Usually thought of as a winter sport, skiing is probably even better in the spring. More than likely, the sun is out, the roads are clear and there's no need to wear all those sweaters and parkas.
Take Mammoth Mountain right now, for example. It hasn't snowed for several weeks, but there's still a 48- to 60-inch base on the slopes, and the weather isn't so hot that a meltdown has started yet.
Even without any additional storms, Mammoth plans to remain open at least through the Memorial Day holiday, May 28.
The trick in spring skiing, of course, is to beat the sun around the mountain, staying just ahead of it, so that the snow is neither icy nor slushy. This in-between state, called \o7 corn snow,\f7 is the ideal--but not always attainable. So, spring conditions generally wind up being described as \o7 hard turning soft.\f7
Some days, the best strategy is to ski straight through until about 1:30, eat a late lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon basking on the lodge sun deck.
June Mountain, 30 minutes north of Mammoth, will close at 4:30 p.m. on Easter Sunday, April 15, as will most of the other ski areas in the West. But several other major resorts will keep operating until either snow or skiers run out, whichever occurs first.
Alpine Meadows, at the north end of Lake Tahoe, traditionally also shoots for Memorial Day, and, with 44 to 91 inches of snow at present, has a good chance of making it this year. Neighboring Squaw Valley hopes to go well into May, and both Heavenly Valley and Kirkwood, to the south of Tahoe, will probably continue running at least some of their lifts for an indefinite period past Easter.
In Oregon, Mt. Bachelor is reporting 92 inches at the bottom and has tentatively set July 4 as its closing date. Then, if anyone still wants to go skiing, Whistler/Blackcomb, just north of Vancouver, Canada, has this glacier, see. . . .
A total of $318,000 in prize money is up for grabs this weekend at Aspen, Colo., where the U.S. Pro Tour winds up more than four months of competition.
Phil Mahre of Yakima, Wash., is third in the overall standings and has only a longshot chance of overtaking Roland Pfeifer of Austria, who is on top with 508 1/2 points. Another Austrian, Bernhard Knauss, is second with 492 1/2, and Mahre has 460. Defending champion Jorgen Sundqvist of Sweden is fourth with 444.
These races--a giant slalom Saturday and a slalom Sunday--also make up the third and last leg of the Million Dollar Plymouth Super Series, in which Mahre shares the lead with Austrian Christian Orlainsky, at 135 points. Pfeifer and Knauss are tied for third with 127 1/2 each.
Snow Summit, at Big Bear Lake, will play host to its annual Springfest all next week. . . . Brian Head, Utah, will celebrate its 25th anniversary during its Spring Carnival Friday through April 15. . . . The national finals in the Ski Classic corporate series will be held this weekend at Aspen, Colo. . . . Jimmie Heuga's Mazda Ski Express, benefiting the Jimmie Heuga Center for the physically challenged, winds up this weekend at Vail, Colo.
The Grand Marnier Chefs' Ski Race, with 40 finalists from around the country competing, is set for Saturday at Snowmass, Colo. . . . It's Surf the Rockies Week through Sunday at Telluride, Colo. . . . Beach Cities Ski Club of Manhattan Beach is representing the Far West in the five-day Jeep National Ski Club Challenge Championships, which got under way Wednesday at Keystone, Colo.
ESPN will show taped highlights of the recent Subaru U.S. Freestyle Championships Sunday at 9 a.m., and portions of Saturday's U.S. Pro Tour race at Aspen Sunday at 2 p.m. . . . Channel 7 will repeat its telecast of the World Cup Alpine finals from Are, Sweden, Sunday at 1 p.m.