Spring riding conditions are like none other. The days are long, the temperatures mild, and hard snow makes for easy navigation with little chance of actually getting handlebar stuck. But there are certain factors to consider while out enjoyng the spring snow.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
Spring snow is often called hero snow, for when it firms up you can pretty much go anywhere you want. Remember though what goes up, must come down and with a lack of fresh powder to slow you down you will head down a steep slope like a rocket. If this happens do not grab a handful of brake for doing so will most likely result in your sled turning sideways followed by a rolling yard sale down the hill. Use your engine to slow your sled down by revving your throttle and tap your brake lightly if need be. We know that sounds odd right, but when you engage your engine it will create a hold back effect.
Creek Crossings - may have had some pretty reliable snow bridges across at the height of mid-season snow pack which led you to not even see a creek at all. As the snow melts, the snow bridges will become rotten and creeks will open up into a large drop into running water.
Lakes- as with creeks the warm days will melt the ice pack especially where creeks enter or leave the lake. Do not trust a lake during spring months for you can never be certain just how thick that ice truly is and for heaven’s sake don’t do donuts or whip a chitty on a lake during the spring. That is just asking for trouble.
Err on the side of caution even in areas you have rode all season.
Your sled will run warmer especially on the trail ride in which can become iced up. Put your scratchers down to cool your sled or you can incorporate the Chainsaw method demonstrated here by Chris Brown Browner Cooling Off. Oh ya, and don’t back up or load your sled with your scratchers down as you will snap those suckers right off.
We’ve already discussed hero snow, so even though you can go anywhere you really should think about managing your terrain appropriately. Warming temperatures will stress the snow pack and can wake up sleeping dragons. Cornices can break off causing a step down avalanche. You’ll hear the term “low probability. High Consequence” often for when avalanches occur in the spring months they can be even more catastrophic. Use your avalanche training and manage your terrain and group wisely. Just because you can climb it doesn’t mean you should climb it.
Remember that handy dandy trick of rolling your sled over to unstick yourself? Ya, don’t do that when the snow is hard like concrete for you will bust your windshield and perhaps bend your steering post.
Let the Snow Soften Up
The days are longer in the spring, so perhaps you can head out a little bit later to allow the snow to soften up a bit. Sure you’ll be riding mash potatoes but your sled will stay cooler with the ability to throw some snow up into your coolers.
Dress and Pack Wisely
You may be foregoing the whole mid-layer thing for warm temperatures combined with physical activity will keep you more than warm enough on those sunny bluebird days. Think about it though. What if you had to spend the night on the mountain when temperatures plunged or got wet in one of those creeks we talked about. Pack what you need to stay warm for the coldest you could encounter. +6 in the valley can be -10 at the staging. It is better to have too much gear and pack it on your sled than to not have enough when you need it.
Keep Your Gear On
Spring snow is a lot less friendly when you land. True story....snow hurts so keep all your gear on when riding. Yes it’s all hip and fly to see pics of people riding in shorts and bikinis but one wrong ice bump catapults you through the air and it’s road rash city for you! While it’s awesome to catch some rays when chilling out with your peeps, put your gear on when doing the real riding.
On the topic of catching some rays, sunscreen will be your best friend. The rays are intense on the mountain, so apply, and reapply especially if you have a Snow White like complexion. Gingers… are you catching what we’re throwing down? Sunscreen.
Sunglasses are also a great idea, for nothing quite compares to that eyeball piercing burning sensation of snow blindness. Get out those mirror lens goggles and pack a pair of shades.
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