Photo: aganarmon

For many of us North American skiers and boarders, the best time of year has finally arrived.

I LOVE RIDING POWDER, but something special happens out there when all the winter vacationers and snow-snobs call it a season. Those of us left lose the long johns, take extra leisurely laps through the park, and crack cold beers between runs under the sun.

But if this year’s first day of spring was any hint of what’s to come, there’ll still be plenty of powder days to go around. Here are my picks for this spring’s best bets across North America:

Best Chances for Spring Powder Day

The first day of spring looked an awful lot like winter here at Mammoth Mountain. I woke up to an epic storm that dropped almost 150 inches of fresh powder on the mountain over the course of the week, bringing the month’s snowfall total to 177.5 inches — the biggest March on record, ever.

At the rate Mammoth is going, it looks like we’ll be skipping summer this year.

Best Money-Saving Deals

Colorado locals know to head to Echo Mountain for spring skiing at bargain prices. Taking advantage of the longer days of spring, Echo Mountain keeps its all-terrain park runs open well into the night and has one of the cheapest spring lift ticket deals I’ve ever seen.

Skip the post-work drinks at the bar and head here after work for $5 Fridays, where you can get a night ticket for less than the cost of a gin and tonic.

With much more varied terrain, Arapahoe Basin is another sure bet for cheap spring skiing and snowboarding into June. A-Basin’s $138 Spring 3 Pass gives you three days for the cost of two, leaving you with a little cash in your pocket to spend on tacos and margaritas at Live Music Fridays.

Best Pond Skim

The only time I can ever afford to visit a resort like Vail is right before they’re about to close. In the final days of the season, Vail drops ticket prices, puts on free concerts, and on April 24 will host the World Pond Skimming Championships.

Photo: Patrick

In true Vail fashion, their 100-foot-long pond skim setup is one of the most intimidating of any North American resort. That’s great news for spectators looking for crashes and splashes. There’s nothing like a snowboarder dressed as a crab getting soaked in front of a crowd of thousands to remind you of why visiting in the spring is totally worth it.

Best Music Festival

Springtime at ski and snowboard resorts typically means outdoor concerts, contests, and plenty of nightlife. Without having to battle the cold, I’m a whole lot more likely to check out the events rather than hole up next to my blankie and space-heater, and from April 15-24, Whistler is hands-down where I want to be.

The 16th annual TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival at Whistler has a full lineup of concerts, including free shows from bands you might actually want to see, and film, photography, animation, and fashion spotlights. Look for me on the 23rd at the free Gogol Bordello show. Trust me — you haven’t lived until you’ve seen them live.

Best Word I Can’t Pronounce

Not normally known for its laid-back atmosphere, Utah’s Canyons Resort loosens up each spring with their Spring Grüv celebration. In addition to ski resort standards like a pond skim and outdoor concerts, the Canyons will be hosting the Red Bull Schlittentag on April 2.

Photo: icarus_shift

Apparently German for “sledding day,” the Schlittentag is your opportunity to build a sled that can withstand a launch off a jump at the bottom of the sledding hill. If you’ve ever wanted to slide downhill in your microwave, here’s your chance.

Best Grueling Challenge

An epic endurance battle, the Breckenridge Imperial Challenge begins with a 6.2-mile bike ride from the Breckenridge Recreation Center to the base of Peak 8. Then, toss on some gloves and grab a PowerBar for a 2,500′ climb up the peak to the top of Imperial Bowl — with ski or snowboard gear, of course. Once you hit the top of Whale’s Tail, drop in and aim for the finish line at the Bergenhof while trying really hard not to pass out from exhaustion.

Despite the challenge’s ominous title, the Imperial Challenge isn’t as competitive as it sounds. Most contestants are just in it for the fun and don’t worry too much about their time. There are even shorter course options for younger participants and team options if you don’t feel like going it alone.

This year’s challenge takes place on April 16. Register online at MavSports.com.

Best Last & First Day of the Season

When you can’t tell where this season ends and next season begins, it’s a very good thing.

With chairs spinning all 12 months of the year, Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood is North America’s only year-round ski resort. Their spring season will extend until the end of May on the lower mountain, then shift up to the Palmer glacier until September, when, after a couple of weeks of maintenance, the resort re-opens for another year.

Located a little over an hour’s drive from Portland and offering a super-cheap $99 spring pass deal, Timberline Lodge is most definitely a spring and summertime safe bet to get your snow fix. More than just slushed out groomers, Timberline also operates a summertime terrain garden and halfpipe so you can work on your park skills all year long. On many summer days, ski camps take up several lanes of the Palmer snowfield, but where else can you end your season by kicking off a new one?

Best Pork-Carving Competition

Three words: SPAM. CARVING. CONTEST.

Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. As part of the Parrot Head Weekend celebration at Sunday River in Maine, contestants are given 15 minutes to create a masterpiece out of two cans of Spam. The only thing I can think of that’s wrong with this situation is that the big Margarita Mix-Off doesn’t start until after the contest ends.

On Saturday, April 2, all your processed pig product dreams will come true. At least mine will.

Community Connection

Will I be seeing you on the slopes this spring? Tell us your favorite spots for spring skiing or riding in the comments below.