Ski Into Summer

Savvy Traveler b 0501

Break out the warm-weather wax and sun block. Spring corn is on the menu, and we're serving 11 tasty deals you'll eat up.

For most of us, the ski season always seems too short. Even if we pack a few more on-slope days into sunny April, the fact is that not every mountain is up to the challenge of holding good snow into May. While most resorts offer some form of spring skiing, along with reduced prices, the majority shutter their lifts by mid-April. But with a little planning and even less expense, you can ski into May, June and beyond. Thanks to geography, weather patterns and occasionally sheer stubbornness, a handful of places offer diehard snow lovers a chance to ski into summer.

In the East, shrewd skiers look to Killington, Vt., where the resort's last run coincides with the advent of the June mosquito season. Here, the early bird catches the groomers before they turn to mush. If you're willing to hike for your turns, try New Hampshire's Tuckerman Ravine-the season is just beginning in early April, when avalanche warnings wane. The scene really picks up mid-May, and the faithful keep coming as late as early July, when the rest of the Northeast is deep into summer. However, the timid need not apply: There are no lifts or grooming, and skiers hike for about two and a half miles, leave their sandwiches on the famed "lunch rocks" and then climb up the Headwall. Two runs is the norm, three runs energetic, four the stuff of local legend.

In Colorado, Arapahoe Basin stays lively until Independence Day, which traditionally marks the end of its season. Here, the "beach" at the base area draws tailgaters who haul in hot tubs and barbecues and even set up volleyball nets and sound systems. It's a raucous time, and all the skiing is above treeline, so the corn snow only gets better as the sun gets higher.

Farther west, Utah has Snowbird, where the season generally lasts through Memorial Day, and sometimes into late June. The Tram uploads early birds to the Little Cloud bowl area, where by 2 p.m. conditions get slushy.

Clear west, Mammoth Mountain, Calif., is the place to go for variety. Even in June, there's often enough coverage to get your fill of bumps and chutes. About 170 miles farther north, Alpine Meadows on Lake Tahoe has lift-served skiing into mid-May and a mellow, family-style scene.

But the grandes dames of North American late-season skiing are Mt. Hood, Ore., and Whistler-Blackcomb, B.C. At Hood, the lifts never shut down except for maintenance, and the U.S. Ski Team sets the pace. (See story on page 88.) Whistler usually closes at the end of August, but draws an equally elite crowd, hosting more than 40 summer training camps. In fact, from 7:30 a.m. until noon, Horstman Glacier is the domain of campers and elite pros in the morning-the public is allowed up from noon until 3:30. (See story on page 92.) So let's see: no liftlines, spring corn, crystal-clear blue skies, and oh, did we mention value? This is, hands-down, the cheapest time of the year to ski. In many places, you can get away with spending less than $300 for two people for a weekend. That includes gas, lodging, tickets, food and sun block. Your Corona bar tab is the variable that only you can determine. (Turn the page for deals.)