfect for plowing through the chop and the sloppy mess that has developed over the hours. Wet snow is heavy snow and staying on top can be a lot of work. Your powder board will make it a lot easier and it’s always exciting to pull it out of the rack for one last ride.
Hit the South Facing Slopes Early – The science is simple, South facing slopes get more direct sunlight. While those facing the North may sometimes remain shaded until the final chair, your favorite South runs will likely be a mess by 1:00. That being said, get out and hit them in the morning when the temperatures are lower and the sun hasn’t done its dirty work. The more runs taken, the worse things will get, so getting out early has its advantages as well.
Be Aware of Changing Conditions – As just mentioned, conditions can change by the hour. Between the sun, the people and the thin cover in most areas surprises may start popping up. Our ski buyer found that out the hard way when he tried to hit a small jump over a dirt gap that he had hit easily the day before. It turned out that dirt patch had gained a couple feet over only a few hours and the landing was lacking a bit in the snow department. The photo below shows a run that that started the morning as a quick groomer and ended the day as a bunch of dirt and mud. Bomb this baby like you did earlier and you’d be in for a bit of a surprise.
Dry out your boots – Lastly, remember to dry out your boots and gear after the day is over. Again, this seems like another given but when it’s gorgeous out, you’re exhausted and you may have had some drinks, it’s pretty easy to toss your gear in the corner and completely forget about it. If you want to ride the next day you’ll want to lay it all out. I found out the hard way that the puddle created by submerging my back foot in ankle deep slush all day didn’t exactly go away on its own overnight.
So get out and enjoy the sun. Spring riding is fun and forgiving and a great time to venture a little out of your comfort zone as things generally run a little slower. Just keep these things in mind and send the season off with a bang.