Spring Ski Season in Colorado
Get ready for some bluebird days, Colorado—and you know we’re not talking about birdwatching. It’s spring ski season, the time of year when the long dark of winter is starting to ease up, and sunny, blue-skied days start to take precedence out on the slopes. Early spring often sees some of the deepest snow bases of the year. Combine that with the bright Colorado sun and those deep blue skies; it makes for some pretty perfect days out at the resorts. Whether you’ve been dutifully skiing or snowboarding all season or you’re looking to get out there just once this year, now’s the time to do it.
How is Spring Skiing Different From Winter Skiing in Colorado?
As far as we’re concerned, there’s no such thing as a bad time to ski (except, you know, when there’s no snow on the ground…), but there are some big differences between spring and winter skiing. Skiing in the spring means experiencing spring snow conditions which are skiing or riding on snow that has been changed due to melting or affected by extreme temperature differences. The warmer or above-freezing temperature on sunny days with cold nights produces snow conditions indicative of spring, such as:
- Crust snow - skiing on crust snow is skiing or riding on snow that has "set up." During the day, when the warm sun begins to melt the snow, causing it to lose structure and ultimately make it mushy by the day's end, it will freeze again overnight when the temps drop. The snow transforms into what is commonly called crust snow. Crust snow can be hard enough to support bike riding, hiking, and opens up terrain outside of the resorts to the same type of travel. If you do venture "off-piste" on crust snow make sure you return before the sun heats up the snow too much. Once the snow begins to rot, it loses its strength, and suddenly you will sink and struggle through the mushy snow. Skate skiing on crust snow is a chance to jump off of or venture out of the groomed skate skiing areas. It's super fun and opens up any public forests or parks so long as they have crust snow conditions.
- Dust on Crust - skiing or riding dust on crust is just that. Crust snow or hard set-up snow that has a dusting of fresh snow on top. Dust on crust is really enjoyable to ski and is skiable first thing in the morning, unlike corn snow which needs to soften for at least a couple of hours. Dust on crust makes otherwise crust snow which can be too firm to really carve, very playful and carvable. Any amount of fresh powder on crust snow is fun to ski or ride; however, it the terrain is steep, and there are several inches or a foot of fresh snow or more. Watch out; these conditions create sluff avalanches. That is, the top layer of fresh snow will slide or sluff off.
- Slush bumps - early morning bump skiing in the spring is not fun. The bumps are rock-hard and unforgiving. However, on the right spring day when the sun comes out and beams down on your favorite mogul run, the bumps suddenly become soft. This is when the fun starts. Slushy bumps ski more like powder bumps and are forgiving. You can experience "hero" skiing. Meaning the soft bump conditions will make you feel like a superstar with the ease and enjoyment you will experience when taking them on.
- Corn snow - skiing corn snow is actually a window of time where crust-snow has had the top inch or so of hard crust-snow softened due to direct sun warming. Giving the snow a granular or corn-like consistency. Below the top soft snow or corn snow remains a hard base. Corn snow is desirable to ski or ride on as it mimics powder skiing but is incredibly carvable and stable. Corn snow conditions make very steep terrain skiable. Terrain that would otherwise be too hard to get an edge in or too avalanche-prone during deep snow days.
January and February are generally considered the best (or the most reliable) months to ski in Colorado. When March and April roll around, most tourists have gone home, meaning less crowded slopes, shorter lift lines, and more skiable terrain for you and the local folks out there. If you’re coming from out of town, lodging tends to be a little cheaper in the spring, so you can book a weekend getaway with your household or friends with less concern for your wallet.
Dual Sports Spring Skiing and more
Later in the spring season as the snow melts, the warm weather makes it possible for you to get in a dual sport day. Spend your morning on the slopes and after lunch, go for a hike or get a few hours of mountain biking in. Spring offers the best of both worlds, and especially if you don’t get out much or use a valuable PTO day, packing in as much activity as you can makes it all feel much more worth it.
Spring Means More Resort Events and Patio Fun
The spring season also means there are more events out at the resorts, everything from concerts to fun local traditions like pond skims and themed parties. Warmer weather and longer days mean it’s much more pleasant to sit outside and sip a beer, so use the spring season to enjoy those gorgeous patios.
Which Colorado Ski Resorts Are Still Open During the Spring?
All Colorado ski resorts remain open during the month of March. Closing dates vary year to year and are often subject to change depending on weather conditions, but most of the big guns close down the slopes sometime in April.
In 2023, Colorado ski resort's closing dates are as follows:
Arapahoe Basin: sometime in June
Aspen Highlands: April 16
Aspen: April 16
Beaver Creek: TBD, sometime in April
Breckenridge: May 15
Buttermilk: April 2
Cooper: April 16
Copper Mountain: April 23
Crested Butte: April 16
Echo: April 16
Eldora: April 16
Granby: April 2
Hesperus: March 19
Howelsen: March 26
Keystone: TBD, sometime in April
Loveland: May 8
Monarch: April 9
Powderhorn: April 3
Purgatory: April 9
Silverton: April 16
Snowmass: April 16
Steamboat: April 9
Sunlight: April 2
Telluride: April 2
Vail: April 30
Winter Park: sometime in May
But don’t worry. If they still have enough snow, many resorts and ski areas have been known to reopen later in the spring and even sometimes into early summer. At ski areas like A-Basin, it’s not unheard of to go skiing on the 4th of July!
How to Dress for Spring Skiing
On a beautiful day with the sun beating down on you and your heart pumping as you rip down the mountain, it can be incredibly tempting to ditch your jacket and ski in a t-shirt, shorts, or even a bikini top. It’s pretty common to see t-shirt skiers in the spring, and it’s a ton of fun, but we implore you to wear sunscreen. The sun here in Colorado is hot and bright, and that high altitude combined with the reflective snow on the ground means forgoing sunscreen will not only give you a prominent goggle tan, but a nasty, painful sunburn you’ll be feeling for days. And slathering on some sunscreen before you start is important, but it’s equally as imperative for you to reapply throughout the day.
As with most outdoor activities here in Colorado, your best bet for getting dressed for spring skiing is to wear layers so you can strip them off throughout the day as needed. Bring a small backpack along so you can stash your gear through out the day.
Soaking Up the End of the Season
We bet you’re itching to make the most of this spring. Squeeze every last day you can from your season pass—we promise it’ll be epic.
Written by Emily Krempholtz