Spring break today means something entirely different to me than it did some decades ago when I was a beer-swilling college student. Back then, while fellow coeds were jetting off to Ft. Lauderdale to party righteously in skimpy bathing suits, my roommate and I headed to Utah’s Alta for spring break.
We knew our friends would come back tanned, and we were determined to do the same—but we would ski. Our tans would be goggle tans, which we certainly thought was cooler anyway.
Things have changed since then—and then again, they haven’t.
Last week, I kicked off spring break with a Saturday trip to Eldora with one of my sons. I skied behind a shaggy white yeti, a big purple dinosaur, and four small bunny rabbits in ski school. I even saw a kid in a full-on hot dog costume. He was young enough not to get the word play: He was hot doggin’ it! Wayne Wong would have been proud.
Why people ski in costumes in springtime is unknown to me, but it’s darn good fun. I think it has something to do with the renegade vibe of snowsports and the revelry of spring break at high altitude. All that sunshine and thin air makes people giddy.
After chasing my son down Eldora’s Corona with high-speed laps in snow so soft you could confuse with powder if you used just a little imagination, I headed for the base area. There I joined friends who were camped out in a beer garden with 10 Barrel IPAs on tap, giant games of Jenga and croquet, and a dunk tank. The yeti got dunked and subsequently hung his fur suit to dry on the fence. Kids played the oversize games while the over-21 set sipped beers from plastic cups.
What hasn’t changed about spring break: I still love skiing in mild temps under bluebird skies in mushy snow (who needs sharp edges?). Spring skiing has a beach vibe but without the sand stuck in your ears. I still love to soak in a hot tub après-ski.
What has changed about spring break: I’m smart enough to wear sunscreen now. Over that college spring break in Utah, my roomie and I both burned our faces so badly we were forced to slather our blistered faces with zinc oxide in order to keep skiing.
I’m also now smart enough to not ski in shorts. On that college trip, we thought it was hip to ski in Hawaiian shorts. We ended up with ridiculous tans that stretched from boot top to mid thigh. Not really a good look.
After the Eldora spring day, my husband and I packed up the minivan and headed for Copper for spring break with our three kids: 16, 13, and 11. My daughter is learning to snowboard, so the soft snow on the green slopes of Kokomo was the perfect arena. Though Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” blaring over the sound system with all these new skiers and riders wiping out seemed a little unfair. “It’s a little more like ‘Another one bites the snow,’” my daughter pointed out.
Later she switched to skis and we dropped into Upper Enchanted, where we found powder, steeps and trees. The boys scouted any and all rocks to drop off.
Spring really is the perfect time to ski and ride with kids. No cold fingers and toes. No rush for first chair. You’re wise to sleep in and let the snow soften up. And there’s lots of terrain open, so everybody has plenty of elbow room.
Of course it can storm in spring (we did find untracked snow at Copper). Powder days in April are welcome, but most days in spring are delightfully warm and sunny.
For us, spring break is now a more wholesome affair. It’s a time to chill and bond with our kids. Though we still manage to find time to sip a microbrew in a bubbling hot tub at the end of the ski day. We just don’t stay in until we’re pickled. Somebody has to make dinner.