Why We Love Spring Skiing In California (And Our Top Tips)

The only thing better than a trip full of friends and great food? One where we get to be active too!

Our philosophy is that it's a huge bonus if the whole trip is active because that means more snacks and sips at the end of the day. Are you with us? 

And while we get after it all — from surfing to hiking to horseback riding — we're major fans of skiing. Perhaps it's because our cofounder, Aida, calls Mammoth Lakes home and she clocks in north of 50 ski days a season. But it's more likely because being outdoors on sunny winter days and getting after it is pure exhilaration. 

And, seeing as we're based in the Golden State, we love skiing here in California, especially in the spring. California-based resort Palisades Tahoe is the unofficial Spring skiing capital after all!

Here is why we love getting after warm weather skiing and our top tips for spring skiing in California:

We Have A Deep Snowpack

Sure, California isn't as known for powder as Utah or Colorado, but what we have is "Sierra cement." While that might not sound great, it is actually very much so. The Sierra Nevada mountains' proximity to the Pacific Ocean means that the snow that falls here has increased moisture content and that makes for a deep snowpack. 

Which Means We Can Have Long Seasons

Translation? Our seasons are longer than most, especially if you travel to a higher elevation resort.

While the majority of ski resorts have closing dates in April or early May, quite a few of the California ski areas continue to stay open. On most years, high elevation resorts like Kirkwood, Heavenly, Palisades Tahoe, and Mammoth Mountain are able to stay open well into May, or, on a year with a big snowfall, they may even have a closing date around July 4th!

You Can Ski The Celebrated "Corn Snow"

The other great thing about the warm spring weather is that it aids in the creation of much sought-after "corn snow." It's named such because, after a combination of warm days and below-freezing nights, bits of snow form on the surface and they resemble corn kernels. It's a type of snow that's really fun to ski and a major perk of late-season skiing.

The Weather Is More Manageable

With temps anywhere from the mid-30s to 50s, spring skiing means can focus on getting to the next chair lift instead of restocking on heating packets. The Spring does mean fewer storms so won't have a lot of fresh snow, but you're more likely to get blue skies. And those bluebird days mean you can see Lake Tahoe, Mono Lake, or even Nevada depending on where you're skiing!

There's (Almost) No Bulky Clothing

Those warmer days mean the weather can be pleasant enough you could ski in your yoga clothes. Heck, some people are even out there in bikini tops and jean shirts! No matter how you slice it, having fewer layers makes the sport feel less burdensome. 

It's Like Two Seasons At Once

Our favorite thing about spring skiing means that you get the best of the cold months (i.e. snow on the mountain) and the warmer months (little snow at the base area). So you can get great skiing at the higher elevations but dine in the sunshine at the lower elevations.

Which Means Two Sports In One Day

That temperate weather also means you can pull a double sports day. Make like a local and ski in the morning then mountain bike hit up a yoga sesh, try out some rock climbing, or even stand up paddle boarding in the afternoon.

The Ski Instructors Have The Intel

One downfall of spring skiing is that the terrain conditions differ vastly from day to day and even from morning to afternoon. All the more reason to splurge on a guide or instructor to help you find the best conditions. 

You may be an intermediate skier who thinks that lessons are just for beginner skiers but we couldn't disagree more. There are a variety of clinics and semi-private or private lessons available, which means you'll not only improve your skill but also have someone who knows the mountain best showing you exactly what you should ski that day. 

Dip Into The Hot Tub (Or Even Ski) In Your Bikini

Aside from the terrain, one of the legendary things at Palisades Tahoe is the High Camp Hot Tub. Since I was little, I remember skiing the mountain and passing partiers tucked into the hot tub at all hours and during all weather. But in the spring, you can hot-tub it in your bathing suit and actually get a tan!

You Can Apres Ski While The Sun Is Out

Ending the day with a hot tub sesh is a major plus but the day is not officially over until you have done a little apres ski. Each resort has its own apres ski vibes (some more chichi others more country) and the vibes at the resorts that are open the longest -– Mammoth Mountain and Palisades Tahoe -– are chill with lots of beer and good vibes.

You Can Get Reservations At The Best Restaurants

One of our favorite places to eat up in Lake Tahoe is the Plumpjack Cafe where there's an award-winning wine list, creative cocktails, and farm-to-table fare, with the perfect mix of high-end hospitality and laidback ski town vibes.

Or, if you're skiing at Mammoth Mountain, you'll have a better chance of getting into Mammoth Lake's local fine dining restaurants like Skadi or Lakefront as the season starts to come to an end.

You Can Use Your Future Season Pass Now

If you're going to ski more than a handful of days, we say skip the lift tickets and instead investigate a season pass as they tend to be a better value. Be it the independent resorts like Sierra-at-TahoeSugar Bowl/Royal Gorge, and Mount Rose, or the multi-resort passes like the Epic Pass and the Ikon Pass, they often put passes for sale in the spring for the next season. And, some even allow you to use next season's pass for the end of the current season, furthering its value!

Tips For Spring Skiing

Finally, let's get into some practical tips for spring skiing so you can make the most of it:

  • Ski With The Sun: You may be tempted to go out first thing in the morning, but, unless it's sunny, it can be super icy. Instead, pay attention to when the sun hits the slopes and ski them then.
  • Temperature Is Key: The spring tends to bring large daytime temperature swings and that means there can be a lot of variation in a run from hour to hour. Keep tabs on it and plan to generally ski from mid-morning to early afternoon, so you can avoid morning ice or afternoon slush.
  • Go To The Steeps: Generally, the higher elevation you go, the better the snow is going to be. So, if you have the skills, stay away from the base area and go to the steeps.
  • Stay On The Groomers: Also, generally, the groomed runs will be more consistent and enjoyable because, well, they've been tended to more. Depending on conditions, skiing off-piste can be fun but it can also be more variable snow and just a lot more work without a lot more payoff. 
  • Watch Out For Rocks: Since the season is on its tail end, there is likely less snow overall and the conditions are "low tide" meaning there is a higher chance of things like rocks, trees, or dirt patches being revealed. Ski with awareness so you don't get literally tripped up by those obstacles.
  • Keep Your Skis Waxed! Finally, know that melting snow causes friction so it will slow you down unless your skis are freshly waxed!

Have Us Plan Your California Trip

Looking to travel to the Golden State? Our travel planning services are here to help you achieve the ideal vacation. After discussing your preferences during a short consultation, we'll plan your perfect itinerary. Contact us today to learn more.


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Sponsored Post: Our trip was sponsored by Palisades Tahoe but all content, ideas, and words are my own. Thanks for supporting these sponsors who allow us to keep Salt & Wind up and running.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Palisades Tahoe

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