WESTBROOK — Lisa Hallee came to Smiling Hill Farm on Wednesday afternoon to cross country ski – and planned to ski until dusk, despite the frigid temperatures. She looked perplexed when asked if she plans to curtail her skiing this week because of the cold snap.
“I just wear lots and lots of layers,” said Hallee, vowing to come back again Thursday and Friday. “I wear hand warmers. It’s only when you stop moving that you get cold.”
While the deep freeze has many people worried about frozen pipes and ice dams on roofs, Hallie and other skiers in Maine say conditions couldn’t be better. The fresh powder that fell on Christmas, followed by frigid temperatures, has made for ideal skiing.
In much of southern Maine on Wednesday, temperatures hovered near 10 degrees – they were near zero in the western mountains. In the six days ahead it will get even colder. In Portland, daytime temperatures will range from 5 to 11 degrees. In the mountains, the forecast calls for highs between zero and 6 degrees.
Sunday River in Newry boasted that 22 inches of snow had fallen since Friday, and Sugarloaf’s website reported two feet had fallen in the past two weeks. At Lost Valley in Auburn, snowmaking continues around the clock as the ski area builds a new tubing park, which requires a lot of snow to shape the banked turns.
“There is epic skiing. There is fresh packed powder everywhere,” said John Herrick, Lost Valley’s general manager. “Yesterday was the first time in a long history that the entire mountain was open – 21 trails and three lifts. You can’t ask for anything better.”
Bethel Village Trails, a nonprofit Nordic center, is busier than it was at this time last year, according to manager Sarah Weafer.
“When you get in the woods, and you’re moving, it’s a great way to stay active and warm,” she said. “Right now there is lovely powder snow. It’s absolutely perfect. It’s actually better than if it were slightly warmer.”
And when the temperature hovers near zero? Maine skiers say just dress in layers.
“Life is good. There is no bad weather, just bad clothing,” said Black Mountainspokeswoman Deanna Kersey in Rumford.
Mike Matrel of Auburn was skiing at Lost Valley on Wednesday with a pack of kids: his three children and a group from his neighborhood. They’ll be back tomorrow, he said.
“At Lost Valley, you’re shielded from the wind. And there is natural powder. It’s great skiing,” said Matrel, 42. “We make sure everyone is bundled up, has face masks. We just take a few more breaks. We’re used to winter in Maine.”
Lewis McAllister, who has skied at Lost Valley for 35 years, said the skiing doesn’t get any better than it is this week.
“There is plenty of powder. When it’s warm it gets skied off,” said McAllister, scoffing at a mention of the temperatures.
“You just dress in layers,” he said. “It’s not unusual. This is Maine.”
Pieter Dehart drove an hour and 45 minutes from his home near Unity with a friend to ski at Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook.
“We came to ski where it’s warm,” Dehart said sarcastically of the 12-degree reading in Westbrook.
“Honestly, in the woods where the wind is not blowing, when you’re moving, you work up a sweat. There is so much snow. This is the time to be out skiing.”
Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: