This article has been updated with additional information on pro skiers who volunteered with Skiku, and additional pictures from Montana and New York.
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It’s the last week of April. Skier New Year, May 1, looms next Tuesday. It’s roughly six months till the presumptive first race of the 2018/2019 season, seven till the first World Cup weekend. Whether you’re a pro or an amateur, whether you’re targeting your first World Championships or your first Birkie elite wave, now is the time to start thinking about setting goals and writing training plans.
For a certain subset of athlete, those spring training plans still involve skiing. On snow. In some cases, really good snow, in surprisingly wintry weather.
In honor of the last week of the offseason, please join FasterSkier as we channel our inner Us Weekly and flit through an extremely unscientific social-media roundup of those athletes who are still on snow, arranged in very approximate order of most to least surprising to be skiing at this time of year. (Actually, it’s only the Midwest and Vermont where it seems somewhat surprising to still have skiable snow in late April; no offense is intended to anywhere on the list after that.)
And before we begin, a quick note on methodology: This social media roundup is by definition limited to those athletes who are not only currently out in the snow, but who are also posting about it on social media. This second criterion threatens to bring your average recovery-month athlete into conflict with what has been codified as Rule of Nordic No. 4, “April is a month of rest.”
So, caveat lector: Just because your favorite skier has been taking a well-deserved break from finding and curating Instagram-worthy content for your enjoyment, this doesn’t mean that they’ve been sitting on their butt since Spring Series. They just might not want to tell you what they’ve been up to, and/or they wish to avoid damaging the fragile psyches of their colleagues.
With all that out of the way, on to:
Skiing on New York’s highest peak? Check. David Hochschartner of the North Country School in Lake Placid sent us this photo of backcountry shredding on Mount Marcy, the highest point in the state at 5,343 feet above sea level.
“Monday skiing from bottom to the summit of Mount Marcy in New York,” Hochschartner wrote in an email to FasterSkier on Wednesday. “Over 3500′ vertical … backcountry skiing does not break rule #4 because it isn’t training, it’s just fun!”
It snowed in the Twin Cities last week. Like, a lot. Like, a short-notice classic race was held at Theodore Wirth Park on April 16, on fresh natural snow, in Extra Blue conditions. Coverage appears to have been pretty darn good.
While things seem to be melting fast now, here was the scene at Wirth on Sunday morning, April 22, courtesy of Team Gregg:
And here’s the Birkie trail on April 20, same Instagram feed:
The mid-April Midwest blizzard was notable, to be sure. But was it historic? Yes, says Ari Ofsevit, who now lives in Boston but was formerly the source behind Twin Cities XC Commentary and who remains the one-man operation behind the indispensable BirkieGuide.com.
Here’s Ofsevit with some historical meteorological perspective:
Basically, the current weather in the Twin Cities is pretty unprecedented. The only other similar year was 1975, when there was at least 3″ of snow on the ground in MSP for 11 days in April (this year had 12), but that year it was an old, melting base that mostly fell in late January. This year will set the following records:* Most days with at least 3″ of snow on the ground in April (skiable snow): 12* Most snow in April: 26.1″If the current forecast to hit the 70s this weekend holds, it won’t wind up the coldest April on record, but will likely be in the top three. But it’s a good combination of cold and snow, which hasn’t been seen to this degree before.The average year has the snow depth dipping below 3″ around March 1, so it’s an extra month and a half of winter.
There’s a lot of snow at Prospect Mountain in Woodford, Vermont, too. (“Getting 80″ in a week in March didn’t hurt,” Ofsevit notes.) Here’s a stunning screenshot from the conditions report for Tuesday, April 24 (just offscreen is the current temperature, 69°):
Dartmouth skier Adam Glueck skied 50 k there on Sunday, describing conditions as “50+ F and transformed.”
Effective Tuesday morning, they were still grooming some nordic trails at Crosscut Mountain Sports Center (formerly Bohart Ranch). Pictures of nordic skiing there are hard to come by right now, so here’s a screenshot from Caitlin Patterson’s Instagram page showing backcountry skiing at adjoining Bridger Bowl on April 23 in fresh powder:
And from two days before that, here’s some prime crust skiing at Fawn Pass on Saturday:
Recently retired American skier Kikkan Randall doesn’t seem to be suffering from her move to Penctiton, B.C., judging from Sunday’s shot of crust skiing with former Canadian World Cup racer Perianne Jones:
And 100 kilometers to the north, Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre isn’t lacking for snow, either. Here’s a screenshot from the webcam as of Tuesday morning, showing impeccable coverage:
That’s a base of 256 centimeters, or over eight feet (!) in American, according to a current conditions report. Sovereign Lake is closed to official skiing at present, but reopens from May 10-13 for its Spring Fling Ski Camp.
Mt. Bachelor currently has a base of 85″ at 6,300 feet near the base of the alpine area, which is somehow less than Sovereign Lake but still, you know, more than seven feet of snow. Here’s the nordic grooming report from Tuesday morning:
And here’s a screenshot from local skier Amelia Roberts’s Instagram page, showing conditions on the Mt. Bachelor trails last weekend:
There’s still a lot of snow in Alaska right now. Maybe not at sea-level Anchorage, which is staggering toward spring with a series of high-30s, mid-40s raw and windy days culminating in snow squalls Tuesday evening – Kincaid is down to the dregs of a snowmaking loop by this point, and formal grooming there ended last weekend – but pretty much everywhere else. This reporter found fresh snowfall and blowing spindrift at 2,200′ at the edge of town Monday morning, and most places higher than that are still snow-covered. There is over five feet of snow at Hatcher Pass, and temperatures there remained below freezing even as it rained at sea level on Tuesday. The Mat-Su Ski Club should presumably once more be grooming through mid-May with ease.
Until then, there’s crust skiing. Here, for example, are local Master skier Kati Rehm, local dentist Adam Jensen, and local two-time Olympian Erik Bjornsen on recent crust ski outings around Anchorage:
P.S. Who’s not on snow right now? Plenty of athletes are taking a well-deserved break this month, see Rule 4, supra. Andy Newell (on the beach in Indonesia), Erika Flowers Newell (on the beach in Indonesia, with Andy), Jessie Diggins (on the beach in Boston), Noah Hoffman (enjoying retirement in New York City), Sadie Bjornsen (at Zion National Park), and Kaitlynn Miller (in Milan) are among the American skiers who are doing anything but clipping into their bindings right now. Plus honorable mention, volunteer division, to Tyler Kornfield, Rosie Brennan, Team Gregg, and Scott and Caitlin Patterson, all of whom spent roughly a week earlier this month doing ski education outreach in rural northwest Alaska through Skiku.