With only a few more days to go in the year it’s time to look ahead. The best way to start any new year is to hit the slopes. New Year’s Day is usually the quietest day of any vacation period and for many the vacation is over and coming midweek makes it even better. Those who stay up to ring in the new year won’t be in the early morning lift lines and many of those who do ski will leave early to watch football. That usually means short lift lines and plenty of room on the trails.  And if one of your resolutions like mine is to ski more in the new year, it’s best to get a head start.

     If you’re among those who like to party out the old year, most of the larger ski areas and many of the smaller ones with adequate base lodges, have New Year’s Eve parties or dinners.  At Sugarloaf and Sunday River with multiple restaurants and lounges, there are several choices, but most are by reservation, so if you plan on a night out, call ahead. Don’t look for me at any of these places. Our celebration will be a quiet dinner and an evening in front of the fireplace, so we can hit the slopes early the next morning.

     Once the vacation is over and the new year is underway, our ski areas have a full schedule of events for January. And, of course, we have the MLK holiday right in the middle of the month. As mentioned previously, January is skier safety month, so check the posters and other messages, and have a safe ski season. The big campaign to increase skiers this season is Bring a Friend to Ski. You can check the various incentives under this program at the ski area websites or at www.skimaine.com or www.skinh.com

     After everything looked so good for the vacation, last weekend’s ice and rain messed up the opening of the big week, but thanks to a big start, the comeback was quick and we have plenty of skiing. When I talked with Ed Rock, Shawnee Peak general manager Ed Rock, he said: “We’re further ahead than we have been for a long time.” 

That was in reference to the good snowmaking temps before the vacation and the new snow.  There was no loss of cover from the storm, so it was simply a matter of letting things dry out and returning to snowmaking and grooming.

     Shawnee Peak has a bunch of events coming in January starting with a Red Cross blood drive next Sunday. Donate a pint of blood and receive a free mid-week lift ticket good for any one day through the end of the season. A word to the wise: ski first, then donate. Exercise after giving blood is not a good idea. That’s why the free lift ticket is for a future day. Also on tap at the Bridgton area is a New England ski day where anyone from New England can ski for $19.  Racing with the Moon starts on the 8th and the Haggett Memorial race is set for the 26th.


     Lost Valley’s team corporate team racing will be Thursday evenings, and the annual Winterfest will be Jan. 24-26. A highlight at Saddleback is Family Fun Day, a day filled with children’s events on the 18th.

     At Sunday River, the 6th to the 10th is College Week, with special pricing for college students, and Children’s Festival the following week.  Go 50 week is on for 27-31, with activities for those skiers over 50.

     Sugarloaf’s college week will run from the 6th to the 9th, with Children’s Festival the 12th to the16th.  One of the oldest promotions is Sugarloaf’s White White World Week, started years ago to fight the perception that January is too cold to ski.  This one is a non stop celebration of winter.  The Loaf’s biggest fund raiser, the Charity Summit will be on the 25th followed by the Special Olympics Jan. 26-28.  For this event, Carrabassett Valley Academy students leave the class rooms and the slopes to work with these special athletes. The big competitions are the Rand Stowell Downhill on the 29th and the FIS Webber Cup on the 30th.

     Sugarloaf is on my list in January, but I have yet to choose the date. I do know one stop will be at Gepetto’s. For years, this has been our lunch stop. We would try to sit at the corner of the bar where we would see Tiger or Lloyd come out of the kitchen to greet the skiers. In this spot, we would also see friends coming in for lunch. Just over a year ago, Tiger Bragdon sold out to his partner Lloyd Cutler. We knew Tiger had been in ill health, and this past summer he passed away.

   An afternoon of memory was held for him at Falmouth Country Club, and hundreds turned out to share their memories of this man who had been such a part of Sugarloaf for so long. We saw him not only at his restaurant but at every charitable event, whether at the Annual CVA golf tournament or some winter event. He was always ready to reach into his pocket, and dinner at Gepetto’s is always a part of any fundraising auction. This fall we learned that Lloyd had sold out to Sugarloaf.  Because he wanted Gepetto’s to continue as is, he went to the Mountain and asked that they buy him out. The plan is make no changes in menu and as few as possible in staff.  The unique character of Gepetto’s is a key part of the base village. I hope when we get there that Kelly will still be behind the bar. 

Happy New Year.  See you on the slopes. 

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