Travel Agent

Let the Sun Shine: Snowbird's Little Cloud Bowl     Photo: Chris Goodyear

Q:

Where's the best place to ski this spring—as in, right now?

It seems like every time I've looked at the weather this year, ski areas out West are getting hmered with more snow—even in April. Can you tell me the best places for spring skiing? Pete Salisbury, Maryland

A:"Hammered" doesn't begin to describe what's been happening at ski areas this spring, a time when Jack Frost normally passes out and goes to bed. While folks back East are shoehorning themselves into biking gear and cruising around in 80-degree weather with the top down, places like California's Mammoth Mountain have received a whopping eight feet and four inches of snow—in the first two weeks of April alone. Though you might be over winter, don't hang up your skis just yet. You'll miss the best part of the ski season after champagne powder: spring corn on the knob.

Since most folks around the country start looking to warm-weather sports about this time, ski areas start doing their special-package, late-season mating dance designed to keep you in the skiing mood. Translation: Deals abound. So what's better than linking soft, buttery turns at some of the nation's best ski resorts? Linking soft, buttery turns in the sunshine at a massive discount.

Consider this: For $82 a head with a two-person minimum, you can stay for two nights in the Mammoth Mountain Inn (800.626.6684; www.mammothmountain.com) at the Main Lodge area, including two lift passes. Normally you'd drop $73 on a lift ticket for one day alone. (Tickets drop to $53 after April 24). And let's be very clear: The "Spring Fest" discount is not because the mountain has no snow. On the contrary, the 3,500-skiable-acre resort had so much snow on the ground as of mid-April—roughly 20 feet—that the steps leading to the third-story outdoor deck are completely buried. In fact, 658 inches of snow have fallen on the resort's 150 trails this season, the most ever, and well above the annual average of 400 inches. Though the whole mountain most likely won't be open, you'll still be able to ski top to bottom until July 4.

If you think Mammoth has a lot of snow, travel north to Squaw Valley (800.403.0206; www.squawvacations.com), where patrollers there are reporting, um, a 285-inch base, almost 24 feet. Folks there will be skiing until at least May 29, and to get you to visit, the resort is offering a "Spring Deluxe" package at the Squaw Valley Lodge, a ski-in, ski-out loft with three beds and two baths. Starting at $278 per person after taxes with a four-person group, the package includes four nights of accommodations, lift tickets for four days, and access to the High Camp Spa. Normally you'd pay $113 for two consecutive days of skiing, not including digs.

Then there's Utah. We all know about the 700 inches of snow they received last season. This year might not have been quite as epic: you'll have to settle for simply "above average," as in 566 inches of snowfall so far. That means Snowbird (800.232.9542; www.snowbird.com), a resort in the Wasatch Mountains, has an impressive 147-inch base as of mid-April (with a heavy snow warning still in effect). That's plenty to keep you ripping lines off the tram and Cloudlift, Gadzoom, and Mineral Basin Express lifts. The area remains open daily through May 14, then on weekends until May 29. Book a three-night stay at the Inn at Snowbird near the tram and you'll also get three days of skiing for $95 total, based on double occupancy. Normally you'd be looking at $156 for three days of skiing alone.

And lastly, looking out my window right now (April 17), it's puking and I'm within eyesight of 9,065-foot Mount Bachelor, Oregon (541.382.2442; www.mtbachelor.com). That's on top of the 14 inches of snow in the last 48 hours up there, where you'll find a base of 192 inches and a lift-accessed season that will last most likely until May 29. (I hope to be hiking for turns through August.) Spring is arguably the best time to ski the Cascade volcanoes; wind-blasted summits turn to sunny corn runs when the weather warms up. A single lift pass at Bachelor typically costs $49 but now you can get five days for $99 with the Spring Five-Day Pass. The ski patrol will gradually shrink the 3,683 acres of terrain down to top-to-bottom runs from the summit to the Pine Marten Lift, a lactic burn for 3,365 feet. There's no lodging up at the mountain, but book a condo in Bend, about 30 minutes east, at Mount Bachelor Village (800.547.5204; www.mtbachelorvillage.com), and you can take advantage of other deals like free transportation to the mountain and rates that range from $139 to $209 a night—stay three nights, and get the fourth for free. That's as close as you're ever gonna get to an endless winter, at least until you fly down to South America to tackle Chile and Argentina's pistes.

For complete info on over 100 ski resorts in the U.S., Canada, and beyond, check out The Away Network's definitive Ski Resort Guide.

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