A few weeks ago, I took a long weekend at Sugarloaf — a rare luxury for someone who, for the rest of the season, sticks to day trips. It was, by pretty much any metric, a perfect weekend.

Early March meant that things were just starting to transition into true spring skiing, with warm temperatures, soft corn snow, and the sun sitting higher in the sky thanks to the time change. My partner, who just started skiing last season, got to explore the breadth of the mountain for the first time as she progressed from greens to blues and the occasional black diamond. Barring the occasional wind hold (this is Sugarloaf, after all), the mountain was wide open with plenty of elbow room. The ropes to the backside snowfields dropped on the final day, and I managed runs back there and in Brackett Basin before heading home. It seemed that the mountains were well set for a season stretching into early May — another two months of skiing!

How much things can change in just a few weeks.

By the end of the day on March 15, both Sunday River and Sugarloaf had shut down operations indefinitely, including barring uphill access. Mt. Abram, Hermon, and a number of others closed on the same day. Shawnee Peak and Lost Valley both closed the following day, and by the end of the week every alpine resort in Maine had reported an indefinite closure. While most of the larger resorts disclaimed that the closure was “until further notice,” in all likelihood nothing will reopen this season.

There’s no question that this was absolutely the right call; all the resorts cited recommendations and guidance at the state and federal level, as well as guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in regard to COVID-19, as the primary reason for shutting down. The most widely accepted ways to stem the spread of the virus are by social distancing and self-quarantine, and by prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people, all of which would be pretty impossible in ski lodges and on lifts.

With this reality in place, however, I’m facing my first case of ski season interruptus. Throughout my life I’ve been lucky to have both the geographic and financial stability to ski from November through April, and even longer on particularly good seasons. Even broken bones haven’t stopped me: After breaking my right wrist in middle school and my left in college, I was on the slopes a week later, with an oversized wool work glove taped over my cast.

But we’re now facing something unprecedented — a strike to the American economy and psyche that is being compared not to the 2008 recession, but the Great Depression and the wartime footing of World War II. In the face of that, worrying about losing a few weeks or a couple months of skiing feels … small. No matter how important the sport is to me.

So the question is, what does a skier do in a time of coronavirus? As I’ve been sticking to self-imposed social distancing at home, I’ve found myself gravitating toward ski movies. Outfits like Matchstick Productions, Teton Gravity Research and other filmmakers now have their entire film catalogs online, and hundreds of hours of virtual skiing are available to stream –no need to leave the house.

Ski writing has also kept me connected to the sport while I’m not on my skis. James Salter’s “Don’t Save Anything” is particularly good, collecting the author’s beautiful writing on skiing and Aspen from the late ’50s to the turn of the century. Dick Dorworth’s “Night Driving” offers great escapism in the form of a mid-’70s road trip between ski towns. And, while I’m not sure the Great American Ski Novel has yet been written, Peter Kray’s “The God of Skiing” is pretty close.

If you do choose to venture outside for fresh air and exercise during this outbreak, the National Recreation and Park Association has provided recommendations for doing so safely. They include refraining from using parks or trails if you’re exhibiting symptoms, preparing for limited access to public restrooms or water fountains, and observing the CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of 6 feet from other individuals at all times.

Mt. Abram has even left its slopes open to uphill access for those looking to get some late-season turns in, with the warnings that there a) is no ski patrol, maintenance or grooming, b) unmarked hazards and variable conditions exist, and c) all access is “at your own risk,” with no motorized vehicles or sledding allowed.

With ski season now at its end (albeit earlier than usual), Skiing in Maine will now go onto its summer break. Going forward, my brother Jake and I will be trading off duties on our Worth the Trip column, covering socially distanced outdoor adventures in the Pine Tree State.

Josh Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Jake, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Josh can be reached at:

[email protected]


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