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Arapahoe Basin, Colo.
With the year’s biggest terrain expansion, the highest skiable terrain (13,050 feet) and—more often than not—the longest season of any ski area in North America (sometimes into July), A-Basin claims nearly every superlative by which late-season skiers measure a mountain. New this season, Montezuma Bowl nearly doubles the Basin’s acreage. Lift-accessed and hike-to terrain off the new Zuma lift includes 36 blue, black and double-black trails. Not to be missed is “Shakin’ at the Basin,” a free concert series that brings local bands to “The Beach” (the area’s parking lot/base area) every Saturday in May.
Utah’s longest ski season belongs to Snowbird. The Little Cottonwood Canyon resort has run its lifts into May every year since it opened in the early ’70s—and has hit July 4th a few times. The lowest point on the mountain is 7,760 feet, so the snow tends to be dry and deep into late spring—even by Utah standards. Hit Mineral Basin off first chair for early corn, then head to north-facing Peruvian Gulch after lunch. Après, the plaza deck buzzes. And did we mention that Snowbird is 29 miles from the Salt Lake airport?
Alpine Meadows, Calif.
A full month after most of its Tahoe neighbors have shuttered their lifts, Alpine’s are often still spinning. And they’re virtually empty. In 2006, Alpine’s full 2,400 acres, 13 lifts and 100 runs remained open until May 21. Plus, crews take great care in preserving the late-season snow: They follow the sun, opening trails when the spring sun has softened the snow and closing them before the snow gets skied off. Start your day on the southern-exposed lifts, including the Sherwood Express. Leave the slopes off the Scott chair for the afternoon. Alpine sits on the north side of the lake, about an hour’s drive from the Reno airport and 200 miles from San Fran. Spring midweek stay-and-ski packages start at $79 per person.
Pinkham Notch lays convincing claim to being New Hampshire’s spring skiing capital. Last year, Wildcat, with one of New England’s highest base elevations, skied till May 6. The Wildcat Express delivers you in six minutes to the mountain’s 4,000-foot peak, where novices and experts alike can find enjoyable ways down. You’ll gaze across the valley at the ants marching up Tuckerman Ravine—a glorious, uncommercialized view. Top the day off with a beer on the base lodge deck. Nobody puts on any airs at a place like Wildcat, so the camaraderie is first-rate. And when the lifts finally close? Join the ants and score your own turns at Tucks—often well into June.
What better strategy to extend your ski season than to leave summer and travel to winter. Portillo’s 2008 season runs June 21–Oct. 4, so “spring” snow isn’t a worry. And there’s no need to settle for only a weekend’s worth of turns: Portillo operates on a Saturday to Saturday basis. Resort life—a cosmopolitan cocktail of languages, cultures and ski skills—centers around the Hotel Portillo (there isn’t a town), much like a cruise ship foundered among the black Andean peaks. Portillo’s expert runs are legendary, as well as host to three world speedskiing records. New this season: more Chilean Wine Weeks and a new Va et Vient lift, though riding the Roca Jack lift remains a must-do on any skier’s life list.