Although the temperatures are frigid today, the daylight is increasing by several minutes per day and the sun angle in the sky is increasing.  Eventually, the sun is going to win out and soon we will be having spring skiing conditions. With the snow pack currently in place in Pennsylvania this could turn out to be the best spring skiing in years. So don’t put those skis away too early. Spring skiing offers warmer days, chirping birds, hooting owls, and opportunities to possibly skate over wide-open fields.  Melt freeze is not always a bad condition for cross-country skiers.

In order to maximize the spring skiing experience here are some general principles to get the most out of the spring season.  Timing the ski outing is crucial. Klister wax is a great invention. Snowmobile trails can offer great ski experiences. Higher elevations keep the snow for a much longer time than the valleys. Groomed trails hold up for a long time due to the compacted surface. Patch skiing can be a hoot when everyone else has hung it up for the season. Finally, those waxless skis work very well at fifty plus degrees.

Sometimes melt freeze causes the snow to get rock hard. However there is a point when a warm spring day loosens that surface and it becomes a buttery slick surface just begging to be skied.  Poles can be firmly planted and skate skiing becomes a joy as entire fields become a skiers skating rink.  Classic skiers can enjoy this condition as well. For skating use a warm glide wax. For classic skiing use waxless skis or go to klister wax. The trick to having a great day is getting out just as the snow is softening and prior to it getting too soft. There are times when it is best to ski after dark when the temperatures are cooling. That is when the owls come out.

Klister wax can be annoying sometimes and it does get dirty in spring conditions. However,it works. Swix Universal Klister is a product that works most of the time for spring skiing conditions. It allows one to continue to maximize the glide of waxable skis and there is no annoying zipper sound that is sometimes produced by waxless skis. Use the universal klister up to about 50 degrees F. It helps to iron on some base binder first before applying the universal klister. The klister will then stay on the ski for a long time. Beyond 50 degrees F it is probably better to use waxless skis depending on the condition of the snow. If one is skiing in an area of a lot of debris on the snow the waxless skis are easier to clean. Waxless skis can be glide waxed on the tips and tails and this improves their performance as well. Keep in mind that klister is a great product for waxable skis in spring conditions. 

Finding snow to ski on once it has melted in the valleys can be a fun challenge. There are always the groomed areas and they will post conditions until the area can no longer be skied. Places that have snowmobile trails become attractive once the snowmobiles stop running.  Skiers can often get one or two more weeks of wear out of them by seeking out shaded trails or high elevation areas. Skate skiing and classic skiing is possible well beyond what most people think. Again timing the outing is key to having a good experience versus an icy one. Sometimes, one may need to remove the skis to get over a bare spot. But, it is 50 degrees and sunny and you don’t have a coat on, and the world is waking up from winter, it is a magical time to be skiing.

When the snow pack has become patchy it is time to do some patch skiing.  Simply find a large patch to play on and work on technique. Patches are often found on slopes that slant away from the sun or in shady areas.  They are often found at high elevations. State parks and forests are excellent places to seek them out. A family outing to ski on one can include a picnic and sun bathing. In upstate NY there are sometimes informal races that utilize patches of snow and skiers run between patches. Be creative in utilizing a patch and relish the fact that you are skiing when no one else is skiing.

Here is a bold prediction. There will be cross-country skiing well into April somewhere in Pennsylvania this year, barring an extreme heat wave with high humidity and fog. Fog is a "snoweater" and it can erase the snow pack quickly. Take advantage of the warmer days and extend the cross-country ski season by using these spring skiing tips. Share your experiences by sending a photo or description to [email protected].  Let’s see how far into spring Pennsylvania cross-country skiers can continue skiing. Who will be the last cross-country skier in PA to ski on snow this season?  For now though we have yet another snowstorm coming Saturday (Feb 21).  Have a fun the rest of February.   Howard


Snowmobile Trail in Moshannon State Forest late season 2014



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