The one question I’m asked repeatedly and cannot answer is, “What’s your favorite ski area?”

If I choose an area, and the answer winds up in print or elsewhere widely known, I will have folks at one ski area happy and at least a half dozen unhappy. And that only includes Maine. What about New Hampshire and Vermont? And Quebec? I usually fall back on Warren Miller’s answer: “Wherever I’m skiing on fresh powder with the sun on my face.”

I can agree with Miller on that one.

I can also add that I have had memorable ski days at many ski areas and I certainly have favorite trails at ski areas, especially here in Maine and other New England ski areas. Listening to the weather this past week reminded me of how I have ways to start a day at most areas.

We finally had some typical January temperatures although not for long and as expected the couch-potato forecasters once again made dire predictions about the wind chill. Early in the week, we had overnight lows in the single numbers (ideal for snowmaking), but day time highs were around 20 in the mountains (Ideal for skiing). At 20, the snow surfaces remain powdery and today’s ski wear keeps us comfortable. As to the wind, unless it blows so hard the lifts can’t operate, we have little to fear. And keep in mind that even on our biggest mountains, we are rarely more than 10-15 minutes from shelter.

That being said, there are ways to make our skiing even more comfortable. At Sunday River, for example, the trails on North Peak, especially Dream Maker, get the early morning sun and their easy terrain makes them ideal for a warm up run. My favorite trails at Sunday River have always been the first cut. Lower Cascades is wide and offers a variety of pitches from intermediate to steep with a number of double fall lines so you can ski it half dozen times and take a different line each time. That makes an interesting ski trail.

At Sugarloaf, I like to warm up on the Whiffle Tree Chair for some easy runs in the morning sun. For more challenge, simply drop down to King Pine and ski the sunniest runs on the mountain. From there, I can swing across the mountain to ride Spillway and work my way to the base of the Timberline Quad. This takes me to the summit, and Timberline run has spectacular views of Crocker Ridge on the way to a mid morning warm-up with hot chocolate at Bullwinkle’s. From there I can have a relaxing run down Tote Road before heading for more challenging runs.

Shawnee Peak offers an easy, sunny warm-up off the Pines Quad before sliding down the Main to the triple. At the summit, the warmest option is down any run on the East, all facing the early sun. The trails and lift on that side are also sheltered from the prevailing winds out of the West.

At Mt. Abram, the West Side is open and sunny and low out of the wind. Off the top Round About is sheltered from the wind and gets a full dose of morning sun.

Of course, Lost Valley being in a sheltered valley rarely has a wind chill problem, and even if it does the base lodge is really close at hand.

These are some examples of how to make the most of those early morning runs on those days when Joe Weatherdoom gets carried away with the wind chill forecasts. Unlike my ski patrol days, when I had no choice but to be there when the lifts were running, today I can be a more choosy. But I still don’t miss days because the forecasters are trying to scare us into staying indoors. If you pick and choose your runs, you can enjoy skiing on all but the very coldest days.

Of course, January’s reputation for being cold is one reason there are so many promotional events this month. Next weekend being a three-day celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday is a natural. With the month already well under way, a lot has been happening this weekend and you still have time to join Winterkids Family Day at Lost Valley today.

Today also features a blood drive at Shawnee Peak. Donate a pint between nine and three and receive a free mid week lift ticket for later in the season. Friday, Jan. 22 is the annual Moonlight Charity Challenge.

This is Children’s Festival week at Sugarloaf followed by Restaurant Week Eat Around the next week. January 30 is the annual Charity Summit and Winter Special Olympics start the 31st.

Sunday River also has Children’s Week this week and invites seniors to Go-50 week Jan. 25-29.

You can find a full schedule of races at Titcomb and a lot of other events by going to www.skimaine.com and clicking onto your favorite ski area. You can find details of the events above as well.

One ski bargain can be found on the financial pages. As a fairly frequent visitor, I check the value of the Canadian dollar frequently, and this week it has dropped to 71 cents. That means a Canadian ski vacation is close to a 30 percent discount. I feel for my friends at Quebec ski areas, but it doesn’t stop me from taking advantage of the low cost of everything from lift tickets to lodging.

If you’ve been thinking about a trip up to Quebec City to get in some skiing and take in Winter Carnival this would be a good year to go. Carnival is the first two weeks in February, Jan. 29 to Feb. 14 this year. www.bonjourquebec.com has all the information from the event to skiing and lodging. I can vouch for Quebec Winter Carnival as the finest celebration of winter anywhere. It’s always worth the trip, and 30 percent off makes it even better.

See you on the slopes.


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