T.S. Eliot didn't know squat: April the cruelest month? Yeah, right. For skiers, the honor goes to September or October, months of seasonal limbo when the air is thick with anticipation but there isn't a flake in sight.
So, what's a jonesing ski junkie to do? Get into the mountains anyway. Whether you're looking for a good workout or just a good time, the following activities may be offbeat, but they sure beat couch surfing with the NFL or enduring your umpteenth tour de treadmill down at the gym.
Where: KEYSTONE, COLORADO
The Activity: Aficionados call it cunning running: the use of a map and route-finding skills to complete a winding course through the woods. At Keystone, 2 1/2-hour introductory classes include instruction and a race through the local wilderness.
Après: Use your newfound navigational skills to make your way to Out of Bounds, a local hangout for cold beer and great burgers. (Note: The course doesn't cover postbeverage navigation.)
Details: $10/class (Tuesdays and Saturdays), 800-404-3535
Where: SNOWBIRD, UTAH
What: Sport Climbing
The Activity: Earn your altitude with a little foot and finger work on the 12-story climbing wall on the west face of the Cliff Lodge. Most of the routes run 5.8¿5.9, but the views¿down the canyon to Salt Lake¿are a 10.
Après: After you flash your route to the top, stroll across the roof to the Cliff Spa and treat yourself to a hot-stone massage.
Details: Public climbing sessions, $10; other times by reservation, $35 for first person, $10 each additional, 801-933-2147
Where: GRAND TARGHEE, WYOMING
What: Ropes Course
The Activity: Hidden in an aspen grove, the 15 stations of Targhee's ropes are designed to help explore group dynamics and build teamwork. For individuals, they're either a great confidence builder or a complete and total humbler.
Après: Celebrate your inner Tarzan (or Jane) with a buffalo steak and shots of Jägermeister on the deck at the Trap Bar.
Details: $175/day; walk-ins, $30 for first person, $20 eachadditional, 800-TARGHEE
Where: SUNDAY RIVER, MAINE
The Activity: Is it a snowboard? A skateboard? Actually, it's a mountainboard, a wild hybrid with 9-inch wheels, a hand-held brake, and the muscle to carve turns or take on the assorted hits of Sunday River's mountainboard park.
Après: If you want to make a big splash, so to speak, make a beeline from the terrain park to the outdoor pool at the Summit Hotel.
Details: $35/day, $39 for a 2-hour intro clinic, 207-824-3000
Where: BIG MOUNTAIN, MONTANA
What: Thrill Sleds
The Activity: It looks kinda like a miniature dune buggy, but it rides like an all-terrain luge. Put on a helmet, lie down facing forward, and push off on the mountain's 3,000-foot-long sled run. Gravity and adrenaline will do the rest.
Après: Don't stop now, rocket boy. Instead, head over to the 'Stube and hop on their new mechanical bull for a spin of another sort entirely.
Details: $24 for 3 rides, 800-858-4157
Where: FERNIE, BRITISH COLUMBIA
What: Mountain Scooters
The Activity: What do you get when you take an old stand-up scooter and give it real handlebars and full-sized bike tires? You get a Diggler, the perfect tool for negotiating the network of dedicated trails that wind through Fernie's thick timber.
Après: Pick the bark out of your teeth at the Log Bar in the turn-of-the-century Grand Central Hotel down in town.
Details: C$25/day, 250-423-4655
Where: MONT-SAINTE-ANNE, QUEBEC
The Activity: Like to stay cool while you climb? Try canyoneering, in which you don a wetsuit and harness and down-climb amid a trio of waaterfalls¿60, 100, and 160 feet, respectively¿on the Jean-Larose River.
Après: Continue the liquid-refreshment theme in the historic Petit Champlain section of Quebec City, where bars and restaurants line the St. Lawrence.
Details: C$65 (including 1/2-day instruction and gear), 418-262-3859
Where: BIG SKY, MONTANA
What: Wildlife viewing
The Activity: The greater Yellowstone area is home to loads of wildlife. Come fall, the viewing borders on the voyeuristic. Elk bugling, bighorns butting heads, bull moose fighting over the fairer sex¿it's an orgy of animal magnetism.
Après: Let's see. Untamed lust in the dust and wild bars like the Corral, Buck's T-4, and M.R. Hummers full of partying people. You do the math.
Details: One-day wildlife safari, adults, $130, kids, $85, 800-SAFARIS