Ski On

Our Run-by-Run Cheat Sheets to Great Spring Skiing

Whether you're looking for perfect slush bumps or caches of wintry powder, here's where to find them.

By Brook Sutton March 7, 2018 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2018 issue of Aspen Sojourner

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Skier JF Bruegger finds some spring pow. 

Image: Matt Power 

Endless Winter: Still longing for light and powdery snow? Remember EAT: elevation, aspect, time. Find the coldest snow in higher elevations, on north-facing aspects, and during morning hours. Here are some good bets on each mountain.

Snowmass: Upper Green Cabin  off the High Alpine lift. For  fun, work different aspects in the Cirque or Hanging Valley. 

Buttermilk: Lower elevation means early-morning softening, but Uncle Chuck’s Glades near the top of the mountain gets a boost of chill from both the aspect and the trees along the run.

Aspen Highlands: They demand skill to ski and endurance to reach, but the G-Zones in Highland Bowl are the go-to area in spring.

Aspen Mountain: Do hot laps off the Ajax Express lift. Just about any run that faces town from this uppermost, central area of the mountain (mostly  and ) is a solid choice.

Cheat Sheet: Chase the Sun

Skiing conditions can change dramatically over the course of a typical spring day as the snow softens, then refreezes at night. The more you learn a mountain, the better you’ll be able to determine how the elevation, aspect, and time of day will affect conditions on any given run. And that could be the difference between teeth-rattling hardpack and pure, corn snow bliss. The easiest way to figure it out? Follow the sun. We asked the mountain managers at all four ski areas—Steve Sewell (Snowmass), Susan Cross (Buttermilk), Kevin Hagerty (Aspen Highlands), and Peter King (Aspen Mountain)—how they chase the sun around their respective domains.

In General
9-11 a.m.: Expect snow to be firm and fast, especially after daylight saving time kicks in. Aim for east- or north-facing groomers to start your day.
11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Conditions are hard to predict during this transitional time. Pay attention to where the sun hits, especially when you’re riding the lifts, and be ready to explore.
1-3 p.m.: One of the mountain’s greatest gifts to skiers? Slush bumps. This is when you’re most apt to find them.
3 p.m.-close: It’s like Halloween: trick or treat. Take it slow if the slush gets deep and tricky, but don’t forget about those north-facing, hidden shots that may be the biggest treat of all.

9-11 a.m.: As the last area to be groomed each night, Elk Camp’s groomers  will have the softest snow in the morning. If you’re feeling big, AMF  and Gowdy’s, in the Cirque, face due east; if the stars align, you might just find the best corn snow of the day.
11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Because of its lower elevation, and the fact that it’s groomed every two to three nights, the Campground area  stays relatively smooth and buttery as it softens. For bumps, try Bearclaw.
1-3 p.m.: Hit Garrett Gulch for slush bumps. “There are so many ways to ski it,” says Sewell. “If you don’t like one pitch, move over until you find an aspect you like.” For groomers, check out runs on the Big Burn.
3 p.m.-close: A classic last run: a top-to-bottom from the Big Burn staying to skier’s left of Whispering Jesse, then to skier’s right on Banzai, then down to Fanny Hill .

9-11 a.m.: Its lower elevation means the mountain, as a whole, softens earlier in the day. For prime cruising, take Magic Carpet, just off Buckskin, all the way down to the base of Tiehack. Repeat. 
11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Take Lower Larkspur on West Buttermilk, Javelin  on Tiehack, or Savio to Lower Savio on main Buttermilk.
1-3 p.m.: Who says Buttermilk doesn’t have bumps? With the right amount of slush, Friedl’s or skier’s right side of Sterner will make you feel like a hero.
3 p.m.-close: The snow may get a little sticky toward the bottom. Take it easy on Ridge Trail; even when it’s hammered by the sun, the consistent pitch delivers good skiing. Then head over to the shade of Bear and ease on down to the base area.

Aspen Highlands
9-11 a.m.: Introduce yourself to the lifties at the Thunderbowl lift, because you’ll be seeing a lot of them over the next hour as you ski laps on the firm but forgiving snow of Golden Horn and Thunderbowl.
11 a.m.-1 p.m.: If groomed, the east-facing Boomerang skis like velvet. If ungroomed, the run’s bumps are among the first to soften to perfection.
1-3 p.m.: Wrap up skiing Steeplechase by 2:30 p.m. Corn snow’s a good bet on G-8 or Full Curl in Highland Bowl. Deception and Aces and Eights in Olympic Bowl will likely be reaching their daily peak.
3 p.m.-close: No Name to Moment of Truth to Lower Stein  is a classic Highlands last run and perfect in spring conditions, if your legs still have juice.

Aspen Mountain
9-11 a.m.: Start the day with a few laps on Ajax Express, followed by a cruiser down Spar Gulch as it begins to warm up. Cut over to Shadow Mountain lift just in time for Spring Pitch and Strawpile to soften up.
11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Plan a late lunch and hit up spots like the Mine Dumps (Bear Paw through Last Dollar), Walsh’s and Hyrup’s, and the Back of Bell area.
1-3 p.m.: It’s prime time for west-facing shots like the Face of Bell. Work your way across it by combining fall line shots with traverses. Also try Glades 1 through 3.
3 p.m.-close: The Ridge of Bell  holds good snow late in the day. Then finish with a bang via Silver Queen. Says King, “Although lower on the mountain, it’s more north-facing, protected by trees, and doesn’t get too sloppy.”

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