This past week demonstrated just how powerful our ski-area snowmaking systems are. Last weekend at Sugarloaf, skiers were confined to the Landing and Tote Road, and Sunday, on lower half of Tote Road skiers were maneuvering through the output of dozens of snowguns.

When we left Sunday afternoon, we saw the guns on Sluice, Winter’s Way, Boardwalk and another run or two. By Tuesday, eight trails were projected for the next day.

The outlook for the weekend was double that amount of terrain.

A Tuesday release from Sunday River boasted of turning 10 million gallons of water into snow in 24 hours. It pointed out how that amount of snow would cover 56 football fields a foot deep. Terrain was doubled from the weekend to Wednesday and expected to double again for the next weekend. Wednesday, Shawnee Peak chimed in to announce snowmaking operations were under way as they prepared for next weekend’s opening. It’s all happening because winter finally hit the mountains with temperatures in the teens and twenties even during the day. If this kind of weather continues, snowmakers at all areas will be able to pump out plenty of the white stuff for next weekend and the approaching vacation.

The ski areas are obviously ready. Are you? If you rode around the golf course instead of walking, and didn’t do anything else to get in shape, it’s too late. Crash programs can do more harm than good, and skiing yourself into shape doesn’t really work unless you can ski three or four days a week. At least start working out on that exercise bike or walking each day, and remember to start with a good stretch routine at the top before heading down the mountain.

My exercise bike is in no danger of wearing out, but it has helped somewhat, and by starting easier, I can reach mid season form fairly quickly. The new skis really help. Instead of getting a workout muscling 210 cm skis around, we now have 175s which are easy into the turn and take little effort to ski. Those first turns are always made on a novice or intermediate run to get the feel of the snow where we can relax and loosen up. They will also be made right after lifts open for the best light, the best conditions and the fewest other skiers.

If you’re in shape, how about your skis? If you stored them properly, with a coat of protective wax, all you need to do is apply the iron to soften the wax and scrape away the excess. Add a speed wax appropriate to projected temperatures, and you’ll be ready to go. If you simply stood them in a corner, then a full tune is probably needed. Any burrs and rust need to be removed by filing or a diamond stone. An edge bevel guide or tuner should be used to make sure the proper degree of bevel is achieved. This is critical with today’s shaped skis as most require a bevel of one degree off the base and one or more on the side. Check with your shop for specs or to have the skis done at the shop.

Personally, the usual preseason preparation has been achieved. The picture in the entryway that shows a mountain golf course in summer is switched to the same scene with snow on the fairways and ski trails. In the basement, the ski vise has been set up on the workbench, and the storage wax ironed in and a speed wax added.

Snow tires and the snowblower have been checked so we’ll be able to get out and head for the mountain on snowy days. We also took the time to try on the ski boots to make sure they still fit properly. It’s always best to spend a half hour or so in the boots at home rather than head out on the hill and learn that either the foot or the boot has changed over the summer. After spending a summer in soft footwear, we need to get our feet accustomed to stiff boots again.

If you’re ready to ski, it’s also time to make sure the kids are also prepared.

Their equipment needs the same care as ours, but most don’t need the extra conditioning. But for those in the 5th, 6th and 7th grades there is another step in getting ready.

The Winterkids Passport applications are now available. This Passport entitles the holder to free or reduced tickets at 19 cross country and 16 alpine areas, three sledding and tubing parks, and 11 ice slating arenas throughout Maine.

The applications are available in every school in Maine, at Winterkids’ sponsor locations, Hannaford Supermarkets, TD Banknorth, LL Bean, Weight Watchers of Maine, and online at

This program, now in its 10th year, is a real opportunity for kids to get involved in the outdoors in winter. There is a $20 processing fee, but there is a generous scholarship program.

For more information, check the Web site or call Carla Marcus at 207-871-5700.

Dave Irons is a freelance writer who lives in Westbrook.

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