Spring fever has hit Whistler and the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival is back for its 16th year. In honour of the event, Pique's Travel and Adventure section is staying here, and taking a trip to the only place worth going: up our mountains.
Winter is awesome in Whistler, everyone knows that, but fewer people know how fun the spring is. Spring riding has developed a cult-following of skiers and snowboarders who still love to slide on snow, but prefer the mercury above freezing, the sunshine out and a much more laid-back attitude.
"The snow conditions have been wonderful this week," says local snowboarder Brian O'Brien, famous locally as the 50-something-year-old who still hits the park.
"We've got good snow, we've got good temperatures and we've got good light. It's a win-win situation.
"There were guys doing Air Jordan (off Peak Chair) yesterday, and you've got to have a serious amount of snow to do Air Jordan."
Although April still gets powder, the riding is usually associated with slush. The great things about slush are that it's: a) soft b) untrackable c) it works with the TWSSF party schedule because it doesn't soften until 11am. With the different snow comes a new attitude. Nobody thinks of hikes, tree runs and cliffs, but instead hit runs, slush pools and lunchtime beers, with a couple of casual laps through the park for good measure.
Spring conditions mean different demands on your equipment. Choose a shorter, softer ski or snowboard for playful side-hit runs. Slush usually contains a lot of dirt, so clean your base before waxing, otherwise you'll still be fighting that sticky, grippy feeling. You will need to use a slush wax in the warmer weather (check the temperature on whistlerblackcomb.com/weather). It's also worth keeping rub-on wax in your pocket for emergencies.
Many riders leave their edges dull for slush, dull edges are also perfect for hitting rails and boxes in the park.
The sun can get powerful in April, so remember to bring a drink, put on serious-factor sunscreen and wear mirrored lenses. Many people cover their faces with a lightweight scarf, or (if you like hip-hop) a bandana if you like sunshine. Weatherproof outerwear becomes less important, so if it's really hot you can swap your Gore-Tex for a hoodie, shirt, swimsuit (careful of ice-burn) or pair of shorts.
After an overcast winter, spring fever can make you a little silly. "The pond skimming is amongst some of the best skiing on the mountain!" said Tobin Seagel, a skier with Zag skis. Last year the slush pool on Blackcomb's Zig Zag trail attracted a crowd of over 100 locals, seasonal workers, children and surprised visitors, who cheered on anyone brave enough to skim over the shallow pool.