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Spring fling: Taos ramps up for riders

Image: skiing at Jackson Hole, Wyoming
A skier heads down a run at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in this file photo. If you're looking to enjoy the snow before summer hits, the third annual Jackson Hole Mountain Festival runs March 24–30 with free concerts (including Michael Franti and Spearhead), discounted lift tickets and a slew of unique events.Flo Mccall / AP file

Don’t look now, but hell is about to freeze over.

At least that’s what they’re saying in northern New Mexico, where Taos Ski Valley has decided to reverse its longstanding ban on snowboarding. Starting March 19, aka the day hell froze over, the resort will welcome riders whether they’re on one board or two.

The news means that there are now just three resorts in the U.S. that continue to ban snowboarding (Alta, Deer Valley and Mad River Glen). It also means that there’s one more place for skiers and snowboarders to get together to celebrate the second best part of winter.

We’re talking spring, when the days get longer, the snow gets softer and parkas and goggles give way to short sleeves and sunscreen. It’s a time for live music, cold beer and wacky events, and festivities are now getting underway across the continent. Snowboarding skills aren’t required — skiers are welcome, too — but an open mind and sense of humor are mandatory. Here are 10 resorts that know how to celebrate the season:

Taos gets a jump on spring on March 19 with the Bud Light Spring Break Bash, two days of live entertainment, free giveaways and drink specials in the Martini Tree Bar. The festivities continue into the weekend with DERAILED, a nighttime slopestyle event in which riders will hit a series of jumps and obstacles in pursuit of a $500 cash prize.

Meanwhile, the world’s best riders are already heading to Stratton, for the U.S. Open, one of the most prestigious events in professional snowboarding. Catch the action through March 23 or show up March 28–April 6 for the U.S. Open After-Party when the resort will open the superpipe and slopestyle courses to the general public for the first time.

Held over the next three weekends, the Bud Light Spring Jam at Aspen/Snowmassfeatures several new events this year. The wildest is called Schnee Tag, in which participants build ski- or snowboard-powered crafts and try to fly them over a 75-foot pond at Snowmass on March 29. Other new additions include the Helly Hansen Battle in the Bowls backcountry race (March 30) and the Snow Angels Invitational, a women’s-only superpipe comp (April 4-5).

At Jackson Hole, the third annual Jackson Hole Mountain Festival runs March 24–30 with free concerts (including Michael Franti and Spearhead), discounted lift tickets and a slew of unique events. Try your luck on a mechanical bull, tackle a simulated luge track or catch the high-rpm action at the World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb at nearby Snow King Resort.

The Canyons gets into its spring groove with, well, Spring Grüv March 28–April 6. Opening weekend festivities include a costumed pond-skimming contest on March 29 and the Canis Lupus Challenge, in which snowboarders and skiers tackle a natural halfpipe-like gully. When the lifts close, it’s time to rock out, courtesy of free concerts by Soul Asylum, Rusted Root and others.

Margaritaville moves to Maine April 4–6 during the annual Parrot Head Festival at Sunday River. On Saturday, the resort goes tropical with a barbecue, margarita mix-off and dance party with Jimmy Buffett cover bands. On Sunday, the wild times continue with pond-skimming, a Key lime pie-eating contest and the 21st annual Bust ‘n’ Burn mogul competition. Proceeds benefit the Make-A-Wish foundation.

Fun and fundraising also go together during the snowboard-centric Spring Loaded event at Killington April 5–6. Riders compete in superpipe, rail jam and slopestyle events; spectators pack the popular Bear Mountain deck; and live music and frosty libations keep the party hopping. This year’s rail jam will be a fundraiser for the Boarding for Breast Cancer foundation.

Known as Spring Massive, Breckenridge’s biggest party runs throughout April, but the big weekend for riders is April 11–13. Catch or compete in the rail jam on Friday, the slopestyle event on Saturday and the superpipe competition on Sunday — or just enjoy Saturday’s Spring Massive Beerfest, where you can sample 16 microbrews ($25 admission) and free concerts by Tony Furtado, the subdudes and others.

Quite possibly the biggest snow-party on the planet, the Whistler Ski & Snowboard Festival takes over Whistler April 11–20. For 10 days, the resort pumps up the volume with a non-stop stream of concerts, competitions and special events. Come nightfall, the festivities continue with art events, fashion shows and nightlife that doesn’t stop until dawn.

“The triathlon for a new generation” — that’s how they’re billing the Ultimate Boarder Competition, a three-stage race that forgoes running, biking and swimming for snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding. The slopestyle snowboarding event will take place at Squaw Valley April 13, followed by surfing and skating competitions amid the tubes and trick boxes of Ventura, Calif.

After that, it’s just a short ride into summer.