On Skiing: Only 15 days left to shop for your skier

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Have you found the gift for the skier on your Christmas list?

We have only 15 days left, and that’s if we start today. Of course, I always advocate combining shopping with skiing. The best place to buy for a skier is in a ski shop, and every mountain has one, so why not get in at least part of a day on the slopes before hitting the shop?

I have been taking my own advice, getting in some ski days during the shopping season. I no longer head for the top of the mountain the first day out. Instead, I look for a place where I can ski mid-week with intermediate runs near the base lodge. I also like a place where I can park very near the base lodge.

In early December, only the bigger areas are open, but there is one area that meets my requirements. I chose a Wednesday to drive over to Bretton Woods, parked within a 100 feet of the base lodge and booted up. There are easy runs off the quad that starts right in front of the base lodge, so it’s easy to make those first runs without any stress.

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It prepared me for the next trip, which was to Sugarloaf for the Grand Re-opening of the Ski Museum of Maine a week ago Friday. More than 100 skiers stopped in to see the results of a summer-long redecoration of the space, which is on the second floor of the Sugarloaf Outlet Ski Shop in Kingfield. Everything has changed from the entrance at the top of the stairs to new flooring, a raised ceiling, newly sheetrocked walls and special display cases.

The displays feature Maine-made products such as Paris Skis and Bass Boots, which outfitted the 10th Mountain Division in World War II. There are plenty of photos and trail maps, pins and patches from ski areas of the past and present.

You can see Olympic uniforms and a plaque with all the names of each class to date in the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. You can look up the names of Maine skiers who served in the 10th Mountain and see how skis were made in Maine many years ago.

The museum also has a store with a number of items which would make good gifts. There are several books: First Tracks, a history of the first 125 years of skiing in Maine; Skeeing, the first ski book in America written in 1905; 100 years of the Chisholm Ski Club in Rumford/Mexico; We Jumped, a look at Nordic jumping in Maine; and the histories of Shawnee Peak, Sugarloaf and Sunday River. Check the web site, www.skimusuemofmaine.org. You can also give gift memberships in the museum.

Another great source of gifts for the skier is the catalog of the older New England Ski Museum. This 24-page book has everything from books, vintage posters, classic photos, books, both history and children’s, DVD’s and a dozen pages of items for home and personal use. It can all be found online at www.skimuseum.org.

These are easy ways to shop for your skier and you will be supporting the preservation of the history skiing in Maine and New England.

Comp Center continues to impress

Saturday morning, I headed over to the new competition center to see how that facility was working in its second year of use. It was a big hit last March when the U.S. Alpine Championships came to Maine.

There won’t be any national championships this season, but local programs will keep things busy. I talked with CVA Head of School Kate Punderson who told me they had over 300 kids signing up for junior programs that morning. By the time I got there, they were out on the hill and only a handful of coaches and parents were around. I found Sugarloaf Ski Club President Bruce Miles in his office and learned that the new building was really working well. Bruce led the campaign to raise the $2-3 million needed to transform the space occupied by the old gondola base building into a modern facility with offices, changing rooms, exercise rooms, locker and coaches’ rooms. When I left, the big meeting room was filled with skiers, parents and coaches having lunch.

Wandering through the ski shop I saw plenty of skiers combining their ski day with shopping. For stocking stuffers, there are small items such as lip balm, warming packets, various waxes and applicators, and tuning items such as diamond stones. If your skier complains of cold feet or hands, there are heated socks, gloves and boot heaters.

Often, skiers are contemplating new boots and it’s obvious we can’t buy boots for another skier, but maybe new boots aren’t needed. Often boots have grown as the liners compress over time and use. A boot fitting session can frequently solve this problem at far less cost than a new pair and nothing could top the gift of all day comfort in ski boots.

These are some ideas. Check with your favorite ski shop for more, and consider gift cards at either the ski area or the shop. You’re sure to find something that will please the skier on your list and you can get back to skiing.

See you on the slopes.

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