CONCORD, N.H. — Ahhh, spring!
Steve Moulton's got his skis packed for several spring outings in Vermont — along with his suntan lotion and sunglasses.
Moulton, 53, of Windsor, Mass., loves skiing this time of the year. "The only people left on the slopes are fun-loving, genuine folks who love skiing for what it is — fun," he said. "Nobody's out to impress with their expensive attire, there are no lodge skiers, these are the real ski people ... and when you need a break, you can just hang out on the patio listening to tunes or if lucky, some live music or sit on the side of the mountain enjoying the day."
New England ski resorts are rounding out a season full of generous amounts of snow and good attendance. They're hoping for a strong finish before people start digging out their golf clubs, boats and tennis rackets.
"This has been an outstanding winter for snowfall and the ski areas really couldn't have asked for much more," said Karl Stone, marketing director for Ski NH, a statewide association representing alpine and cross-country resorts and lodging properties. Stone estimates that total spending on skiing and related activities by the end of the season will reach over $800 million, a bit higher than in the past few years.
Curt Hazeldine, 50, of Foxborough, Mass., who enjoys skiing and snowboarding, said the snow can get a little "mashed-potatoey" and the weather a bit fickle in the spring, but it's still a great time to be outdoors.
"Bad conditions/weather on the slopes beats any day at home or at work," he said.
In addition to skiing, the spring brings a variety of events at mountain resorts: pond skimming, snow golfing, cardboard box races, motor bike racing, as well as beach and reggae parties and concerts. A lot of the resorts are offering promotions for reduced passes, daily lift tickets, food and drinks. Some inns are offering spring ski getaway packages with discounted resort vouchers, such as the Mulburn Inn in Bethlehem, N.H.
The theme at this year's pond-skimming event on March 26 at the Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont is superheroes and comic book characters, spokesman Josh Arneson said.
"We had a lot of hippies for the '60s, a lot of disco-groovin'-type folks for the '70s theme," he said of past themed pond-skimmings, in which intrepid skiers and snowboarders try to cross a cold, slushy man-made pond without getting wet. "We get over 100 competitors."
SkiVermont President Parker Riehle anticipates Vermont will reach the 4 million mark in skier visits this year as the state has benefited from the third-snowiest winter on record. Estimates for this season were not available yet; last year, the season resulted in more than $750 million in direct spending.
A new event called the FestEVOL is combining a concert series featuring the band O.A.R. with an "eco village," exhibits by environmental nonprofit groups and businesses and organic food sampling. The event, sponsored by EVOL Burritos, kicked off at Okemo Mountain in Vermont this weekend, then travels to Crested Butte Resort, Colo., before wrapping up at Mount Sunapee Resort in New Hampshire on April 2-3.
April 2 also is the annual BodeFest at Cannon Mountain, where New Hampshire Olympian Bode Miller donates proceeds to the Turtle Ridge Foundation promoting youth sports.
At Bretton Woods in New Hampshire, spokesman Craig Clemmer said the resort reached a base snow depth of over 100 inches in January, a month earlier than usual, followed by lots more snow. That's made for great skiing conditions, as well as for unconventional events, like the finals of the Winterbike Championship Point Series. "That's pretty fun, watching all these mountain bikers coming down the snowy hillside," he said.
In Maine, where well over $500 million of economic activity comes from skiing and snowmobiling, most ski areas have plenty of snow, said Greg Sweetser, executive director of Ski Maine. "The state of Maine has the longest ski season of any ski area east of the Rocky Mountains," he said, with some resorts opening as early as October and closing as late as May.
At Sugarloaf, which just celebrated its 60th anniversary, free lift tickets are available for children ages 6-18 with a minimum stay of three midweek nights from March 21-25.
One of the more unusual events of the season is March 26 at Maine's Shawnee Peak, the fourth annual America's Mattress Race. Teams of up to four people decorate and race downhill on their old, beat-up mattress. The prize for the fastest team? A new mattress.
Paul Clark of Nashua, N.H., 44, a fan of spring skiing, said people expect to battle the elements during winter skiing — layers and layers of clothing, hand and feet warmers to cut the biting chill.
"Make it through a winter's day of skiing and you feel like you've conquered the snow gods!" he said. "But when spring grants its gifts to the ski slopes, it is a gift that must be received ... and remember that gifts such as these are rare and few."