There is a certain feeling associated with Spring skiing that is unnoticeably absent during mid-winter’s pelting snow and subzero wind chills.
There is something spurred on by the sun, but it goes way beyond the weather. It has little to do with the snow; in fact the granules make for sub-par slopes.
Spring skiing is more mindset than mint conditions: joy, adrenaline, escape. But don’t be surprised at the speck of guilt scraping at you like a bared rock on your skis. When you walk out onto the lodge deck, a cold beer cooling your sweating hands, a sunburn on the parts of your face that weren’t covered by goggles, and a mountain full of powder being churned into a Slush Puppie, you know you got away with something.
That feeling when you were a kid when you took the cookie but didn’t get caught with your hand in the jar. That feeling you got in high school when you finished cleaning up the empty beer cans before mom and dad returned from vacation. That feeling freshman year in college when the bouncer didn’t turn away your non-laminated New Jersey driver’s license (it was real, I swear).
That’s the feeling of Spring Skiing. I shouldn’t be here. But I am. And I’m not leaving until they make me.
At Maine’s Shawnee Peak they embrace the circumvention of Mother Nature by hosting their annual Spring Fling. The seasonal contradictions are reminiscent of many regional ski resorts post-March 1. There’s a BBQ, plenty of skiers in t-shirts, Corona specials and more than a few radio station promo prize giveaways. It all takes place in the shadow of a mountain just starting to lose its snowy edge (and because of those bared rocks, I lost both of my edges).
But you don’t go Spring Skiing in New England for the packed powder. You go to get away and to get away with something. You go for that moment at the summit when you look out at a green valley and ice-less lakes surrounded by the still-whitecapped Presidential Range. You go for the next moment when your gaze turns downward at your ski tips quivering over an icy black diamond trail pock-marked by puddles and pine needles. And you think to yourself, “cool, obstacles.” It’s that type of non-risky gamble we humans like to make when we seek reinvigoration.
The Shawnee pond-skimmers see it that way. When they’re hurtling down the main trail toward the man-made rectangular slush pool, surrounded by spectators and ski patrol / lifeguards, all they’re thinking is speed, speed, speed. It doesn’t matter how much you think it, if you don’t start of tucking right away, you’re going to need a towel. We saw some valiant attempts. We saw a few successful crossings. And we saw some disasters that were doomed from first push-off. Not Jesus nor Criss Angel could get across that water with a total lack of control, velocity and basic coordination. From a bystander’s perspective, however, the sopping costumes and on-their-way-to-being-rusted-shut ski boots made for an entertaining end to a day of Spring Skiing.
Whether it’s at Shawnee or another slope, you can get away with having a good time this time of year.