If there is an official start to the spring skiing season, it must be St. Patrick’s Day.

Dave Irons, Ski Columnist

Ski areas don’t go to the extremes that Jim Kelly, former owner of Brodie Mountain down in the Berkshires, used to go but there is always some recognition of the date, if only in green beer served at the area. Kelly, who called his area “Kelly’s Irish Alps,” had his snowmakers use food coloring to make green snow. I was only there once on that day — in fact, the only day I ever skied there. Aside from the green snow, the most obvious thing I noticed was young men drinking green beer well before the lunch hour. No thanks.

I don’t know what took place at our ski areas Thursday, but I do know that the celebration that is spring skiing is underway and will continue until the lifts stop turning.

There are certain places at various ski areas that lend themselves to the celebration. The area in front of the base lodge at Sugarloaf is known as the Beach, and it catches the sun, attracting skiers who sun themselves the way they would at the beach. A tap is set up outside. Count on a crowd there each weekend day with live music. Reggae Fest is the big weekend each spring. For exact schedules and details, check the Sugarloaf website.

Sunday River has a series of spring Apres ski concerts with live music, with details on their website.

There are a number of ski areas that have special activities in the spring, or that their facilities lend themselves to outdoor gatherings. The slopeside deck at Mt. Cranmore is a popular spot in spring, being right outside the pub. At Shawnee Peak, the deck outside Blizzard’s Pub is a warm, sunny place to gather.

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I don’t know if it’s still done, but the deck outside Wildcat’s base lodge used to have roast beef barbecue and it’s a great a spot over the brook that runs between the lodge and the slopes. Of course Wildcat, with its 2000-foot base elevation, can often run really late in the season. Their parking lots often catch the overflow of cars of Tuckerman skiers. It’s been many years since I made that annual pilgrimage, so don’t look for me in the Ravine. But Wildcat has wonderful views of the bowl.

Once we get into April and May, you can get reports on conditions on Mount Washington on the website friendsoftuckermanravine.org.

If you’re the ironman type, you can also get information on the annual Inferno pentathlon. I’m not sure there is any great planning for one happening, but it has certainly drawn a crowd on a few occasions. It’s the annual tailgate party in the Barker parking lot at Sunday River. I don’t know if it’s going to happen this year and I don’t think the resort would be involved. It’s likely a bunch of skiers who got together and whoever shows up, that’s fine.

All I know from walking through the parking lot a few years ago, it was filled with grills and coolers. It was one big party, which pretty much describes spring skiing.

Naturally, this time of year brings back memories. In the ’60s and ’70s, the ledges at the top of Sunday River’s upper T-bar were a gathering spot. Those of us on ski patrol obviously could not join the party, but we made a contribution. In those days before the chair lift, rescue sleds were hauled up the T-bars, sled on one side of the T and a patrolman on the other. During the day, a number of those toboggans also carried coolers and/or grills. While we might have had a hot dog or burger, we didn’t partake in any of the beverages. We were keenly aware that we might have to give a partier a ride down on the toboggan at the end of the day.

When you ride the Locke Mt. Triple, look straight ahead at the top. The view of Mount Washington is spectacular, a perfect spot for a spring picnic.

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On one occasion, a young female Gould student was in no condition to ski down the mountain. She was tied into a toboggan and the handles turned over to a patrolman who enjoyed skiing fast with a toboggan. When she got out of the sled in front of the base lodge, she was quite sober. Interestingly, a few years after graduation she married a Sunday River patrolman.

Be careful how you celebrate spring skiing, especially at the top of the mountain. I have seen a picture of Mt. Abram skiers picnicking at the top of the mountain, but I can’t tell you where it was taken. Any regular Mt. Abram skier can probably identify the place where they often go to celebrate in spring.

See you on the slopes.

Dave Irons is a freelance writer and columnist who hails from Westbrook. He has been contributing to the Sun Journal for many years and is among the most respected ski writers in the Northeast. He also is a member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. Write to him at [email protected]


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