Don’t be one of those skiers or snowboarders who decide to store their gear in the garage by the time the first tiny flower begins to bloom in early March. Indeed, there’s a rather cruel irony to spring skiing. Days are longer. Snow is softer. Vacation packages are cheaper. And you’ll come back to the city with a killer tan. Tucked into the southeastern corner of British Columbia and just a short shuttle from the city of Cranbrook and its Airport of the Canadian Rockies, Fernie Alpine Resort and Kimberley Alpine Resort really know how to celebrate spring.
- Spring skiing starts with sunshine, and plenty of it. After three months of heavy snowfall and endless face shots, most skiers and riders are happy to see ol’ sol. How much sunshine is there? Well, Cranbrook, BC (home to the Airport of the Canadian Rockies), boasts over 2300 hours of sunshine annually. Morning temperatures start a few degrees Celsius below freezing, but warm up by mid-day to very comfortable It’s not exactly spring in Vancouver, but the sunshine is abundant and is strong enough to make the need for sunscreen on exposed patches of skin mandatory. On another note, keep the bikinis and surf shorts for the hot tub, you really don’t want a bad case of road rash if you fall on corn snow!
- There’s plenty of snow. It goes without saying that by the time the vernal equinox rolls around, that base measurements on the mountain exceed two metres or more. That means you won’t ding any rocks or stumps and can ski with confidence on all aspects. At this time of the year, it’s prudent to “follow the sun” around the mountain; starting with slopes that Both Kimberley and Fernie have many runs that face in different directions – east and south facing runs “warm up” the quickest, west and north facing runs receive sun later in the day. It’s worth noting that even on the warmest spring days, north facing slopes can hold grippy, even powdery snow because they’re in the shadows all day long. And of course, the higher you go on the mountain, the colder temperatures will get.
- Not only is the sun more powerful, by the time March rolls around the days are getting longer, too. Early birds will want to rise near dawn and get the heart beating with an invigorating morning run. And make sure you go for a walk around downtown Kimberley or Fernie after the lifts shut down. Enjoy the fiery rays of golden light that mountain folk call alpenglow.
- Combine sunshine and a deep base and you get… corn snow. Corn snow is so named because its granular structure resembles kernels of corn that have been cut from the cob. The kernels form on a melt/freeze cycle. As the sun comes out and intensifies during the day, hard, icy snow starts to melt and morphs into a slushy texture (think of a snow cone that you eat at a fair or farmer’s market). Forming in a layer up to several centimetres thick, these pellet-like grains are easy to set an edge in and a delight to ski. Fearsome mogul runs become easily tamed piles of mush. Bulletproof groomed slopes develop a layer of granular goodness that makes it fell like your Marty McFly and his hoverboard – literally, you’re cruising effortlessly on a thin carpet of frictionless, ball bearing snow. Corn snow is often called “hero snow” because it’s so easy to work with – push out your skis and “rail” those hard carving turns. Or widen your stance, flatten your ski and butter some spins in the terrain park – it’s all good. To get the most out of your skiing day, sign up for a lesson or two and explore chutes, alpine bowls, soft bumps, and carpeted cruisers. Lessons are worth taking at any time of year, but since you’ve probably already got your ‘ski legs’, you can take more chances and have more fun!
- Blue skies and puffy clouds are great for snapping photos with your iPhone camera or recording videos on GoPro. At high mountain elevations, the blue end of the spectrum becomes especially vivid, which is why spring skiing is synonymous with “bluebird days.” Of course, you’ll want to Snapchat or Instagram your day on the slopes, but here’s a high contrast tip: try shooting when the sun’s a bit lower in the sky, before ten in the morning and after two in the afternoon to reduce harsh glare and black skier/ white background contrast. You might even wait until the sun ducks behind a cloud for an instant to make the colours and skin tones pop a bit.
- Virtually all school districts throughout British Columbia now receive a two week Spring Break during the month of March. , Spring Break sees both Kimberley and Fernie with virtually all terrain 100 percent open and with short, manageable lift lines.
So, extend your ski season this spring at Fernie Alpine Resort and Kimberley Alpine Resort… and get a great goggle tan!
Words by Steven Threndyle.
Photos by Raven Eye Photography & The Real Mckenzie Photography