Any skier worth his or her salt knows that just because chairlifts close doesn’t mean it’s a wrap for the ski season. Far from it. Sure, the dilettantes make their way to the desert for crack climbing and mountain biking, but some of skiing’s greatest treasures can be found closer to the spring equinox than in the heart of winter. Bagging peaks that are off limits to due to a number of reasons—winter closures, avalanche hazard, access—beckon those who hang on to the idea of chasing the perfect turn. For many it’s the ideal time to get into the alpine terrain of neighboring ranges.
One thing to embrace: the alpine start. Yes, that means getting up at zero dark thirty and it’s usually awful. Nobody enjoys setting a 3:30 am alarm, especially on a day off work. But when cold overnight temps give way to sunny and clear weather, catching spring corn at the right time is sublime. Skinning the final alpine ridge, a face streaked with sunscreen and sweat never looked so good. Staring down a 3000-foot face off one of your favorite peaks, even better.
Two pieces of Brooks Range apparel that excel on many spring missions: the Polartec ®Wool Tees (long and short sleeve) the Hybrid LT jacket. Each has a virtue to best put you in the spring mindset.
Let’s start with the wool tees, shall we. Wool naturally prevents the buildup of microbial particles in the yarn fabric. Paired with new Polartec® Power Dry® technology—they prevent sweat particulates from attaching to the fabric fibers—sweat has nowhere to go but evaporate into the ether. When these fabrics work together, they pull moisture away from the skin, but they also dry more quickly, and stave off stench, and still retain inherent heat retention.
Temps start out cold and for the first hour heat comes from movement. Having effective layers atop your base need to work as you ascend out of the valley darkness. The Hybrid LT jacket is a lightweight mid layer than can stand alone, or remain below additional soft shells or belay jackets. Polartec® Alpha insulation lines the front to keep the sting of early morning cold at bay. Utilizing the same Power Dry® technology, the synthetic/wool Hybrid LT breaths well on high output activities (with or without drastic temp changes), so you can move to keep warm but stay dry as the day’s heat rises with the sun.
After a long winter of skiing in the short windows of daylight—getting out before work and/or on the weekends—we’ve conditioned muscle memory, honed our skills, got our equipment dialed, and set our sights on the spring rewards. At it’s best spring skiing yields smooth strips of isothermic corn through rocky passages of mountain chutes and sweeping faces above green valley meadows. Turns come around without effort, tails swishing, hips angling. Powder’s got nothing on good corn. At the worst, peering down an impenetrable runnelled couloir will also take your breath away. But, for different reasons. Either way you’ll have a story to tell back at the trailhead.