Ski seasons come and go too fast.

As of this weekend, we’re at the midpoint of another season and it seems as if it’s hardly started.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is the month of February is once again starting with abundant snow and almost every trail in the region open. While the first half of the season is marked by sparse snow and limited skiing, the second half is when we get to enjoy the buildup of man-made and natural snow. As the sun gets higher, the light is better and having more trails open spreads the skiers for a more enjoyable day.

There is one caveat: Those trails with a man-made base where the groomers can move snow around have plenty of cover. That’s not true in the woods.

During a recent visit to a ski shop, there were many skis with “core shots.” That means the skier hit a rock under the snow and the ski suffered a gouge that penetrated the base into the core of the ski. Fortunately, none of the skis had torn out edges and could be repaired. Most of the snow in the mountains has been powder, and in the glades there is no firm base to protect our precious skis from things that lie under the snow. Only a freeze thaw cycle can add that firmness to the glades. Keep that in mind if you plan on entering the trees.

With that word of caution in mind, we can take a look at what promises to be a very busy month with the vacation and holiday week the highlight.

Locally, next weekend is the final weekend of the City of Auburn Winter Festival with special events at Lost Valley. On Saturday, Feb. 5, a torch-light parade will follow a day of entertainment and community race training. There will also be race training on Feb. 12. Vacation week will be busy with state Alpine and Nordic competition. Feb. 20 is Boy Scout Ski Day, and the Maine Mountain Series National Competition Slope-Style Event is set for Feb. 26.

In Rumford, Black Mountain has a pair of Ski Free nights, Feb. 4t and 11. There will be a Dual GS Open on the Feb. 5, and Maine Ski Challenge racing on Feb. 20 and 27.

Feb. 5 is Winterkids day at Mount Abram with $10 lift tickets, $15 rentals and $10 lessons for family members accompanied by a passport holder. The area, which is normally open only Thursday through Sunday, will be open all week for the vacation, with Family Day on the 21st, Class B State Alpine Championships the 22nd and 23rd, and the Ski Club Auction on the 26th.

Saddleback will start the month with Maine Day on the Feb. 6 and $29 lift tickets for Maine residents. The 12th will feature the third annual Saddleback Mountain Challenge and the Ski Patrol Spaghetti Dinner, with a USSA Snowboard Competition the 12th and 13th. High school state championship skiing is slated for the 22nd and 23rd, and a patrol torchlight parade on the 24th.

Sugarloaf kicks off the month with the Special Olympics starting Monday and running through Wednesday this week, which is also Learn to Ski Free Week. Feb. 5 is Rail Jam and Main Event Snowboard Competition and Feb. 7-11 is Go 50 week. After a busy vacation week, the Inferno Cross Country downhill race will take place on the 27th. One of the biggest events will be Maine Skiing Heritage Day on Saturday the 19th. There will be a display from the Ski Museum of Maine in the base lodge from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., an On Snow Vintage Ski Expo at 2 p.m., with a photo at 3:30 p.m. At 4 p.m., the action will move to the Sugarloaf Inn for a reception, and a silent and live auction. This is the fourth annual Maine Ski Heritage Classic and this important fund raiser will feature $10- to $15,000 in items, including skis, equipment, accessories, and vacations for skiing and golf.

Sunday River has a full month of events starting off with a Telemark Festival next Saturday. Vacation week has a long list with horse-drawn sleigh rides at the Bethel Inn on the 22nd and 24th. At the mountain on the 22nd, Black Diamond Family Entertainment will feature illusionist Jason Bishop in the Grand Ballroom in the Summit Hotel. It will host Kids Night Out on 23rd, with fireworks on the 24th. The final weekend will have the 24th annual Joy of Skiing with the Maine Lung Association on Saturday and both days the Super Hit competition will serve as qualifier for the Dumont Cup.

Shawnee Peak’s month has Telemark Clinics with Shannon Bell, on the first and 15th and the big Moonlight Charity Challenge next Friday night. On the 10th there will be Fireside Chat on Maine Skiing History and the 13th is Super Hits Sunday. Vacation week will see plenty of activity, with the 23rd annual Family Fest on the 24th. The week will wrap up with the Annual Russ Haggett Memorial Race on the 27th.

The above are highlights of the month of February which is always busy for skiers. In addition, there are all kinds of evening activities, such as Peak Dining at Sunday River and Bullwinkles at Sugarloaf. Look for bands and other entertainment at the various ski areas. For full schedules and details go to www.skimaine.com and click onto your favorite ski area.

February is the month when we get to start testing next year’s skis at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. We may think there isn’t much more that can be done to improve on today’s equipment, but the engineers keep finding ways to give us a little more performance. It’s always a highlight of the season for me. The rest of the month will be spent searching for the best snow.

See you on the slopes!

Dave Irons is a freelance writer who lives in Westbrook.


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