Despite El Nino’s best attempts to provide us with a less-than-memorable ski season, those of us who love to milk just as much out of the winter as possible should be reminded of a couple of things.

First, ski areas in Maine have been manufacturing plenty of snow this winter and are still offering top-to-bottom skiing on some darn good conditions. And secondly, you haven’t had to live in Maine for too many years to know that March and April dumps can sometimes be among the biggest storms of the winter.

For example, over at the town-owned Camden Snow Bowl in a region that not only received below-average snowfall, and where a couple of poorly timed torrential rains rendered slopes sloppy at first and hard under-ski conditions when temperatures plummeted, snowmaking crews were out on the hill for 550 hours during a season that came to a close last Sunday. This represented a full 35 percent increase in producing manmade snow over the previous year. And the groomers worked overtime to create magic snow carpets.

Sugarloaf and Sunday River, to name two more, report record expenditures of time and money spent on producing quality skiing and boarding conditions when Mother Nature failed them.

Bottom line, there’s still hope that at least a near-average ski season can be salvaged before it’s all over in a few weeks.

I picked perhaps the perfect year to foolishly venture headfirst off-piste into an icy hole on Martin Luther King Day in mid-January. The accident resulted in a dislocated and broken shoulder, and a tear (a reinjury, my doc reported, after reviewing MRI evidence of a previous rotator cuff tear of which I was unaware), which brought an abrupt halt to my skiing for the past month and a half.

But a rigorous physical therapy routine, and a group of health-care professionals at PenBay Medical Center have encouraged me to be confident I’ll get back on the hill again this season.

Heading into this weekend, 10 ski areas in Maine were still operating: Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Shawnee Peak, Lost Valley, Hermon Mountain, Big Rock, Baker Mountain, Mt. Abram, Black Mountain and Titcomb Mountain.

Additionally, over in New Hampshire, some 14 areas were still spinning their lifts: Black Mountain, Bretton Woods, Cannon, Cranmore, Dartmouth Skiway, Granite Gorge, Gunstock, King Pine, Loon, McIntyre, Mount Sunapee, Ragged Mountain, Pats Peak and Waterville Valley.

With the advent of spring and the urge to rip it up on corn surfaces, here’s my annual reminder about a few precautions: First, surface conditions can change not only day to day but run to run. So the trail you took in the morning on crisp spring snow can be glop by mid-day, and east- and south-facing pitches that were covered at 9 a.m. could be showing bare spots, and rocks and stumps by late morning. And second, soft mid-day conditions can morph back to frozen granular in the late afternoon.

In addition to increased awareness of condition changes, be sure to protect exposed skin from the harmful effects of the sun reflecting off the snow, with liberal applications of sun screen and lip balm.

John Christie is a former ski racer and ski area manager and owner, a ski historian and member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. He and his son, Josh, write ski columns on alternating weeks. John can be reached at

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