We’re just now emerging on the far side of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, America’s annual celebration of capitalism and over-consumption. Though, actually, there is a third, oft-forgotten pillar to the holiday – giving thanks for the good fortune in our lives, and showing gratitude to those who enrich our lives. It’s time for me to give thanks to the ways Maine blesses those of us who ski and snowboard.

I’m thankful for the diehard skiers who push Maine’s mountains to open in November and even October. While skiers in the Rockies and the West Coast can brag about big mountains and powder days, the fact remains that we were skiing before many of them had a chance to tune their equipment. I’m doubly thankful that the technology at ski areas marches ever forward, meaning that every opening day has conditions better than the last.

At Sugarloaf this year, I notched probably my 20th opening day with my father in as many years. While Dad never forced me to ski and never made me race (thank God), it was at his knee that I learned to love this sport. This was, in fact, at his literal knee, as I rode up the Camden Snow Bowl’s T-bar between my old man’s legs.

Like many children of skiers, I’m thankful for Dad’s early morning commutes to ski areas and patience as I fumbled into the sport. Here, I’ll loop my mother in. While she doesn’t ski, she drove to night skiing programs, provided hot cocoa and lunches, and both provided equipment to two fast-growing teen boys. And I’m thankful that while this devotion from my parents was incredible, it isn’t unique among Maine families. I’m thankful for all the parents who keep the sports of skiing and snowboarding healthy.

Gratitude in this area should also go to the nonprofits Ski Maine and Winterkids. Without the Ski Maine Mountain Pass, the Maine Winter Activities Pass and the Winterkids Passport, many Maine families wouldn’t be able to experience Maine’s Nordic and downhill facilities. Executive Directors Greg Sweetser and Julie Mulkern, and their staffs and boards, deserve thanks from Maine skiers and Maine resorts.

Speaking of Maine resorts, I’m thankful that so many are investing in their future. Sugarloaf’s 10-year plan is perhaps the most ambitious, adding a whole new peak. The Camden Snow Bowl’s efforts are no less remarkable, building a new base lodge. Mainers are even in the business of resurrecting lost ski areas – Greenville’s Squaw Mountain has restarted after being closed for years, and rumors swirl that Eaton Mountain in Skowhegan will reopen.

I’m also thankful that Maine’s resorts have developed an environmental conscience. Most skiers and snowboarders exist at a weird crossroads of environmentalism and consumption. We consider ourselves environmentalists and lovers of clean air and abundant forests. But we drive gas-guzzlers to where hundreds of acres have been cleared and equipment burns gas and electricity.

Some areas are devoted to countering our impact on the environment. Some efforts are small, like investment in lower-energy snowguns. Nearly every ski area now makes snow more efficiently – and snowmaking is one of, if not the, largest energy draws.

Greenwood’s Mt. Abram is the poster-child for environmentally conscious efforts. With a wood pellet-heated lodge, two electric-vehicle charging stations and 803 new solar panels, Mt. Abram feels like a resort of the eco-future. The Mountain Rider Alliance, which manages the resort, notes environmental sustainability and community partnerships as core values, and we should be thankful that there are people who look at skiing as (in their words) a sport and not just a business.

I could go on and on. I’m thankful that the Maine Ski Hall of Fame and Ski Museum of Maine preserve Maine’s heritage, and that companies like Lucid Skis and Volition Skis are bringing back the tradition of Maine ski manufacturing. I’m thankful gracious athletes like Seth Wescott have put Maine in the national spotlight. And, of course, I’m thankful to readers like you, who allow my father, myself and the rest of this paper’s outdoors writers to share our love of Maine winter sports.

Josh Christie is a freelance writer and lifetime outdoors enthusiast. He shares column space in Outdoors with his father, John Christie. Josh can be reached at:

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