When does your ski season start? For many it’s the first day on snow, but for me it has been underway since the middle of October.  

Dave Irons, Skiing Columnist

I know we weren’t skiing at that time, but 400 skiers turned out at Sugarloaf for the 17th annual Maine Ski Hall of Fame banquet. This event that has turned into a reunion of skiers to kick off each new season was a huge success, with eight more skiers inducted into the Hall of Fame. You can read this year’s program on the website www.skimuseumofmaine.org by clicking onto Hall of Fame. You can also learn how to nominate a skier or snowboarder you believe has earned this honor. Examples of who should be nominated can be found by reading the biographies of past inductees. 

That was the beginning of my ski season. It continued Nov. 15 when we took the bus to Boston for the annual Ski Expo. When you add up gas, tolls and $14.00 an hour for parking, the bus fare isn’t much more and the bus is a lot more relaxing than driving in and out of downtown Boston. Next year the Expo will move to the Hines Auditorium at the Prudential Center, as the Seaport World Trade Center will be undergoing a rebuilding. The show was the usual collection of displays from ski resorts from all over North America to the latest in equipment and attracted a record 46,000 skiers. Unlike many years, a number of areas around New England were not only open but had a number of trails and lifts, and ski resorts were handing out ski reports.  

My first day out was yesterday at Sunday River. This was according to my usual plan of making my first turns on the Mixing Bowl beginner slopes where the demos are set up. Of course, this was written before that so I can’t report on that experience. My reasoning is simple. I like to take those first runs on easy terrain to feel out the skis and the snow. I don’t need to try out the new skis, as I always get to try a bunch of them a year before they arrive at the shops. Look for a review of the new equipment in this space soon. 

If you’re looking for new skis, the demos will be at Sugarloaf next Saturday. The tents will be set up just above the base of the Super Quad. While I recommend a short run to try skis, so you can get on several pair in a short time, with this location it would require hiking back up to the base of Double Runner, so the Super Quad is it. Fortunately, it’s a fast lift so the ride up is quick. The trail I would ski is Tote Road. It’s an intermediate run, but with Chicken Pitch it does have some steep terrain. It’s a good run to try out skis. 

One type of ski I have seen recommended more this season is the Non-FIS racer.  Many of us have never stopped skiing race skis, which were the top skis from all brands back when we were in our professional ski days (Patrol in my case). Non-FIS designates race skis which either do not conform to FIS (Federation Internationale de Ski, the governing body of ski racing) specifications or they are designed for recreational use. They are referred to as recreational racers and even “Beer League Racers.” Actually, they are skis with race ski dimensions, the main characteristic being waist length 65-68 mms. A lot of the skis being pushed in recent seasons are wider, 80 mms plus at the waist. The recreational racers are typically softer and more forgiving than the skis used by racers. Now that we are skiing them in shorter lengths, these skis are ideal for skiers who spend most of their time on groomed runs. They are easy into the turn, carve nicely and hold well when things get a little slick. I noticed Jackson Hogen recommending those skis on the web site www.realskiers.com. If you can find any at the demo days this year, give them a try. 

With both Sunday River and Sugarloaf open, the season is well underway and we can expect most of our ski areas to open between now and Christmas. Lost Valley has announced Dec. 13 for its opening and I learned that Shawnee Peak and Mt. Abram are shooting for next weekend with the usual “weather permitting.” Both figure the 13th for sure. The easiest way to find information on openings and events is by going to www.skimaine.com for both alpine and cross country.  

If you’re willing to don a full Santa get-up, next Sunday is Santa Sunday at Sunday River. Go their website to pre-register. A maximum of 250 skiers will be able to take part and those who are present for the group photo will receive a free ticket to be used by the 19th. This year’s Winterfest is scheduled for Dec. 13-15 and will feature a birthday party for the 60th year of Sunday River’s operation. Again, go to the website for details. I expect to be there as I was there Dec. 19, 1959, when Sunday River opened with a single T-bar, a rope tow, Lower Cascades and Rocking Chair on the mountain and a 30-by-60-foot base lodge.  

It would be impossible to list in this space all the changes that have taken place in the last 60 years. Obviously, we’re no longer skiing on wood skis and with today’s snowmaking we won’t be confined to about half of Lower Cascades as in that December, when snow was so scarce we could only ride halfway up the T-bar. That’s how sparse the snow was 60 years ago. Early last week Sunday River was reporting skiing on 17 trails with three lifts. That’s how things have changed in 60 years, so we have plenty of skiing as we start December.  

See you on the slopes. 

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