As I have noted in previous ramblings, March can bring us anything in terms of ski conditions. Some years we have rapidly deteriorating conditions when the first day of spring arrives, and other years we get a blast of winter. This year the temperature in my car registered 7 degrees when I went out to pick up a morning paper and there was no sign of any melting snow.

There may be another full month of skiing, but this column is winding down for the season with Easter a week away. While we still have time, some congratulations are in order. Each season ski areas and clubs run a bunch of fund-raising events for notable worthy causes.

The biggest each season for dollars raised is always the annual Ski-A-Thon at Sunday River which over its 30 years has raised millions for Maine Adaptive Sports. It started as a fund raiser for Maine Handicapped Skiing then a local program at Sunday River. As the program has evolved into a state wide program for a number of adaptive sports, the fund raisers benefits go far beyond Sunday River. Once again the teams and their sponsors raised over $300,000.

Another successful fund-raiser took place over 24 hours of skiing at Mt Abram. Skiers raised $63,638 for Winterkids. If we had space, we could list more events at almost every ski area where money was raised for various charities. This is a part of skiing that happens every year, and our congratulations goes out to all  skiers who participated at their home areas for worthy causes.

Congratulations to Herb Adams and the Chisholm Ski Club for naming the start-finish line at the Black Mountain Nordic Race Stadium for the club’s longtime chief starter. Adams devoted a lifetime to skiing as a competitor, coach and official. His teams have won championships and sent forth individual competitors who reached the highest levels in the sport. He was also dependable volunteer Even after retiring from teaching and coaching,  Black Mountain skiers and club members have benefited from his efforts in organizing all other aspects of skiing competition. Herb Adams was inducted into the Maine Ski Hall of Fame in 2009 and it is fitting that his name should be on the start-finish line at Black Mountain Nordic Stadium.

With Easter next weekend, a number of areas have already closed for the season, but most are still open have special plans for Sunday. Shawnee peak is now operating only weekendsand has a Sunday Brunch followed by an egg hunt.

Saddleback has another Maine Day Sunday (Maine residents ski for $39.), and a mountain service at 10 a.m., by Peter Panagore, followed by an egg hunt at 11 that features a golden egg good for a season pass.

Be at the Super Quad at 5:15 a.m. to load for Sugarloaf’s Sunrise Service and be prepared to ski or board down. A waffle breakfast at Bullwinkle’s is $10. For late risers, there will be a service in the Chapel at 9 a.m. Meet the Easter Bunny in the King Pine Room at 8:45. There will be a scavenger hunt at 9 and a parade at 11.

Sunday River combines Easter with the Parrothead Spring Festival. Board the Chondola at 6:45 for the Sunrise Service followed by an egg hunt at 9.

Finally a word on the recent lift incident at Sugarloaf. I have watched the coverage on both local and national news and have a few thoughts of my own.

With 20 years experience as a ski patrolman and patrol director, I know well the constant training every ski patrol member goes through and lift emergencies are a key part of that training. And it is training that involves many ski area employees other than ski patrol. For the most part, the emphasis is on lift evacuation.

We all experience lift stoppages during a ski day. Mostly within a few minutes the lift starts up again with no consequences. Ninety or more percent of the time the lift is stopped by an attendant because a skier failed to load or unload properly. It’s a fact that all but a handful of lift associated injuries occur loading or unloading and mostly due to skier inattention. Occasionally lifts will stop due to power outage. When this occurs, auxiliary motors, either gas or diesel, are used to unload the lift and other than a slower ride the skiers on the lift are unaware of the problem until they find the lift not running and the lights out in the base lodge.

What happened at Sugarloaf is rare. The failure of a gear box stopped the lift and caused the automatic brake to fail as well. These are redundant systems and they keep the lift from rolling back. There is also a mechanical brake which the lift attendant used to stop the runaway lift before it went any further. As all of us who drive cars know, sometimes mechanical things fail. But such failures are rare when it comes to ski lifts and I can attest to the fact that today’s lifts and maintenance programs have made riding lifts safer than ever. I feel safer riding a ski lift than I do driving to the mountain. And unlike an auto accident, rescue personnel are immediately available at a ski area.

See you on the slopes.


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