April showers bring spring powder

Benjamin Markhart
Special to the Daily
At 12:30 pm on April 25 Zack Novak nears the summit of Mt. Democrat. The heavy spring snow paved a rare path down the west face.
Benjamin Markhart / Special to the Daily |

April showers have most people thinking about May’s flowers — or maybe their bike or kayak — but don’t jump the gun, it is also one of the best times to get in a last dose of powder.

March and April are known as snowy months but most people don’t think of powder when they think spring skiing. The corn harvest is one thing, but for those ready and waiting this April made for some of the best skiing all year.

“We skied close to 3,000 feet of powder on the face of a 14er that almost never gets skied,” said Zack Novak, a Frisco resident and AMGA trained guide who will be working on Mt. Hood this summer.

On April 25, Novak went for a much sought-after 14er decent on the west face of Mt. Democrat.

“At the beginning of April we got those big dumps on really stable snow and could do some things that we usually can’t,” continued Novak. “The spring also brought in some upslope storms that are pretty unusual in winter and gave us a runnable line from the top, and in powder.”

At higher elevations the wind can be a real problem when finding a skiable line, but many times spring storms come with a different flow than in winter.

“The large storm cycle in early April came without much wind and helped replenish snow depth, particularly at higher elevations,” said Scott Smith, a level 2 AIARE avalanche educator and director of the Apex Mountain School in Eagle Vail.

“Then subsequent smaller snowfalls kept adding soft snow to the surface for good riding,” continued Smith.

April’s first large storm brought up to 50 inches to some places in Summit County. Loveland Pass saw some of the highest snow totals but areas in the Ten Mile and Mosquito ranges saw upwards of 30 inches as well.

The trick is to get out early, said Dan Nixon, another local skier who got in a pretty awesome weekend of skiing at the Fowler-Hilliard hut at the end of April.

“The new snow can turn to mush quickly, but if you stay in the shade you can get in some good turns,” said Nixon.

But the real trick is getting the five-star accommodations of the 10th Mountain Division huts all to yourself.

“It’s hard to even find beds from December to April, you need to book the summer before even,” said Nixon. “But we managed to get the whole hut to ourselves and booked it the day before. It just didn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar at this point.”

Ben Markhart is a local photographer and guide. You can see more of these trip photos and others at or on Facebook at Ben Markhart Photography.

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