On Skiing: The final month (or so) of skiing beckons

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Happy Easter.

Now that we are in what is usually the final month of lift-served skiing, only a handful of ski areas have anything on the schedule.

While one or two other Maine ski areas may be open for another week, only Sunday River and Sugarloaf have a regular calendar of events for April.

Naturally, today has a number of activities with Easter Parades and egg hunts.

Although we have mid-winter cover on most trails, temperatures are now on the rise and things can change in a hurry. The good news is that many of the activities set for this month focus on being outside on decks and enjoying the sun.

But one celebration is different — Sugarloaf’s annual Snowmakers’ Ball is an evening event that features the snowmakers in Tuxedos as they sit at the head table. There, they take the men and women who wear their warmest clothing to drag hoses around the mountain at night, dress them up and salute them for producing the fine skiing we enjoy so much. The event is open to all, and you can join in Wednesday night, April 4.

Spring is always a celebration at Sugarloaf, even if all you do is hit the “Beach” after a full morning of skiing. The “Beach,” of course, is the area immediately in front of the base lodge where there is typically a bar and a grill set up. The sun beats down on the sheltered area and it’s often warm enough for t-shirts. Add in Reggae Fest from April 12-15, fireworks on the 15th and the East Coast Pond Skimming Championships on the 21st, and you have a full celebration.

Sunday River will have a Brew Fest next Friday to kick off Spring Festival weekend, which will kick off a two-week period of celebration. The following weekend, Apri 14-15, is passholders’ weekend, with Pond-A-Palooza Saturday, an Apres Concert and BBQ. The 21st is the annual Great Tailgate Party, where the celebration extends to the parking to at Barker Base. The Ski Museum of Maine will have a daylong silent auction in the Barker Base Lodge along with some museum displays. You can learn a little about the history of skiing in Maine and talk about the history of Sunday River with the guy who wrote the book.

This offering would not be complete if we didn’t mention some of our neighbors in New Hampshire that have great spring skiing, as well.

Wildcat, with a base elevation of 2,000 feet, is always a favorite. The deck over the brook is a popular spot for the spring celebration, often with an outdoor barbecue. Cranmore, with its south-facing slopes, seldom goes into April, but Bretton Woods with a base elevation similar to Wildcat often shoots for May 1, sometimes having golf and skiing on that day.

On the other side of the White Mountains, Waterville Valley, Cannon, and Loon are all good spring bets, and those who have the New England Pass at Sunday River and Sugarloaf can also ski Loon. Obviously, there are good spring places in Vermont, but those aren’t day trips.

Next comes the question of where to ski when the lifts stop turning.

Although some skiers climb at their local ski areas after the lifts stop, there is only one destination that offers a combination of challenge and celebration. Mt. Washington should only be skied by those skiers in good enough shape to climb 3,000 vertical feet up a mile-and-a-half trail. In May and June, the hike will start on dry ground and end on snow, with some mud and slippery rocks in between. Also, you have to carry your skis and boots, preferably strapped to a solid pack frame with your lunch and extra clothing in the pack. It’s common to hike in a T-shirt and need a parka in the ravine.

Often, after the Auto Road opens, it’s possible to drive up and ski in the snow fields. You can find all the details of skiing on Mount Washington along with up-to-date reports on conditions on the website www.friendsoftuckermanravine.org.

A week ago, we were still skiing mid-winter conditions, but that is going to change. The high sun and higher temperatures are going to give us spring skiing surfaces. To most, that means wet granular, or corn snow. In fact, the only accurate description of spring conditions is “variable.” It may start as frozen or groomed granular early and change from wet granular to truly heavy wet stuff as the day progresses. It can change as you ski from sun into shade, and later you can find bare ground under that next bump.

The best advice is to get out early, start on the groomed runs and hit the rest as the surfaces soften in the sun. When the snow gets heavy, retire to the deck to continue the celebration of spring.

Looking ahead

After you decide to hang them up for the season, there are necessary steps to take before storing equipment.

Most critical are the boots, especially if you skied hard the last day and built up a sweat. Pull the liners and dry them thoroughly. Clean the shells of any dirt or grime, replace the liners, buckle the boots the way you ski them and store in a cool dry place, out of the sun.

The skis should be cleaned and waxed to protect the base, and stored like the boots in cool, dry place — not on a concrete floor.

Finally, congratulations to all the teams that raised $380,000 for Maine Adaptive Sports at Sunday River’s Annual Ski-A-Thon this year!

See you in December.

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