Soar, slide, splash? It’s skiers’ choice as spring’s wacky pond skimming tradition returns

Apr 20, 2024, 11:22 AM

photo of a snowy peak at Snowbasin...

Demoisy Peak, where the new ski lift will be finished. (Snowbasin)


GILFORD, N.H. (AP) — A costumed skier races down a slope, hits a pond and hydroplanes halfway across. He pirouettes and then plunges into the icy water before jumping up and waving to the cheering crowd.

It’s the wacky spring tradition of pond skimming, and it’s happening this month at ski resorts across the country. It’s often held to celebrate the last day of the skiing season before the chairlifts close until the following winter.

Among the resorts holding pond skimming events this weekend are Snowbasin in Utah and Winter Park in Colorado. Mountains in New England and California have already held events or have them scheduled for later in the month. The tradition dates back decades, made famous by the late filmmaker Warren Miller who began documenting the annual Mt. Baker Slush Cup in Washington state in the 1950s.

These days, most resorts make their own ponds with plastic sheeting and water about 3 feet (1 meter) deep. The idea is that skiers and snowboarders try to gain enough downhill momentum to skim clear across a pond. People ski in pajamas, dressed as movie characters, holding fishing rods or shirtless.

During the pond skim at Gunstock Mountain Resort in New Hampshire this month, Dan Nutton made one of the most spectacular splashes of the day. His skis dug into the water early, propelling him through the air with his arms held out like Superman before he hit the water. Hard.

“It was a little bit rough coming into the corner there, and then we hit a bump and I was going a little bit slow,” he explained with a grin. “So, I navigated incorrectly, and I made a mistake.”

Gunstock ended up making its pond longer and more challenging this year after too many skiers stayed dry at last year’s event.

“We actually do enjoy it sometimes when they don’t make it — it gets the crowd more excited and it’s a little more fun,” said Tom Day, the resort’s general manager, who is retiring after more than four decades in the ski business. “We’re going out with a bang. It’s a beautiful day. We’ve got the music on the deck, and we’ve got the barbecue, burgers going on.”

Many skiers and snowboarders showed their prowess by zipping right across the pond. Edward Murphy, dressed in a bright green costume, wasn’t one of them. He said he realized about halfway across that he wasn’t going to make it.

“I decided to reach out and grab some water,” he said.

“Feels great,” he added. “Diving into spring.”

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Soar, slide, splash? It’s skiers’ choice as spring’s wacky pond skimming tradition returns