Tim Jones, Special to The Eagle
March 31, 2011

There's snow in the forecast for northern New England and the Adirondacks today. No April Fools (except, perhaps, for the people who started wishing for spring back in January.)

Spring in New England is like a bad movie with a great trailer. Starting sometime in March, you get glimpses of something that looks like it might be worth seeing: warm, sunny days with no humidity, bright sunshine, dry roads to bike on, hiking trails which don't need snowshoes or crampons or water you can paddle on.

You sort of begin to think how wonderful it will be. Then reality sets in, and what you get is mud and cold and rain and some snow. Spring never lives up to the hype.

You really only have two choices: Either you hold onto winter until the last possible moment, or you make the best of whatever spring you can find. I'm much in favor of holding onto winter.

Holding onto winter

As I write this, my sweetheart Marilyn and I are at Jay Peak Resort (800-451-4449; www.jaypeakresort.com) in Jay, Vt., right on the Canadian border. There's still plenty of winter up here, and plenty just across the border in the Eastern Townships of Quebec (www.easterntownships.org) where we've been the last few days. It was snowing hard three days ago at Mont Orford (www.orford.com), snowing hard a day later at Mont Sutton.

Though the sun is shining now at Jay, it's still below freezing. The cross-country skiing is probably incredible -- I know the Alpine skiing sure has been.

Even if there's no snow in your yard, check with the cross-country ski areas. Many are still open -- or have enough snow to ski on even if they are technically closed. If you have to, head north to the hills, where you'll likely find snow at least until Easter.

Last year, I cross-country skied at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt., on the last day of their season. Sam von Trapp and I found more than enough snow to play on, even in the woods off the trails. But nobody else was there. I guess they thought it was spring.

This is the prefect time of year to get out in the backcountry on deep corn snow. Or, if you can't find snow in the woods, hit the ski slopes and practice your Telemark or bump skiing so you're ready to tackle the backcountry next winter.

If you really want to hold onto winter, head for Tuckerman Ravine (www.tuckerman.org) on the flank of Mount Washington. They are still getting snow there -- the avalanche danger changes from day to day, so check it out before you climb. But given the amount of snow we've gotten this year, it seems likely that you'll be able to ski on the 4th of July if you are inclined to walk a few miles.

Seeking spring

The few times I've ever headed to the Deep South (that would be Massachusetts or Connecticut) with a bicycle or a sea kayak seeking spring, nature has always had other plans and sent a late-season snow or howling winds to foil my good intentions. So I rarely go looking for spring any time before the first of May.

I do, however, keep an eye on the water levels in the flood control reservoirs at this time of year. If the stars align correctly and you get one of those warm, sunny days that almost make you think spring might be a good thing, and the Army Corps of engineers has been holding back water in one of their flood-control reservoirs, paddling among the flooded trees can be a magical experience. I highly recommend it.

So can riding a fat-tire bike on paved back roads. Normally, fat tires and pavement don't go well together, but in the spring when frost has heaved the road surface into an undulating wasteland of bumps and potholes, and the whole tar surface is likely to be covered with a layer of sand and gravel from winter sanding, a fat tire bike is just the right ride for rolling happily along. Just wait until the snowbanks have melted back a bit to give cars room to pass you.

The true spring sports

The only three outdoor sports I can think of that are truly better in April than any other time of the year all involve flowing water.

For hikers, waterfall viewing starts ramping up around now and stays wonderful usually into May, as meltwater and spring rains turn trickles into torrents. Waterfalls are one of nature's wonders, and at this time of year they speak with their loudest voice. You may have to wear snowshoes for the hike this year -- oh, wait, that's holding onto winter, isn't it? There's a truly remarkable website, Waterfalls Of The Northeastern United States (www.northeastwaterfalls.com), that should keep you busy for a decade or two of memorable April hikes.

If you want to do more than just hike to and look at water, whitewater paddling is the way to go. Whitewater canoeing and kayaking have a fairly long learning curve, and if you are just starting out I'd strongly recommend taking a lesson. One good place I can recommend from personal experience is Zoar Outdoor (www.zoaroutdoor.com) in Charlemont, Mass. Lots of fun.

They and a bunch of other places also offer whitewater rafting, which offer some of the fun of whitewater paddling without the long learning curve. Many places start trips in April (don't worry -- they'll supply a wetsuit) and offer early season discounts.

Tim Jones writes about outdoor sports and travel. He can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com

Social Share

Collect a few of your favorite things as you browse. Learn More

My Scrapbook