If you still want to keep skiing after the the lifts close at your favorite ski area, think about heading off to Europe for a couple of late April weeks.
Besides getting some very good lodging deals, here are ten reasons why you can find the Alps to be an excellent and affordable destination for a family ski vacation.
Many North Americans have an impression that skiing Europe is all about huge, steep, and dangerous descents. Nothing is further from the truth. Don't think Europeans were born with skis on everybody has to learn and there are some of the best ski schools in the world in the Alps. Virtually every resort has miles of beginner and intermediate terrain.
You'll be skiing the world's largest ski areas. There are destinations in France that include, under one lift ticket, more miles than you could ski in ten vacations. For example, The 3 Valleys comprises the resorts of Courchevel, La Tania, Maribel, Brides-Les-Bains, Les Menuires - Saint Martin de Belleville, Val Thorens and Orelle. These resorts are linked together by 180 ski lifts, with almost 400 miles of interconnected slopes and tens of thousands of acres of off-piste terrain.
Before you start planning your ski trip to the Alps, review these skiing Europe travel tips to make sure you have covered all the basics and are prepared for your ski vacation in advance.
Photo Copyright Mike Doyle
This week, let's take a look at the top ten finishers in each of the men's freestyle disciplines. Of course we'll start with the Slopestyle event where it was an all USA podium. One thing to keep in mind about the Olympic slopestyle is that there are rumblings that the Sochi slopestyle course, and indeed the slopestyle competition itself, is too dangerous to be an Olympic sport and should be banned.
So says Dr. Lars Engebretsen - a Norwegian orthopedic surgeon and researcher, who is presently the head of scientific activities for the International Olympic Committee. The New York Times quotes Engebretsen, speaking to the Associated Press about slopestyle, as saying "right now the injury rate as it was in Sochi was too high to be a sport that we have in the Olympics" and that the discipline "should change -- otherwise we shouldn't have it."
Although Dr. Engebretsen, carries a big stick here, the discipline is what it is and fans, athletes and national Olympic Committee should stay vigilant and be prepared to fight to keep slopestyle in the Olympics. I've read that there shouldn't be any immediate, overt attempt to ban slopestyle competition - but the powers that be will be watching how World Cup competition goes in the seasons leading up to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
On a more positive note take a look at the top ten men in all the Sochi Olympics Freestyle events and with a link to the complete official results and remember all Olympians are heroes:
- Top 10 Men Sochi Slopestyle
- Top 10 Men's Sochi Moguls
- Top 10 Men's Sochi Aerials
- Top 10 Men's Sochi Halfpipe
- Top 10 Men's Sochi Ski Cross
All USA Sochi Slopestyle podium Copyright Quinn Rooney/Getty Images Sport
I talked about the semantic difference between what we generally call 'backcountry' and what we call 'sidecountry' and the most important thing to remember is that when you exit the resort through an open gate you are in effect in unpatrolled terrain not subject to avalanche control work.
Now the dilemma arises, especially in the west. There have been several strong spring storm cycles and there is plenty of good looking, tempting snow - but most of the ski areas have ceased operation.
Of course, hiking and skinning up is going to happen so, cut to the chase - no more semantics - it's all backcountry. Skiing on steep terrain in the boundaries of a closed ski area that is not performing avalanche mitigation work can be as dangerous as backcountry.
In fact, after a major spring snowstorm with high water content, the terrain that has been subject to avalanche control work in the past may be more apt to slide under the effect of a human trigger because it's now set on a relative persistent slab of snow that had been subject to sun and refreeze.
So, the bottom line after the resorts cease operations is to treat all terrain in and around a closed ski area as 'backcountry.' Check your local Avalanche Advisories, be aware of and stay clear of terrain traps, don't ski it alone and tell someone where you are going.
If you are thinking of skinning and skiing a closed ski are don't just listen to my warning. Heed this, from the Utah Avalanche Center, "Remember, most of the ski resorts are closed for the season with no avalanche control, so treat it just like backcountry terrain."
Be avalanche smart and avalanche safe, and erase that sense of imagined 'sidecountry' safety that still prompts people to exit resort gates and ski closed resorts without the minimum avalanche first responder gear - avalanche beacon, probe, shovel - and a partner.
Photo Copyright Mike Doyle
If you are looking for a nice spring or summer project that gives you the chance to play with skis for a little bit more then check out the slotted ski rack I made. It's very similar to the racks you most often see in the rental areas - the kind where you just slide the skis in and they hang by the ski shovels.
After a few different approaches, and a tweak here and there, I finally came up with a very affordable wooden ski rack that can be made to hold just about as many pair of skis as you can come up with. So get your ruler, a drill, a saw, follow these simple directions, and in a few hours you'll be so proud of yourself you'll want to buy a new pair of skis (hint - this is really a great excuse to fill the new ski rack!)
Ski Rack Image © Mike Doyle
I know some of us are still getting in some late season turns, but with more grass showing and the trees starting to bud and some even thinking about the snow shedding game of golf - sooner or later all of us will be putting up our skis until - hopefully - early next fall.
I've had quite a few inquiries asking how to ensure that those expensive skis will be in the same top shape six or seven months from now. So, even though we still have spring skiing available let's talk about the inevitable.
I asked Lee Quaglia, owner of Aspen East Ski Shop in Killington, VT how and where to store our skis. I know it's easy to put them out of sight for the summer, but they're never really out of mind. However, follow Lees's advice and you'll have peace of mind that your skis will be ready and raring to go come next season's first snow. Here's how to store your skis.
P.S. As I've always said - it's ok to kiss them good night.
Late spring skiing at Mammoth Mountain, CA Copyright Mike Doyle
To lock in the Vail Resorts Epic Pass early bird price of $729 (the early bird price of the adult Epic Pass and $379 for children ages 5-12) you need to put down $49 today - April 13th. You may have heard that in some previous years the early bird pricing deadline was extended - but I'm not aware of any extensions for the 2014-15 Epic Pass.
The remaining amount will be due in mid-September 2014 but purchasing the Epic Pass now also gets you six Buddy Tickets this spring and scenic chair lift access to its Colorado, Utah and Lake Tahoe resorts during the summer months.
To put the Epic Pass in a global perspective - for the aforementioned $729, you can ski five free consecutive ski days at Niseko United in Japan, five consecutive days in Europe at Verbier and Les 3 Vallees, and in between you have unlimited access to 28,830 skiable acres, 27,136 vertical feet, 34 terrain parks and 40 skiing bowls here in the USA.
The pass provides unlimited and unrestricted skiing and riding at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Canyons in Park City, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan for the 2014-15 winter season.
Note that Vail Resorts also offers multiple pass options for the 2014-15 season including:
- Epic 4-Day - at $369 for adults and $209 for children (ages 5-12) is optimal if you are planning just one ski vacation during the 2014-15 winter season. Ski any four days at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Canyons, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton and Arapahoe Basin.
- Epic 7-Day - is ideal for guests planning to ski seven days throughout the winter season. $549 for adults and $279 for children (ages 5-12).Ski or ride a total of seven unrestricted days at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Canyons in Park City, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Tahoe, Mt. Brighton and Afton Alps.
- Epic Local Pass
- Tahoe Local Pass
- Summit Value Pass
- Tahoe Value Pass
Related Article: How big is France's Les 3 Vallees?
Les Allues one of The 3 Valleys Copyright Mike Doyle
Now that all the welcome home celebrations for the U.S. Freestyle Olympic Champions have pretty much settled down it's a good time to take a closer look at the top ten finishers in each of the events.
Every Olympic athlete, whether he or she won or not, is and always will be an Olympian and should be celebrated for their efforts. To that end, this week we'll take a look at the top ten finishers in the Sochi women's Freestyle events.
I've also included a link to the complete order of finish for each competition so you can see all the athletes who gave their best efforts and deserve a solid round of applause for all their years of training and sacrifice.
- Top 10 Women's Sochi Moguls
- Top 10 Women's Sochi Aerials
- Top 10 Women's Sochi Halfpipe
- Top 10 Women's Sochi Slopestyle
- Top 10 Women's Sochi Ski Cross
Maddie Bowman USA Halfpipe Gold Medal Winner Copyright Joe Scarnici/Getty Images Sport
If you have ski equipment that you're not going to be using next season and you'd like to donate it to a good cause, as long as your skis and boots are still in good condition, you can spread the skiing love and donate them.
In addition to gear, some organizations will take gently used ski clothing. So, it's a good time to clean out your closet and see what you can hand-me-down.
If your gear isn't in great shape, another option is to recycle it. Here's how to donate your old ski equipment including options for donating to charitable organizations, giving it away and recycling it.
Read More: How to Sell Your Skis
Image Copyright Getty Images Digital Vision
At the Winter Outdoor Retailer Show I came across the Zensah booth with a line of compression socks of various colors, there were White, Neon Pink, Green, Orange and Yellow, plus Electric Blue and Hot Pink.
Zensah is based in Florida and my first thought was these compression socks are so far removed from snow that they have to be for summer and warm weather sports. Then it came to me in a flash - Why not put some pazazz in ski boots?
I like the benefits of skiing in compression wear, but all my socks and tights are black. I just assumed compression socks for skiing were always, and only, black.
Next step was checking out the colorful Zensah socks out for their compression and skiability - which turned out to be excellent - even in Neon Pink. Can't you see yourself skiing in shorts and Neon Pink compression socks?
Zensah also makes compression tights, that are engineered with specific, articulated areas that make for easy movement while skiing but still holds the needed compression. The tights come in both in full length and a 3/4 length capris which works great if you use a custom liner.
By the way, Zensah also makes a black compression sock but, thank you I'm into the colors. Now we just have to wait for Zensah to color the tights!
Spring Skiing Copyright getty Images
There are some great spring skiing conditions setting up all around the country. I've heard from a number of readers who love skiing in the spring but find they get too tired too quickly.
This is the time of year to layer off, put a little sun screen on, and ski the afternoon sun. But, it seems pushing all that mashed potato snow around can get some quads screaming while the sun is still high in the sky.
R. Mark Elling, author of The All-Mountain Skier: The Way to Expert Skiing has given us some tips on how to more efficiently ski the corn and slushy wet stuff we find in the spring. Mark is certified as a Level III Alpine Ski Instructor and is head boot fitter at Mount Bachelor Ski and Sport and owner of Mercury Mobile Performance, a custom footbed and bootfitting service.
Read and follow Mark's advice and you'll be spending more time skiing on the snow than sunning on the deck.
Image - Mark Elling at Mt. Bachelor © Kirk DeVoll