Spring skiing and snowboarding are some of life’s purest joys. Why? Spring is the time of year when the sun shines that much brighter, the snow softens just perfectly, après-ski outside becomes as fun as the riding itself and the prospect of skiing in shorts no longer elicits worries of frostbite.
That’s not to say you can simply roll into the spring calendar without a few changes to your gear regimen—and we don’t just mean dropping insulation so your body doesn’t turn into a sauna in your midwinter layers.
There are a ton of insider tips and unique pieces of gear you can use to truly enjoy spring, but we wanted to highlight the most critical, surprising and useful gear items for skiers and snowboarders to use at this time of year. So we polled a couple of people who know a thing or two about skiing deep into the calendar year—pro skier Hadley Hammer and Exum Mountain Guide Zahan Billimoria, both based in Jackson, Wyoming—to find out their favorite gear for when the weather gets warm. Here are their picks:
If you’re going to be out for prolonged periods in the backcountry or the resort when it’s warm out, you want breathability and low weight for all of your gear—including your optics. That’s why Hammer goes for Smith’s Wildcat ChromaPop Sunglasses.
“They’re big enough to work as goggles on the way down, so you’re able to keep your pack lighter,” said Hammer. “And, if anything, they make you look like you’re always going super fast.” Hammer has a point: The Wildcats will have you looking like you just stepped off the set of Hot Dog: The Movie, regardless of your abilities.
As a mountain guide, spring skiing means one thing for Billimoria—high alpine missions. “Spring, for me, is the time to try to find powder in the high country,” said Billimoria. “It might rain in the valleys, but up top you get high-water-content snow. It really smooths out the high-country terrain that’s craggy in the winter.”
When he’s climbing snow-covered, big-mountain peaks, Billimoria needs a good set of crampons. Enter the Petzl Irvis Hybrid Crampons.
“Instead of a metal bar that connects to the heel of the crampon, it has two pieces of Dyneema cord,” said Billimoria. “It weighs a fraction of the weight of a normal crampon, and you can fold them in half to be about the size of a grapefruit. Plus, it fits a boot better and performs better if you’re kicking around rocks.”
“Hey!” you might be saying. “I know it’s warm out, but I’m not going swimming. Why do I need a dry bag?” Just ask Billimoria. He uses a roll-top dry bag for ski mountaineering in the event that he gets cliffed out and needs to rappel. (“You can fill the stuff sack with snow, and it becomes like a tree trunk,” he says. Then you just dig a trench, wrap your rope around it, bury the bag and it’s like an anchor.”)
Not a ski mountaineer? You’re probably not going to use it for that. But you can still use a small dry bag to store your sweaty base layers, stinky socks and post-ski hot tub towel after a day on the hill, until you can find a laundry facility.
Scenario: It’s Saturday, and you’ve got dinner plans at 8pm, but that backcountry ski tour you thought would end at 5 doesn’t wrap up until 7. You’re pressed for time, nowhere near a shower and sweatier than a bowl of gumbo—none of which tends to make for a good night out on the town. That’s where the Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes come in handy.
“These are a great, quick solution for the warm spring adventure that doesn’t end in a shower,” said Hammer. “Plus, the company has been making donations to the National Park Foundation. So it’s a win-win: You smell good and our National Parks receive funding.”
All the sunshine and warmth of spring skiing comes with one major hassle: The snowpack inevitably gets sticky. For that, Hammer carries a wax scraper everywhere she goes.
“I always have a scraper in my ski bag,” said Hammer. “I mostly use it to get the ice off my bases as opposed to trying to use a ski pole, but it also works if your skin glue leaves residue or your boot sole is jammed with snow and ice. Or, you can just use it if you want to cut up some cheese to share with friends.”
You’re going to work up a thirst in those warm conditions, and nothing tastes quite as good as a cold beverage with the sunshine on your face after a day on the slopes. The best way to keep that drink cold? A compact soft-sided cooler, which you can toss in your truck or the back of your car while you’re out skiing.
“A cooler bag is perfect for keeping your preferred après beverages chilled in your car while you’re out skiing,” said Hammer. “It keeps ice cold and is super easy to clean out, which is essential in the spring.”
When the weather gets warm, breathability is key in your outerwear, while the ability to repel moisture without adding too much weight is equally important. For that, Billimoria looks to an unexpected source for his shell solution: the Patagonia Dirt Roamer, a jacket often worn by mountain bikers.
“This one might not seem obvious, because it’s a mountain bike jacket,” said Billimoria. “But it’s really breathable and lightweight. When you’re doing high-aerobic activity, you need breathability and simplicity. The Dirt Roamer doesn’t have any velcro or pockets—it’s really light, and when you’re dealing with mild temperatures, it’s great to have something low-impact.”
If you’re going to be spending long days in the mountains, you need to keep your caloric intake high. Bulky foods can cause a mess in your pack while taking space from more essential items. Billimoria solves this conundrum with help from compact, nutrient-rich nut butter pouches, like this Nut Butter from RXBAR.
“I’ve been trying to fuel more with fats than carbs recently on long missions because they’re a better energy source and better on the belly,” said Billimoria.