Making those first turns of the season has changed over the years.

During my ski patrol days the decision wasn’t in my hands. I had to be there the first weekend day the mountain was open. As patrol director, I had to see that the rescue toboggans were properly packed and placed at the top of the lifts. Of course, at that time at Sunday River we only had to keep those toboggans at the top of the Barker Mountain chair, the top of the upper T-bar (now where the Locke Mt. Triple unloads) and the top of the Mixing Bowl.

The first snowmaking at Sunday River was on the Mixing Bowl, and that’s where we started the season. Later, when snowmaking was extended to the top of the mountain, it ran down Ecstasy and Lower Cascades. Actually, Ecstasy was cut so the snowmaking pipes had a shorter route to the summit.

Obviously, we didn’t have much choice of trails to make our first runs. We skied whatever was open.

In one respect, that hasn’t changed much. It’s normally colder at the higher elevations, so snowmaking begins on the upper trails. And most areas let skiers know that the early terrain is for advanced skiers. Because adding terrain is critical we can also count on some of those early runs having snow guns blasting.

Now that I can pick and choose, I delay my first day out until there is some intermediate terrain open where I can relax and cruise without much effort.


That’s why, although I was at Sunday River on Thanksgiving weekend and Sugarloaf the weekend after, I waited and traveled over to Bretton Woods on a Tuesday.

With a base elevation of 2,000 feet, they can make snow right down to the base lodge and start the season on intermediate terrain.

Starting mid-week is another plus. Even with skiing on only three trails, there were no lift lines and no crowded runs. It was a good way to make those first turns and feel out new boots.

Now that I know everything still works, I’m ready for the rest of the mountain. And with the snow we’ve had, along with great snowmaking temperatures, most ski areas now have skiing for all ability levels. So there is no reason to delay the first day out any longer.

Last Saturday, I visited still another ski area, this time without skiing. Shawnee Peak wasn’t yet open — it’s waiting until this weekend. But the staff was getting ready.

I could see the snow guns going as we approached the area over the causeway across Moose Pond. The employees were blowing snow on the Main, the Pines and the upper mountain. A few others were manning the snowmaking, but most of the rest were in Blizzard’s Pub.


There I joined them in the room filled with season-pass holders and other Shawnee Peak skiers. We were all there to show our appreciation for Ed Rock, who is retiring after 34 years at the helm of Maine’s longest continuously operated ski area.

Shawnee’s Rock

In an emotional presentation, Shawnee owner Chet Homer told the gathering how much he appreciated having Ed Rock as general manager for the 22 years he has owned the mountain. He cited such events as the ice storm that shut down the area, and that Ed’s leadership in mobilizing employees and outside contractors got the mountain back in operation within days, when it easily could have been weeks.

“It has been an honor to work with Ed all these years, and together we have positioned Shawnee Peak to be a viable long-term ski area,” Homer said. “I have been extremely lucky to have had his friendship and guidance. I think many skiers and community members feel the same way.”

In recognition of Rock’s 34 years of loyal service to the ski area and the community, Chet Homer announced the creation of the Ed Rock Community Spirit Fund to benefit the town of Bridgton.

Shawnee Peak opened the fund with a $10,000 donation which will be managed by the Maine Community Foundation. An annual payout will be managed by the town of Bridgton, which will determine where the funds will be awarded.


Skiers wishing to donate to the fund can do so by going to Click on “Give Now” and under “Designation,” scroll down to “Ed Rock Community Spirit Fund,” and make your contribution.

The reception would not have been complete without hearing from the honoree, and Rock stood up to thank everyone present. In every event over the years, Ed has avoided the spotlight, always asking others to do the speaking, and those of us who know him were not surprised by his remarks.

Those arriving at the mountain in the morning often meet Ed, walking through the base lodge, stopping to greet skiers, and he seems to know them all. He asks employees how things are going and encourages them to keep up the good work.

This day was no different. He took his time in front of the appreciative crowd to thank the employees who “made his time as manager so enjoyable.” He gave credit to employees who showed up to get things going again after the ice storm, noting that many had no power at home but still made their way in to get the mountain back up and running. Ed took the time to name many of the longtime employees and some regular skiers for their contributions to skiing at Shawnee Peak.

It was typical Ed Rock, not about himself, but those around him. The new general manager, Ralph Lewis, grew up in the area and is returning to his roots. He has a great example to follow. And many days this winter Ed will be wandering through the base Lodge as he stays on as a consultant.

See you on the slopes.

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