Four spring ski and snowboard festivals you shouldn’t miss

(and two others you should probably check out)

One-piece suits are a classic spring look, although we’d bet this guy rocks his year round.
Tom Winter

It’s spring. The sun is out, the snow is soft and the decks… well, the decks are warm and the beer is cold. Spring is often the forgotten season in Colorado’s high country. Sure, it’s easy to be sucked into the flip-flop and tank top vibe on the Front Range when things warm up. After all, it’s been a long, cold winter and it sure feels good to walk the Pearl Street Mall in shorts and a T.

But as great as spring in Boulder has been (and let’s admit it, the first few days of what is officially called “spring” have been fantastic), it’s worth remembering that there’s still great snow and awesome activities going on in the mountains to the west of us. From concerts to contests to, well, just making some turns in the sun, spring might just be the best part of the ski season. And that’s true even if you don’t ski. Here are the five events that you don’t want to miss this spring.

Pond skimming, parties and free concerts make Vail’s Spring Back event one of the best in the state. Tom Winter

Spring Back To Vail — April 14-16

Vail can be a place that plenty of people love to hate, but the reality is that this sprawling, majestic mountain has what it takes to be a top spring spot. First, there are the Back Bowls. South facing, they catch the sun and soften up quickly, making for wonderful midday turns. In the afternoon, head to the front side, where long, fast groomers allow for fun high-speed runs on open, rolling terrain.

But as good as this skiing and riding is — and it’s very good — the highlight of spring in Vail is when you can combine a sunny day on the slopes with awesome music and fun parties. Spring Back to Vail delivers the goods with the World Pond Skimming Championships (April 16) as well as fantastic free shows, including a not-to-be-missed gig on April 15 by the 321Go! Project.

Founded in 2011 during the Sundance Film Festival where Stefan Lessard from Dave Matthews Band and Mike McCready from Pearl Jam were working together on the soundtrack for the film Horrible Bosses, 321GO! features Lessard and McCready rocking with Brett Scallions (lead singer from Fuel) and heavy-hitting drummer Kenneth Schalk. With Mike McCready and Pearl Jam scheduled to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 7, this free show is one you won’t want to miss! Info:

Aspen Schneetag — April 9

Aspen. It’s easy to forget that this famous — or infamous — playground of the rich and famous has some primo skiing. Each resort has a distinctive vibe and feel; from Aspen to Buttermilk, from Aspen Highlands to Snowmass, it’s impossible not to find something interesting to ride here.

Aspen Mountain, of course, sits at pole position rising above historic Victorians and happening restaurants. It’s hard not to just jump on the Gondola and stay here, but make some time to check out one of the other ski hills in this spectacular part of Colorado. Buttermilk has super-fun groomers, is never crowded and there is an awesome pipe, while Highlands and surprising Snowmass offer hike-to freeriding terrain that’s world-class.

Those four options for skiing and riding anchor Schneetag (pronounced Sch-knee Tog), the German word for “snow day.” In the Aspen translation of this venerable tradition, “daredevils … propel themselves down a hill, over a jump and across a pond on a craft they built themselves.” In this participatory event, teams of four pilot a self-built craft down a slope and attempt to across a 20-by-40-foot pond. It’s an awe-inspiring spectacle, but more rewarding as a participant.

But no matter if you Schneetag yourself or which mountain you end up choosing to ride, a weekend at Aspen is a great way to wrap up the winter: Info:

Breckenridge Spring Beer Festival — April 8

Breck, that big sprawling behemoth that sits on the edge of Summit County. It can be cold. It can be windy. But it can also be as balmy as a day on a beach in Hawaii. The weather here makes the moods on the mountain. Crisp, clear days call for bombing speedy groomers with buddies. The wind fills in the gullies and creates windlips for launching. During the spring, there’s nothing quite like a picnic at the bottom of Horseshoe Bowl.

But we’re not here to tell you about the joys of chilling in the sun at one of the country’s biggest ski areas. Because no matter if it’s a powder day or if it starts off with fast groomers, you’re going to want to take an early après ski on April 8 to check out Breck’s Spring Beer Festival.

With more than 50 breweries setting up shop in the historic mining town of Breckenridge to showcase their best barrels, the tastings start at noon. But show up fashionably late (the event runs until 5 p.m.) and renew your taste-buds’ relationship with some of your old favorites while also discovering some new ones. Info:

Loveland gets blasted by storms in the spring, which begs the question, “cornhole or faceshot?” Tom Winter

Loveland Ski Area High-Hole — April 1

As it gets warmer and we slip into April, it’s hard to really grasp the fact that Loveland Ski Area stays open until May 7. But you’re not going to have to wait that long for an excuse to head up to this authentic and fun mountain on the Continental Divide.

Loveland comes into form in the spring, when the steeps off of Chair 1 are nicely complimented by a sweet combination of open bowl skiing, rolling tree runs and the chance to hike out on some of the high ridges that straddle the Divide.

It’s going to be on one of those ridges on April 1 when the mountain will be hosting the world’s highest cornhole competition at an elevation of 12,700 feet.

This two-person team event is open to everyone, and while the altitude may impact the travel of the corn-filled beanbags that give this “sport” its name, you’ll have to admit that being part of what will become a Guinness World Record attempt while also sampling some of the Love’s sweet terrain is probably one of the more memorable ways to spend a Saturday. Info and to register a team:

Now, two more to consider:

Eldora Retro Days — April 1-2

Eldora markets itself as a way to avoid Interstate-70 traffic, which is true, but a bit of a disservice to the fun terrain here. You can’t see the Corona sector of the mountain from the parking lot, but there you can find a nice mix of long groomers, fun trees and the bumps of West Ridge. The first weekend in April sees the mountain host a throwback theme party, showcasing retro ski style (wear your onesie) with concerts, a banked slalom event for the boarders and more make this local ski area a fun option to get your spring riding fix. Info:

Monarch’s end-of-the-season party combines skiing, community and tailgating for an authentic experience. Photo courtesy of Monarch Ski Area

Monarch Mountain 10th Annual Parking Lot Cook-Off & Tailgate Party — April 16

Monarch is a bit off the beaten path. The mountain features a great mix of terrain, from steep tree skiing to fun bumps and mellow groomers. It’s an amazingly friendly place, which means that visitors are welcomed with warmth. One of the best ways to connect with the locals is on April 16, when the ski area hosts its annual cook-off and tailgate party. Make some turns, fire up your own grill and soak up one of Colorado’s most authentic spring ski parties. Info: