On Skiing: An action-packed January on tap at Maine's slopes

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As usual, our ski areas have plenty of plans for the coming month. With January’s reputation for being a cold month, ski areas have developed numerous ways to lure skiers to the slopes, especially those skiers who might wait until February.

Those of us who ski regularly, from the beginning of the season to the end, don’t need anything more than the promise of good skiing, but we still enjoy many of the specials events. In my case, the decision to ski has already been made, but where I ski is often decided by what’s happening at a particular ski area.

This past week I ignored the big news from the weather forecasters.

Every news cast focused on how cold it would be, and the weather folks made sure they added the big scare, the Wind Chill! One pointed out that with a daytime high near 10, the wind would make it feel like zero. He even showed the chart, but didn’t note that there are no serious wind chills until the actual temperature is below zero. Nor did he mention that this is a measure of wind and cold on raw flesh, of which we see very little on a properly dressed skier. Unless the temperature is 10-15 below and the wind is blowing so hard they can’t run the lifts, there is very little danger. Don’t let these doomsayers change your plans. After all, aren’t you bright enough to come in when you’re cold?

Here are some reasons to ski in January. Also, remember that we get to ski a three-day weekend, Jan 13-15, thanks to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

At Lost Valley, the Baxter Brewing Race League gets underway this coming Thursday with racing every week from 5 to 9 p.m. Multi-week lesson programs will start the week of Jan. 9-14. The Fat Bike Poker Ride will take place on the Jan. 14, and Jan. 27 features a Lucid Demo day.

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Racing With the Moon cranks up Jan. 3 and 4 at Shawnee Peak, and there is a New England Ski Day on Jan. 5. Show a New England state driver’s license and ski for $32. Friday the 19th is the annual Moonlight Charity Challenge, a fundraiser that uses team racing to raise the money.

The next day Saturday, Jan. 20, is the big celebration. Pleasant Mountain opened in January 1938 and will celebrate 80 years of skiing at Maine’s oldest continuously operated commercial ski area. Look for details as we get closer to the event, and plan on saying hello to me as that is one event I am committed to attending and expect to be signing my new book, “Shawnee Peak at Pleasant Mountain.”

Sugarloaf kicks off the New Year with College Snowfest, Jan. 1-4, followed by the Children’s Festival on Jan. 8-12, Maine Week on Jan. 15-19 (discounts on tickets and food and beverage), and the annual Charity Summit, the resorts largest fundraiser, Jan. 27.

Sunday River also has College Week this week, a demo of independent ski manufacturers on the Jan. 6, and a Children’s Festival on Jan. 8-12. On the 15th, skiers 12 and under can get free coaching from Gould Academy freestyle coaches in a park clinic.

Go-50 week will take place Jan. 22-26 with a full schedule of events for skiers 50 and older. A special race will offer skiers 50 and older a chance to compete against members of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. Age groups will be 50-59, 60-69 and 70-plus.

The weather is cooperating with Mt Abram’s Chill and Thrills promotion this week. The theme is “Make Fun of the Cold,” as seasonal programs get underway the Jan. 4 through 7. The Mountain Dew Vertical challenge is set for the 7th.

Jan. 11-14 is the ICE Coast Celebration of East Coast Skiing with tips and tricks from the coaching staff. Jan. 18-21 is Winter Wonderland, with the First Annual Snowball on the 20th, and Frostbite Falls to wrap things up Jan. 25-28.

The big event at Black Mountain is the Snowmobile Hill Climb on Jan. 19. Titcomb has a full list of competitions through the month and the rest of the season.

Both of these community areas are very active with both Alpine and cross country racing, so check their websites for dates and details. All of Maine’s Alpine and cross country ski areas can be accessed through www.skimaine.com. We only have room here for highlights. Throughout the month there will be activities connected with these and other events. You can find fireworks and torchlight parades, along with bands and entertainment if you’re interested in the nightlife.

Unique this year is the availability of cross country skiing. Unlike a year ago, most of the cross country centers have all trails open and groomed thanks to the abundance of natural snow. With the exception of small areas near the lodge, snowmaking is simply not cost-effective for cross country centers. Those centers attached to Alpine areas have enough manmade snow for teaching the basics, but extending it to trail networks would be far too costly. This year, that’s not a problem, and as long as this cold weather persists, it is easier to stay warm while cross country skiing. For special events check the websites.

Stay warm

With the cold temperatures, some tips for staying warm are in order.

Before starting out on a cold day, don’t start off with coffee and a donut. Like a furnace, our bodies need fuel, and food is that fuel. Go for a real breakfast.

We all know about dressing in layers to keep the core body warm, and the extremities get cold first so look into heated boots and gloves.

Ski the lower slopes in the sun, a method that also makes it easy to get inside for a warm-up break.

There aren’t many T-bars left, but they are warmer than chairlifts.

With proper preparation, you can ski on the coldest days, and there won’t be any lift lines. Happy New Year.

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