It’s May. The grass is green, the flowers are starting to bloom, the temperatures are rising and yet my mind keeps wandering back to the snow. I never have an easy time letting go, and this year was no exception.
So of course when I heard that Killington (who had an amazing season) was still boasting over 40 open runs in late April, I jumped at the chance to get back on my board to chase East Coast spring conditions.
Last week some friends and I hopped in the car, drove through the night and woke up to the greatest sight one can see during the last week of April: runs covered in snow.Sound like something you’d be into? Planning for a trip this late can be a little different than a midwinter trip.
Here are a few tips if the idea of squeezing in one last trip out east sparks your interest.
What to Expect:
Weather: On our trip were fortunate to get two ideal 50 degree bluebird days. However, as we move further into may expect anywhere from 50 – 70+ degrees during this time of year. Also keep in mind the sad reality that precipitation now falls in the form of rain so be sure to check ahead of time!
Conditions: Killington still has surprising coverage. In fact, they’re still estimating a 20-30 ft base. I was even fortunate to dip into the trees alongside their Superstar run, something I figured was long gone for the season!
The key right now is getting out good and early. The snow starts with some firmness but by lunch begins to turn into a corny, snow cone consistency that, while extremely fun and forgiving, is still a lot of work.
Since there’s still a decent base it gets pretty bumpy and choppy by about 3 or 4 in the afternoon and by the end of the day it gets pretty heavy and you’re starting to border on slush. Keep in mind this was during a 50-55 degree day.
Types of Runs: It’s pretty common at this point in the year for resorts to limit runs to only offer intermediate and advanced terrain. I was impressed however at the variety of runs Killington was still able to keep open. Last week they still had the gondola and 2 chairs open which service quite a bit of terrain.
While they ended up extending these operations a few weeks longer than anticipated it looks like moving forward they will just be running their Superstar lift. Regardless, this lift still services a number of steep blacks, cruising blues and even a few trees to dip into. The black runs have gotten a bit bumpy but the snow’s so soft that it a good time to give them a try. They even still have a small park open at the bottom.
Crowd Level: While I would expect the crowds to die down even more so in May, I was surprised with the amount of people still out enjoying some turns. I wouldn’t say we had to wait in the lift line long, but we also weren’t riding right up to the chair like I expected.
Killington seems to gauge the crowd level well to open only the necessary amount of lifts while maximizing access to the most amount of runs. This is key if you plan on staying open until June.
What To Bring:
Apparel: At this point, the cold is a long forgotten threat and staying dry will become your new focus. A good shell can become your lightweight defender against any surprise rain showers or even the soaking of slush from a good spill. Thin lightweight pipe gloves will keep you protected and dry.
Don’t pack away that base layer quite yet. Sweat will propose much more of an issue than usual and a good wicking base will keep you nice and comfortable.
Gear: If you have the opportunity to borrow something from a friend or you’re fortunate to have a few options in your collection bring something with some float. I brought the K2 Wildheart, a setback board with tons of rocker in the tip and tail allowing me to sit back and plow through the heavy stuff and float in the slush. A powder board by nature, the same elements that help with deep soft snow did wonders with what I had to work with. It really helped keep my legs from burning out early, and my body from working too hard.
Also bring the sunscreen! It’s easy to get burnt on a normal bluebird day let alone a 70 degree day! Your skin will be more exposed and vulnerable than usual so treat it well! Personally I was regretting not wearing Chapstick with SPF protection for days later.
So if you’re an addict like myself, rest assured. There’s still a little more time. The season isn’t quite over yet, at least not in Killington. Their plan is to try and make it until June and based on the conditions I saw last week, it seemed likely. Sure Memorial Day weekend is usually a time to get the boat out and get on the water, but a warm day on the snow would be a great and unusual alternative. At this point, I’ve been riding for 6 months straight, but the thought of making it to 7 is definitely tempting. Maybe a few extra days on the snow is just what you need too.