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Sun one day, snow the next — there are many ways to enjoy spring in Wyoming

March 22, 2017 GMT

Many Casperites returned to work Monday, the first day of spring, after a weekend of mild weather. They could be seen all over town tending yards, golfing, dog walking, running, fishing and skiing. No local weekend event slammed winter and spring activity together in Wyoming style more than the Winter Carnival ski-season send-off at Hogadon Ski Area.

Several winter sports enthusiasts donned swim trunks and bikini tops with ski and snowboard boots and raced down the slope to try, and mostly fail, to jump a pond carved into the snow.

Natrona County Parks Department will stop grooming the mountain ski areas at the end of the month, supervisor Matt Buhler said. People are taking advantage of the rest of ski season at Hogadon and the Nordic Trails as well as the Casper Mountain Biathlon Club, which will continue grooming its own area.

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At the same time, Buhler is seeing more people every day fish and hike the Alcova Reservoir area.

“People are shifting from wintertime to the summer activities,” Buhler said.

There’s no reason you can’t do both, said fishing guide Brendon “Bean” Billinger of Wyoming Fly Fishing Guide Service.

“The cool thing about Casper is that you have the opportunity to ski in the morning and fish in the afternoon,” Billinger said last week from Gray Reef. “So there’s a lot of activities this time of year. On a nice day, you can do a little of both.”

He and his clients fished that day in shorts and flip-flops. Early spring offers some of the best fishing of the year, but also plenty of wind and sometimes snow, he added.

The area’s blue-ribbon fishery attracts many travelers on the way to Yellowstone National Park, he said. June is his busiest season, but die-hards fish all year.

Casper’s most determined golfers don’t let wind or even a little snow stop them from honing their game in winter and early spring either, said Gary Marsh, director of golf at the Casper Municipal Golf Course.

Options are limited as spring starts in Wyoming, with most of the course greens in town still covered to help grass grow and protect them from windburn.

Temporary greens, with a hole cut out in the fairway short of the real green, are open all year at the course, and a driving range with artificial grass offers a spot to practice.

“It’s kind of golf, and it’s kind of not,” Marsh said.

Recent milder days are drawing more to the course as its full opening nears. Marsh hopes to uncover one nine-hole course by the end of this week, and all three nines usually are open by about the first week of April.

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“But right now, this time of year, mother nature pretty much decides what’s going to happen,” Marsh said.

Weekends are still drawing crowds to Hogadon Ski Area, manager Chris Smith said. They’re skiing on what they call “corn snow,” which is more granular. But there’s still excellent ground coverage, and a there’s even a race this weekend.

Spring is the best time for cross-country skiing at the Nordic Trails and Casper Mountain Biathlon Complex at McMurry Mountain Park, Casper Mountain Biathlon managing director Cathy Rosser believes.

“You can ski in the sunshine,” Rosser said. “There’s still plenty of snow, and it’s a lot warmer.”

The club plans to continue grooming trails in the park to extend the Nordic ski season as long as possible, which is often into May with good snow, she said. Anyone with a Nordic ski pass is welcome to the area’s trails, which are part of the Mountain’s Nordic ski trail system.

The club hosts two of its biggest events of the year this month, the World Para Nordic Skiing NorAm and U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Biathlon Nationals. Racers, including U.S. Paralympic athletes, are arriving from around the country and from as far as South Korea, Rosser said. Some of the best athletes in the country also train in the biathlon complex there this time of year.

“We’re always trying to get the word out that we have a fabulous, long season here, because we have snow that sticks around well into April or May,” Rosser said.

Early spring is also a great time to visit Yellowstone National Park and other Wyoming destinations before tourist season. Wyoming’s heavy spring snows often thwart weekend getaways, though. If you’re grounded in town during an untimely storm, you can slog through soggy snow to a museum, live show, movie or check out Casper’s restaurants or coffee shops.

Or just stay inside and relax with a warm beverage. Enjoy it. Weather won’t provide an excuse for a lazy day much longer.