There’s something special about the last few weeks of the ski season. Closing day is on the horizon but it doesn’t feel inevitable yet. We’re finally fit enough to make the most of a day on the hill without complaining of soreness for the rest of the week. Snowpacks are deep, the backcountry is generally more stable, and the days are longer. The weather is unpredictable, it might dump a foot overnight and go bluebird tomorrow. Or maybe it’ll just be one perfect corn and slush day after another. Either way, this next month or so is unique.
Some years I’ve set goals for my skiing, things I want to accomplish before the season ends and I turn to other pursuits. This is crunch time for those goals. Time to land that 720, or ski that big line, or max out that vert day. The last few weeks before the chairs stop turning set a perfect stage. Just enough pressure to preform that you can’t put it off, and a great combination of conditions, fitness, and weather.
That was initially the most obvious impact of the first spring of COVID. It shut us down just as things were getting good. We had so much left to do, so many goals left unrealized as we did our best to stay out of harm’s way and away from each other. When local resorts stayed open the full season it left me relieved and grateful, making the most of every day on the hill, soaking in the luxury of a complete spring season.
Beartooth Basin photos because that place always carries the magic and panic of the last few weeks of the ski season
This season I didn’t have any real goals, and as it winds down I’m realizing I wish I’d made a few. No real terrain park this year thanks to staffing woes, so no new spins or tricks. A few too-close-to-home avalanche incidents have me spooked off of big lines. So for once I don’t have anything pushing me up against that deadline of closing day. That feels odd, leaves me a little empty with nothing to strive for.
After the resort shuts down I’ll go ski a volcano or two, make the pilgrimage back to Oregon where so much of this all started for me. I’ve probably got a few more spins in me this year, maybe I’ll get my grabs a little cleaner. Maybe we’ll ski another big day or two, but I doubt it.
Maybe your home hill is already closed. Maybe you’ll be able to ski deep into the summer, milking turns on some glacier. Maybe your season is just getting ready to kick off, a southern hemisphere winter that ends with slushy turns in September. The actual dates don’t really matter, just the feeling. It’s the moment when you can see the end of your ski year coming, but don’t really feel it yet. It’s the magical intersection of finality and possibility. Just a few short weeks where your ski goals and your fitness and the conditions align as well as they ever will. So what do you have left to do this year? What are you going to attempt, to learn, to accomplish?
The snow is melting fast, but for now we’ve got strong legs, a deep base, soft turns. What will you make of them?