Today is the first day of spring, and for Washington skiers and snowboarders this season has more to offer than ever.
Thanks to its new $5.5 million gondola, Crystal Mountain is changing the face of spring skiing in Washington. In fact, it’s even dubbing itself “King of Spring.”
“We want to have the longest ski season in the state,” said resort spokeswoman Tiana Enger.
The new Mount Rainier Gondola will run until Sept. 11 for all manner of visitors to Crystal, Enger said. People will be allowed to ski as long as there is enough snow.
Typically the Washington ski season ends in late April or early May, but Crystal pushed its season to June 16 in 2002 and July 14 in 1999.
Other seasons could have gone longer too, Enger said, if Crystal had the gondola and the multi-use visitors it attracts.
But spring skiing is about much more than just squeezing in your final runs of the season.
It’s about pond skimming, skiing in bikinis, parties and dummy downhills.
Here’s your guide to finding all of this and more this spring:
Spring Fling and Dirtbag Ball: Saturday. This is one of the most action-packed days of the year at Crystal. For a $20 donation to the Pacific Northwest Ski Education Foundation you can be one of the first people to take runs on 2012 skis. The demo day lasts until 3 p.m., giving you plenty of time to get ready for the 8:30 p.m. Dirtbag Ball. The ball ($25 to get in) is a party/fundraiser for the ski patrol. This year’s theme is “Rockers and Rockettes.” Those with the best costumes are named Dirtbag king and queen.
Retro Fools Day:April 2. Stevens Pass started this event last year to inspire people to break out their straight skis and neon pants. Awards are given for those with the oldest gear. The event’s highlight is a slalom race with time deductions given based on the age of your gear. Ridestevenspass. com
Holy Oly Revival: April 9. This used to be a winter event at the Summit at Snoqualmie, but it was moved to spring this year and will return to the recently reopened Summit East. The event is a celebration of Northwest snowboarding and includes snow sculptures, music and tons of snowboarding. Summit atsnoqualmie.com
Schlittentag: April 9. Crystal’s Dummy Downhill has a new twist this year. They’re replacing the dummies with you. In a dummy downhill, competitors make an unmanned contraption to sled down the hill. The contestants are judged on speed, craftsmanship and style. This year Red Bull is sponsoring the Schlittentag (German for sledding day). The event is similar except one of the three team members must pilot – and that term is used loosely – the sled. Prizes include a trip to the Red Bull Soapbox Race in Los Angeles and a skydiving trip with the Red Bull Air Force. The best crash gets a $75 gift card.
White Pass Film Festival: April 9. Starting today, amateur filmmakers have 12 days to submit 2- to 5-minute skiing or snowboarding videos. Prizes for the best flicks will be presented at the film festival. Skiwhitepass.com
The Bash: April 10. Ski Bluewood near Walla Walla ends its season with a massive party that includes a big air competition, live music, a beer garden and a Dummy Downhill.
“We even had sumo wrestling,” said general manager Travis Stephenson. “The bash is always good.”
Bikini and Board Shorts Downhill: April 16. If you like to stay covered up on the slopes, this event is not for you. All women must wear either a bikini or one-piece swim suit. Skirts and shorts are allowed only if they have an inseam of four inches or less. Guys must wear Speedos or board shorts. The entry fee is $5 and skiing in underwear is not allowed.
Easter Keg Hunt: April 24. On April 19, Mount Bachelor will start posting clues on its Facebook page regarding the whereabouts of a hidden keg. Don’t worry if you have kids, there will be a more traditional Easter egg hunt near the base area. Mtbachelor.com
BEST POND SKIMMING
What’s pond skimming? Skiers and snowboarders zip down a slope and then attempt a mid-run transition from winter (alpine skiing) to summer (water skiing). The goal is to skim all the way across the pond, but most participants end up crashing and getting soaked. Which, of course, is the fun part. Here are some places to give it a try – or just watch – this spring:
Bluewood: The April 10 Bash includes the first pond skim of the season.
Stevens Pass: Springfest on April 17 is highlighted by a pond skimming competition.
Mount Hood: Held April 30, Mount Hood Meadows’s Sno Kona is one of the biggest pond skims of the season.
Mt. Bachelor: On May 29, the final day of the ski season in Bend, the ski area hosts what it calls the North American Pond Skimming Championships.
Free Ski Week: The best skiing deal in Washington requires a road trip to Chewelah. April 4-10 Toyota sponsors a week of free skiing at 49 Degrees North, the state’s second-largest ski area. Check ski49n.com for lodging options.
Early Pass deal: Prices have not been set yet for 2011-12 season passes at White Pass, but this has traditionally been a sweet deal. The passes typically go on sale in April and are good for the rest of this season too. “A lot of people get their money’s worth before the end of the season,” said resort spokeswoman Kathleen Goyette.
Military discounts: It costs $65 for an adult lift ticket at Crystal Mountain, but on April 3 all military employees and their families get 50 percent discounts. Many ski areas, including Crystal and the Summit, also offer daily military discounts.
BEST PLACES TO EXTEND SPRING
Crystal Mountain: A great snow year coupled with the ski area’s new gondola could give Washington its longest lift-serviced ski season since 2002. The ski area is even considering moving terrain park features to Green Valley in May. skicrystal.com
Paradise: You have to work for your turns on Mount Rainier and you better have good navigation and backcountry skills, but if you know what you are doing you can ski all year on the Muir Snowfield. nps.gov/mora
Whistler Blackcomb: The glacier on Blackcomb Mountain stays open for skiing into August. But if you go in the summer, don’t forget your mountain bike. Whistler is the jewel of the Northwest mountain bike scene. Whistlerblackcomb.com
Mount Hood: There is only one place in the United States where the chairlift runs all year – The Palmer Snowfield on Mount Hood, high above Timberline Lodge. Timberlinelodge.com
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 Craig.firstname.lastname@example.org