Featured Image: Mattias Fredriksson
The right way to spring ski is the way you want to.
The heavy beat of house music shook the snow under my feet as I watched a sunburned Austrian man climb over the bar to pour himself another beer from the tap. Standing in ski boots atop the counter, the bartender gave a slight nod as Pilsner flowed freely, pumping his fist furiously in the air as though the roof might cave in if he let up for even an instant.
Hundreds of people were jammed into the confinements of the Schneekristall pavilion at the mid-station of Austria’s Stubai Glacier Resort, standing on tables, stomping their ski boots, screaming along with the thunderous beat and throwing liquor around with the zeal and determination of a college spring breaker’s last night on Earth.
Paralyzed with fascination on a sunny deck nearby, we watched silently as neon-clad skiers—as young as 20 and as old as 70—poured into the glass-walled tent, transforming into insatiable disco zombies the minute they stepped through the door.
Completely unfazed by the earth-shattering celebration going on inside the techno yurt perched beside the mid-station restaurant, the resort kept spinning like normal. Families popped up around us, enjoying plates of sausages and fries in the sun amidst the massive glacial terrain. Skiers strolled in and out of the tent as casually as if they’d stopped to use the restroom. This wasn’t anything special, this was just lunch.
We shyly edged closer to the tent, as awkward as 13-year-old kids at a middle school dance, unsure if we were ready to commit to an Ibiza level of spring partying midday—we’d come here to ski after all, and there was plenty of that left to do.
Until our trip to Austria, we thought we had the whole spring skiing thing down. As an enthusiastic owner of multiple shades of Canadian tuxedos, I’d spent many a weekend at A-Basin’s Beach, roasting dogs and passing around Montucky Cold Snacks between laps. But watching skiers worship this aviator-wearing DJ in a dark leather jacket made me wonder if the skiing part was becoming an afterthought. This was next-level. Or were we just total funsuckers?
We decided to ski a few more laps and take advantage of the empty slopes before embracing the slopeside EDM fortress we’d been eyeing for the last half hour. The five of us hopped back on the cable car to explore the steep Tirolean slopes that still held creamy spring pow.
With the resort to ourselves, we lapped the featured chutes and faces off the upper lifts, with views that stretched for miles across the Stubai Alps. We railed wide open groomers and ducked into shaded pockets of fresh snow we’d spotted from the gondola. Flying down the hill with sunshine on my face, a surge of appreciation ousted any feelings of uncertainty and apprehension from before.
As skiers, we often take ourselves way too seriously. The intensity, risk and aggressive attitudes that freeride skiing can breed plays out as a strange dichotomy from the denim-wearing, snowblade-shredding, party-loving vibe of North American resort skiing in April—something we should celebrate to its fullest, but realize that we can all do it in our own way. Spring skiing can feel like it’s all about the booze, which I meet with enthusiasm on some days and frustration on others. What’s the meaning of aprés if you never actually went skiing?
But spring skiing is mostly an opportunity to ditch the serious attitude and enjoy the atmosphere of the sport that means so much to all of us. For some, that might mean leaning into some techno music at a slopeside bar. For others, it’s indulging in silky smooth corn turns while the rest of the world is drinking. I think blindingly bright colors and costumes make every day better, but it’s not a requirement to partake in the magic of spring turns.
An hour and a half later, we coasted back over to the pavilion with open minds, satisfied with our bounty of fresh turns and ready to indulge in this particular flavor of Austrian culture. But as explosively as the party had suddenly begun, it had disappeared without a trace. The chain smoking DJ was nowhere in sight. The writhing mass of revelers had dispersed, and the quiet hum of the last few cable cars replaced the thundering beats from before.
We shrugged, pulled up chairs on the deck, and ordered another round of Radlers. It was still the best day of spring skiing I’d ever had.