SNOWMASS VILLAGE - On Sunday morning, we sprang forward into daylight-saving time. Thanks to G.W., we are enjoying longer days, and along with longer days, rapid snowmelt begins. Downvalley and on southern exposures, green grasses are emerging in areas, trees are getting ready to show their leaves, golf courses are opening and bike paths are clearing, all of which revitalizes our spring spirit.
Winter has pretty much been as forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It missed the January cold snap and has predicted a dry March and April. Despite this, March has roared in like a lion with a couple of good accumulations. According to a map put out by Colorado meteorologists on Feb. 25, the Colorado River drainage needed 140 inches of snow before May to reach normal. We have cut into that a bit.
Nonetheless, we must be prepared for Colorado's very unpredictable spring weather. Daytime temperatures can be in the 40s and 50s, and nighttime lows drop below freezing, and then after or during a storm, we might be just under freezing during the ski day. We'll get a couple of very warm days, and then "wham," winter is back. March and April are normally (old normal) our biggest snow-producing months on average. We get a midwinter snowstorm one day, and then springtime temperatures are back the next few days. This really raises havoc with the snowpack and presents you with more than just the challenging snow conditions. You must adapt.
Dressing for the unpredictable weather creates another set of challenges. Layering with moisture wicking under clothes is best if you have different-thickness base layers, which is probably the only adjustment necessary from day to day. Add a fleece vest as an option and a breathable waterproof outer layer, and you are set. The outer layer must be able to resist wind and the wet spring snow. Pack two pairs of gloves, one heavy and a pair of lighter spring style. Keep the heavier pair handy. Add helmet and goggles, and you are ready for the changing springtime weather. Each night, be sure to dry your wet boots and gloves. With wetter snow and higher temperatures, your boot liners will get wet. Pull your liners more often, and invest in a travel boot dryer.
One of the most serious concerns of spring is the sun. Protect your skin with a superior, waterproof and sweat-resistant sunscreen for your face and lips. Your sunscreen should provide both UVA and UVB protection with an SPF of 30 or more. These days, sunscreens are made as high as 70 SPF. Sunscreens with atomized zinc or titanium dioxide work the best, and you won't have a white face. Don't forget your ears, and men, don't forget the thin spots on top of your head. The spring sun is higher in the sky, producing more reflected light, so put sunscreen on more than once a day. Even on a cloudy day, 80 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds. When applying, coat the skin liberally. Don't ruin your vacation by getting fried. Make sunproofing part of your regular daily routine year-round.
Spring sun generates a need for better eye protection on bright, sunny days. With the sun higher in the sky, there is more reflected light, which means goggles with dark or transition lenses or wrap-around sunglasses are recommended.
Another serious concern that increases as spring sets in is dehydration. Staying hydrated plays a paramount role in your personal safety. Experts recommend that travelers and locals alike drink one-half their body weight daily while limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption to reduce the risk of dehydration. Drinking alcohol can slow breathing, making it even harder for the lungs to get enough oxygen. Drink copious amounts of water. Drinking a six-pack of beer is not a substitute for good ol' H2O.
One of the most beneficial and lasting gifts you can share with your family is to get them involved in sliding on snow. March is the beginning of spring breaks, and there is an increase of children and adults making their way to the slopes. Families are engaging in a healthy activity that can help them build confidence, develop coordination, appreciate the outdoor environment and experience sheer joy. Thanks to recent improvements in equipment combined with the important benefits of instruction, learning to ride has never been easier - or more fun! Do not ruin these moments to remember by not being safe and having one of the high-altitude dangers ruin a vacation. Shop small. See you next run.
Don Jewkes is a 36-year certified PSIA-RM Level 3 teaching professional and local resident. Support your local independent retailers and restaurants.