March 28, 2010

Skiing: Season heads for another raucuous end

By HEATHER BURKE

There are those in Maine who complain about our long winters. I have little sympathy for them. This is the northeasternmost state, after all. You should expect snow, cold weather, and, frankly, you should ski.

click image to enlarge

Springtime offers sunshine, softening snow and some really fun events at Maine’s mountains.

Photo by Greg Burke

I have even less understanding of those Maine skiers who hang up their boards as soon as the calendar turns to spring. Late March and early April are typically the best time to ski. Base depths at major ski resorts like Sugarloaf, Sunday River and Saddleback are still 3 feet deep, despite last weekend's temperatures along the coast climbing into the 70s. I know it is hard to conceive, but the majority of trails are open and well-covered in the mountains.

There are so many reasons to extend your ski season. The days are longer, light is vastly improved from those dark days of December. Gone is the fear of frostbite that prevails in January and February. If you endured the cold, harsh climate of mid-winter on the slopes, you deserve to ski now in the warm sunlight on softening snow. It's like the grand finale, your just dessert. 

We are fortunate to have three ski resorts that keep their lifts spinning, and their groomers working, well into April. As the sun shines on the slopes, the festivities at The Loaf, The River, and The Back are heating up, too, in an effort to lure you up to the mountains. Still, so many Mainers are reaching for their bikes, boats and golf clubs, deserting their beloved downhill sport too soon.

For those like me who find winter just flies by, I say ignore the calendar and the crocuses in your garden and go skiing while you still can. Your bike will still be there; the yardwork will wait. The snow won't. Just remember to wear sunscreen, so you get a goggle tan -- not a gaper burn. Also protect your eyes with sunglasses or goggles from the glare of sun on snow.

Here are some fun events coming up in Maine ski country you won't want to miss.

Next Saturday at Saddleback is the Pond Skimming Contest.  On Sunday, Saddleback will host Easter Summit Service at 9:30 a.m. with the Rev. Peter Panagore (of the First Radio Parish Church of America). An Easter Egg Hunt will take place at the Saddleback Base Lodge at 11:30 a.m. and a Costume Parade kicks off at 1 p.m. Easter Sunday also happens to be a Maine Day at Saddleback. Lift tickets are only $35 for Maine residents.

Sunday River celebrates Easter all weekend, starting with an all-mountain Family Scavenger Hunt on Saturday. On Sunday, catch the chondola at 6:30 a.m. for Easter Sunrise Service atop North Peak at 7, followed by first tracks or a ride down -- your choice. An Easter Egg Hunt takes place slopeside at South Ridge at 9. And the Easter Bunny will make an appearance at 9:15. The only question is whether Eddy the Yeti, Sunday River's elusive abominable snowman, will come out for the festivities. The shy beast has been showing up for more events lately.

Sugarloaf's Sunrise Service is super early at the SuperQuad. Load the lift Easter Sunday at 5:40 a.m. for the on-mountain service. But can you put a price on watching the sunrise on the mountain? Actually, no. It's free -- no lift ticket required for the ride, the service or your one ski run. You do have to ski -- as there is no downloading on the chairlift. A special breakfast will be served at Bullwinkle's following the service. The Easter Bunny will be at Sugarloaf's Base Lodge from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. The always animated Spring Costume Parade will take place throughout Sugarloaf Village to the Beach at noon, with awards for best costumes in numerous categories. Amos the Moose, Blueberry Bear and Pierre the Logger surely will be in attendance.

Mt. Abram anticipates being open Saturday, April 3, for its last day of the season, dubbed "Spillover Ski and Ride Day."

The weekend of April 10-11, the spring skiing parties continue with Saddleback's Park Shark Challenge, a slopestyle terrain park competition to the cheers and jeers of the snow-loving, sun-worshiping crowds.

Sunday River will host the Bust 'n' Burn mogul competition on April 10-11. This weekend also brings out Jimmy Buffet fans for the Parrot Head Festival. Picture bands playing island music all day outside by the slopes, burgers on the grill, and margaritas in the blender. The White Cap Lodge serves as Parrot Head headquarters, and prime viewing for the big splash event on Sunday -- Pond Skimming at 11 a.m.

The biggest on-snow event of the Maine season is Reggaefest at Sugarloaf, taking place April 15-18. This big music event is now in its 22nd year; just like sister resort Sunday River's Bust 'n' Burn. Interesting to note, many of the Reggaefest concertgoers do not ski, leaving the slopes less crowded than Sugarloaf's Beach area.

Beyond that, Sunday River will host its traditional Ski Mania day on April 19, with free skiing and riding. Sugarloaf's last official event on the ski season calendar is the Season Pass Holders Barbeque on Sunday, April 25.

For the last two seasons, Sugarloaf was the last resort open in the East. Sugarloaf's sights are on early May again to clinch that last-open title and seal Maine's reputation of the longest ski season east of the Rockies (with Sunday River opening in October). Both Sunday River and Sugarloaf plan to keep skiing and riding for another month, as long as snow and demand hold up. That's where skiers and riders must do our part by showing up.

I hope to see you on the slopes.

 Heather Burke is a ski/snowboard journalist from Kennebunk. She can be contacted at:

heather@familyskitrips.com

 

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