Last weekend, I checked out the demos at Sunday River. The area made a huge amount of snow in a very short period of time, but had to concentrate on upper slopes.

With no snow at South Ridge, the tents were set up in the top tier of the parking lot. While the skis were there to look at and flex, they were not being let out. Most of the skiers could understand why.

This led to a discussion of how skiers treat demos. The reps I talked with noted that most skiers would be as careful with the demos as with their own. But the potential for severe damage with limited cover even for careful skiers kept most of the skis in the tents. It was a disappointment for the reps and the skiers.

Only one company lent out any skis, and those were with the understanding that any damage would be paid for by the skier. All came back in good shape.

I could repeat plenty of horror stories about misuse of demos, but that’s not needed. What we all need to do is carefully read the release forms. Most of us sign such forms without reading them, but a closer look will find the details on the skier/snowboarder responsibility when it comes to damage. The usual dings or burrs that come with normal use are not the problem. These things are accepted, but serious damage could be costly and can be the responsibility of the skier.

So pay attention the next time you demo, and treat those skis with care. The next big demo days are at Sugarloaf next weekend. You will need a lift ticket, identification and a major credit card. In some cases, there is a fee. Call ahead for details.

So far the skiing in Maine has been confined to Sugarloaf and Sunday River. That won’t change for another couple of weeks. Mount Abram, Lost Valley, Shawnee Peak and Saddleback were all shooting for the weekend of Dec. 16, and with cold weather coming in this weekend, they should all make it. The question is how much will be open. The goal for most is 50 percent by Christmas vacation. With today’s snowmaking, all we need is cold weather.

Chance to race

Now is the time to sign up for the various race leagues that mostly start in early January. Lost Valley starts up the first Thursday in January, and teams are encouraged to form now.

Over at Shawnee Peak, the Racing With the Moon series has a special sneak preview Thursday, Dec. 21. The mountain will only be open for those in the program or interested in joining. Skiing will take place on the Main and Pines Slopes from 4 to 7 p.m. There will be coaches and veteran racers on hand to give tips to anyone interested in trying to race. Lift tickets will be $20, with preregistration required. The ticket includes a free appetizer buffet in Blizzard’s Pub.

One reason for the preview is to give skiers a chance to give racing a try, especially those who have never raced or feel they don’t have a chance. This is an opportunity for nonracers to learn how easy it is. The courses are not the kind we see Bode Miller crashing on, but rather have back-and-forth gates set far enough apart so almost any level skier can negotiate them. In addition, there are three levels of competition, so skiers compete against skiers of their own ability.

Melissa Rock of Shawnee Peak told me that most of the participants had little or no racing experience before Racing With the Moon. Having witnessed these races on numerous occasions, I can vouch for Melissa’s claim that the evening is “four parts social and one part competitive.”

My schedule doesn’t permit me to commit to be at any ski area for a night every week, which would not be fair to any team. But I do run gates when the opportunity arises, which is why you might see me on some of these nights as a forerunner.

I won’t be the fastest down the course, but I won’t be the slowest, either. It’s good for our skiing to run gates, and these racing leagues are a lot of fun. For details on the sneak preview, check out www.shawneepeak.com.

Dave Irons is a freelance writer who lives in Westbrook.


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