The joys of spring – rain, snow, and 70 degrees all in the same day – are upon us. Here, we break down seven exhilarating “mud season” sports.
Collectively, we’ve forged through freezing toes and snowpacked driveways and can see light at the end of the tunnel. It’s time to crawl out of hibernation and soak in the longer days and warmer weather.
To celebrate, we’ve put together a playbook of spring adventures to embark on. This season can be short-lived, so it’s best to watch weather conditions closely and plan ahead.
Corn Skiing: Harvest Time
While the days of deep powder are behind us, corn skiing is just hitting its prime. Skiers itching for more turns, and mountaineers who have been waiting patiently for steep couloirs, are in luck. Warm temps and sunny days help stabilize the snowpack, creating safe and fun backcountry conditions.
Open bowls and big faces offer the best spring skiing. Keep an eye on the softness of the snow and the angle of the slopes – this will help you find the perfect turns. Top locations for corn skiing are the Sierra backcountry near Mammoth, Calif.; Mt. Bachelor backcountry near Bend, Ore.; and the Tetons near Jackson, Wyo.
But don’t take safe conditions for granted! Be sure to check avalanche forecasts, practice safe decision making even in green-light conditions, and carry and use a beacon, probe, and shovel.
Trail Running: Shake ‘Em Out
Local weirdos have been running every winter day in snowsuits, and now it’s time to join them. Most alpine trails are still covered in snow, so aim for lower elevations and prepare for mud and puddles from runoff. Spring running is really for anyone – as long as you’re willing to get sweaty.
Grab a pair of light gloves and a windbreaker. These will keep you warm as you get going and help you stay out longer. Remember that ramping up miles should be done slowly, over the course of weeks and months. Top locations include Marin Headlands near San Francisco, Columbia River Gorge near Portland, and hundreds of local and state parks within minutes of your front door.
Fly Fishing: Thawing Fingers
For die-hard anglers, there is no off season. But for the rest, spring is when fishing is once again appealing. Warming temps find trout and other species reactivating after the cold-water lethargy of winter. Need tips to hook up? Check out our guide to spring flies.
Whitewater Paddling: Find Your Descent
While many rivers flow year round, spring offers paddlers a chance to tackle descents otherwise unnavigable. Many seasonal runs last six weeks or less, so it’s crucial to take advantage of the limited opportunity. Spring paddling opens up access to many one-of-a-kind places, but it isn’t for everyone.
With high flows and fast moving water, most spring descents are technical and change quickly, requiring a high skill level and thorough planning. Paddlers should wear neoprene and polypro suits, booties, and gloves to stay warm in cool air and icy water temps. Top locations include the Owyhee River in Oregon, the iconic Selway in Idaho, and the San Juan and Green rivers in Utah.
Surfing: The Fun Swell
As winter storms fade into more consistent summer weather, spring is also a transitional time for surfing. Swells can change daily and vary by location, with beach breaks often presenting the best bet. Water temps can take longer to warm up with currents, so don’t forget a wetsuit before you paddle out.
Those looking for smaller crowds and open waves should rejoice, as most people wait until summer to get back on their boards. This makes spring a great time for new surfers to learn.
Top locations include more southern locations like San Diego and across the border in Baja, Mexico. And, for enthusiasts who are willing to travel, Hawaii provides exceptional spring surfing.
Mountain Biking: Enjoy the Cool
Right now, you can enjoy some of the best mountain biking conditions of the year in places that get really hot in the summer. Take Moab, Utah, or Fruita, Colo., for example. Temps in April and May range from lows in the 40s to highs in the low-80s. Come July, expect to see 100 degrees or higher.
The same goes for many areas across the country. Just look for trails that dry out quickly and get after it.
Ice Climbing: Last Suffer-Fest of the Season
If it gets warm on your local ice, the season is probably over. But in colder locations, the freeze-thaw cycles make for refreshed ice. As it starts to warm up, look further north to find stunning spring crags.
These places are often off the beaten path and best for ice climbing junkies who can safely lead untracked ice – and have all the necessary gear. Watch for cold fronts to cross your dream zone, good timing for spring ice climbing is critical for safety. Top locations include backcountry near Squamish, Bozeman, and – our favorite undiscovered mecca – Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia.
So what are you waiting for? Get get out there and splash, sweat, cast, and paddle your way to shoulder-season fun!