On skiing: Great month of skiing ahead in February

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Maybe it’s a sign of age that I now enjoy special events at ski areas.

My attitude of, “who cares, let’s go skiing,” seems to have mellowed, and when I attend an event like the 100th Anniversary of the Chisholm Ski Club, I often don’t bother to boot up.

On this occasion, I was told that some club members and the folks who run Black Mountain would like to take a few runs and show me the area. They didn’t have to twist my arm, and I am glad that I got out on the hill. In previous visits, I had pretty much stuck to the main trails down the face of the mountain, but when I went out with Roger Arsenault and Jeff Marcoux, they led me over to Allagash, a newer run that swings off to the east from the summit.

One of the problems with Black Mountain has been the lack of an easy transition for new skiers from the excellent beginner terrain near the base to the top. The runs down the face all have pitches that, while intermediate, are intimidating for a new skier. They are wide enough for traversing, but still look steep from above. Allagash solves that problem in a big way. It’s a meandering trail that follows mostly easy terrain and even some flats where novices can relax. Any steeper pitches are short and easy to handle. It does get a little tricky just before it exits onto the main run down the face near the bottom, but plans are in the works to do some grading over the summer ease that stretch.

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After skiing in the morning, I changed and helped man a few tables in the museum room of the base lodge. There is an excellent collection of early photos of the hills and jumps where the club got its start before the acquisition of Black Mountain.

The Ski Museum of Maine had supplied a bunch of photos from the area and other items, and visitors to Black that Friday were interested in the history. The highlight of the day occurred around 5 p.m. when Chummy Broomhall arrived. We had heard he wouldn’t be able to make the trip from the Veteran’s Home in South Paris, but he decided he was coming and he was soon seated at a table in the base lodge where one club member after another greeted him. On an adjacent table was a stack of Scott Andrews’ new book on the History of the Chisholm Ski Club. The author wasn’t able to make it until the next day, but those buying the book got lined up to have the oldest living member of the club to sign it.

And the 97-year-old Broomhall gladly obliged. It was a great kickoff day for the weekend celebration.

Now it’s on to more skiing.

It doesn’t seem possible that February is already here, but it is, and with it the best skiing should be ahead. We had a few thaws in January but not enough to reduce the cover much in the mountains. A few weeks, ago Sugarloaf sent out an email that the Snowfields were open, a sign of plenty of snow cover. The snowfields didn’t have enough snow to open the past two seasons, so this is a good omen.

This is the month when everything comes together for skiers. Not only is February usually the best snow month, it’s winter vacation month. That means plenty of families plan on taking off some time to ski and the areas plan to accommodate. Those areas that operate only weekends such a Black Mountain and Mt. Abram will be open at 9 a.m. every day, and areas such as Lost Valley will also offer a full day.

February vacation is also when the high school ski championships take place. The alpine events — giant slalom and slalom are set for Feb. 21 and 22, Class A at Mt. Abram and Class B at Black Mountain. The cross country races, both classic and freestyle, are set for Feb. 23 and 24, Class B at the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center and A and C at Quarry Road Trails in Waterville. Ski racers, both alpine and Nordic are used to competing with few spectators, unlike the basketball games which will be played before packed houses the same week. These kids deserve more attention than just being cheered on by coaches and a handful of parents, and I can attest from having attended previous years’ alpine races that there are a lot of skiers worth watching skiing for our schools.

Speaking of competition, the overtime Super Bowl finish made me think of skiing competition. I didn’t realize that Atlanta would not get a try after the Patriots scored a TD. The game actually was decided by a coin toss.

As I have often pointed out, ski racers have no guaranteed salary, and there is no such thing as a no-cut contract. Only by winning and placing high in results do ski racers make any money. I have watched ski racing at every level from the Wes Marco races at Titcomb and the J.P. Parisien races at Lost Valley, to the college carnivals, national championships at Sugarloaf, World Cups here in New England, in Canada and Norway, and I have never seen a race decided by a coin toss. I suspect that the NFL powers that be will be discussing the overtime rules in the offseason.

Next weekend, as the vacation gets under way with the holiday weekend, you can find me at Sugarloaf for Maine Skiing Heritage Day. I’ll be with those representing the Ski Museum of Maine with a display in the Base Lodge during the day. At 4 p.m., the activities will move down to the Sugarloaf Inn for a reception along with silent and live auctions. If you’re at the Loaf stop by.

See you on the slopes.

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