EARLY SEASON SKIING SEES RED IN SUNDAY RIVER, MAINE

This ski season started early with a trip to SundayRiver Ski areas in Bethel, Maine on December 6, 7, and 8. There have been years in the past that I have started to go skiing that early and have had a bust with maybe 1 or 2 trails open. Actually, a few years back another trip to SundayRiver produces 1 run on the last day and we played a lot of pool. One time we went to JayPeak and there was one trail open which turned out to be a disaster and we ate and drank wine all weekend instead of ski. But not this time!

 Although there was little snow on the ground the weather had been cold enough to make significant snow. The quality of snow today in so much better than in years past and there were at least 35 trails available to ski. Granted it was not the entire mountain but there was plenty to ski. Friday the temperatures were above freezing so the snow was soft and nice to ski. the next morning the temperature had dropped and we had machined groomed corduroy  which lasted most of the day and that was because there were not to many skiers that day. Sunday was another thing the conditions were again great but all I could see was red! Santa Clauses were everywhere!

Santa's arriving at Sunday River
Santa’s arriving at Sunday River

It was the 14th annual celebration to welcoming the winter with the arrival of 250 Santa Clauses on the slopes. This is an annual fundraiser put on by Sunday River for the Bethel Rotary Christmas for Children Program. The way it works is if you make a donation ($10 or more) and come to the mountain dressed in full Santa regalia ( that is red suit with white trim, beards, hats and belt) and you get to ski  for free as well as get a return pass to ski Sunday River before Dec. 24th 2013. the rotary children’s program received a check for approximately $2500.00. It was quite a sight seeing all 250 Santa’s standing in the lift line and skiing (sort off together) in mass down the slope.

Santa's in mass on slope
Santa’s in mass on slope

 

SundayRiver had another reason to celebrate and that was the opening of their latest trail on the mountain T72. Why T 72? That was the last trail number on their master plan that was determine many years ago. This trail has terrain features including a 500 foot long half pipe built into and onto the ground thus eliminating volumes of snow that have to be created in order to build the feature. The trail has gigantic jumps, 3 in succession that I saw skiers and boarder going off one after the other (sometimes too close to one after the other) not sure how someone doesn’t get hurt? There are other terrain features further down the slope and there is a lift that serves that area as well. Check out videos of T72 on youtube

first day on T 72
first day on T 72

Since we have been celebrating I cannot forget to mention the Bethel Inn Resort which is where I stayed while at skiing at Sunday River. It is a mere 6 miles from the ski area and even though there are plenty of beds at the mountain the option of staying in this historic inn, within the historic town of Bethel, is a good one.

The Inn is celebrating their 100th year of hospitality. It all started in 1913 as an “out-patient” facility of Dr. John Greorge Gehring, whose therapy include psychiatric treatment along with strenuous physical workload like tending the garden an building the golf course. Wealthy clientele came to the Inn to restore their bodies and psyches in the Maine mountain air. They came and stayed for 3 months at a time.

Now it is just an Inn and no work parties are organized. It has been restored and partially condoized with many year round vacation options for their visitors. For the winter season the amenities offered include 2 restaurants, a 35km cross country ski and snowshoe center, a health club with outdoor heated pool, spa services, ice skating and horse drawn sleigh rides.

The Millbrook Tavern and Grill on the lower level made me a Pittsburg cooked (beyond rare) burger just the way I like it. It was delicious. In the evening the tavern also offered drinks and music for your après ski indulgences.

For their 100th celebration they are even offering a centennial package for $100 includes accommodations, full breakfast and a four course dinner. There are also other offers fro a 2 night stay. Contact the Inn for more information.

Cartoon by Mike Roth / Photos provided by Sunday River

ANOTHER SKI AREA TO MY LIST!

mike wearing his ski pin hat and ski patch jacket
mike wearing his ski pin hat and ski patch jacket

Over the years that I have skied areas totaling over 127 around the world, I am sure that the total is even larger because I can’t remember all the names of the ones that I have skied in Europe.

On Sunday December 29th I visited another area to add to my list. Believe it or not it was right in my back yard. I am not sure why I have never gone there before but I am glad that I did. Usually when we go to ski we head to the north and the east to areas like Gore, Mount Snow, Killington, Bromley, whiteface and the like in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. This time I went to the south and headed to the New YorkMassachusetts border to ski Catamount. The trip over was a bit depressing since when I left Clifton Park there was snow on the ground and when I got to The Mass Pike there wasn’t any, until I got to Catamount that is.

Catamount sits in the Berkshire Mountains with approximately 1000 feet vertical which is equal to other local ski areas such as Windham, Jiminy Peak and West Mountain. Each of these local areas is just about 1 hour from the capital district and an easy drive on relatively good roads.

Catamount seems to cater to the families who come over from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Southern New York State. There trail system is very nice with long trails (1.25miles) from the top for intermediates and a totally separate beginner area on the eastern side of the area. The snow cover was amazing for not seeing any snow on the way over to well groomed snow covered trails from top to bottom created from an good old snowmaking system which appears to have been around for quite awhile. About half of the mountains trails were open the others had no snow.

Oldie but Goodie snow making machine!
Oldie but Goodie snow making machine!
snow making trail vs trail with no snow!
snow making trail vs trail with no snow!

The temperature was above freezing so the trails were soft machine groomed corduroy the only problem we had was that at noon it started to rain but it did not put a damper on the skiing public though. It was predicted to see a change over later in the day. Not sure if it did after we had left?

Now, again this was holiday week and there was not a lift line more than 2 minutes at any point during the day. We were told by the courteous staff that even on the busiest day which would be 900 cars in the parking lot that the lift lines do not exceed 5 to 10 minutes. Now all their lifts ( a quad, a triple, 2 doubles and 2 magic carpets) are fixed grip slower type, there are no high speed chairs like you would find at a bigger area but with no lift line and a longer ride up. It’s not much different than a long lift line and a faster ride up. I welcome the slower ride since I can then give my legs a longer rest and actually ski longer into the afternoon

There are lots of local school children who frequent the area through the many school learn to ski programs and racing program on the mountain, which make this a great feeder area for kids to learn to love the sport of skiing. For more information about Catamount go to their website at www.catamountski.com

I certainly will return to Catamount especially when I see that some of these coastal storms don’t make it to the capital district but do hit the southern tier. (They usually get a total snowfall of 100 inches annually). Plus I forgot to purchase a pin and patch for my hat and coat!

photos by Mike Roth / Erica Johnson

TIME TO BREAK OUT THE CHRISTMAS PRESENTS AND GO TO GORE

Normally I would avoid going skiing over the holiday weeks at most ski areas, but it seem that I have been missing out on some good skiing opportunities over the past few years because of that attitude.

First of all the Christmas holiday is early in the winter season and with the way the weather trends have been  there has been little snow in the in the forecasts but there is skiing in the mountains. Thank god for snow making, which has been improving in leaps and bounds over the past years to give us a great snow quality to ski on.

I sort have gotten off the beaten track with regard the title of Christmas presents so I will tell you a little more about that.

AJ in new gifts
AJ in new gifts

My grandson AJ, who I mentioned in an earlier blog post has been begging for ski stuff for Christmas. Well he got the mother load with a new Scott Jacket and, Gortex Marker pants,( I’ve never had Gortex anything!) ski lock, Scott goggles and other little ditties to complete the package. Granted he is skiing on my skis and using my boots which he keeps reminding me to get new stuff so he can have my not quite as old gear.

So Thursday morning we left at 6:30 to get to Gore and hopefully beat the crowd, when we got to the mountain there was a line of cars driving up to the access road but we were the first 30 cars in the lot, and as the day progressed it turned out not to be that crowded at all.

We were at the Northwoods Gondola at 8:30 with no lift line at all; as the day progressed the lift line grew to no more than 2 minutes. A quick ride up to the top of Bear Mountain and down Foxlair to Sunway for a warm-up run. We basically had the run to ourselves. So a fashion photo was taken of the new gear. Our second run we decided to take Ruby Run and do a little pushing (there’s a little flat spot and you need to pick up some speed to make it!) to get to the Saddle Lodge area so we could ski Showcase. Again, there were very few people on the trail. After the pushing we decided to take the Adirondack Express Quad at the bottom of Showcase which avoids Ruby Run and Foxlair. If there is no wind,  the quad is a viable alternate to the gondola when it gets crowded.

Whales on Pine Knot
Whales on Pine Knot

To my surprise the North Quad was running so we took a couple runs down Sleeping Bear which is a tighter trail than most on the mountain and fun to ski. Then we decided to take a run down towards the Topridge triple to check out Hawkeye, now AJ is a very careful  skier and doesn’t like to ski double diamond or even single diamond ( not that he can’t do it).  Skiing down Pine Knot to get to the triple, we encountered snow making whales that were created probably the night before. The conditions on that trail were great but the trail instead of being a blue intermediate trail became a black diamond. AJ handled it really nice. I am not sure what his apprehension is?

We never got up to the top of Gore mountain but we did have some great runs and as the day progressed it did get crowded on Wild Air and Showcase due to the lack of trail choices so we switched to Quicksilver which is a trail that is less traveled of off Sunway.

My favorite trail at Gore, Twister was not open as yet and the snow guns were blasting all day long I am sure to get ready for this weekend. When on Sunday there will be a demo day.

The only problem we encountered on the mountain was that no-one adheres to the skier code anymore especially when passing someone. How hard is it to announce that they are going to pass you? The skier ahead of you has the right of way. This is not a singled out problem at Gore but happens everywhere. It certainly is less of a problem on wider trails and less popular trails so when you pick the trails that you want to ski. be selective if you want to avoid the passing skiers.  I can’t wait till we get more natural snow so the entire mountain will be opened which spreads out the people and gives you many choices of trails to ski.

For AJ’s first day out, we were both tired by 2:30 and decided to quit. It was a great first day for him.

photo by Mike Roth

 

 

GEARING UP FOR THE SEASON

In the past I had always wanted my kids to love skiing as much as I did and when I took them early in life, I never heard the “dad, it’s snowing out, let’s go skiing! Yahoo!”I kept on trying and It all started 11 years ago when I took my grandson AJ to Okemo for a winter weekend. The first few times were trying and when I fell down on him as skied with him between my legs to keep him from taking off down the mountain. He stormed down the mountain with his skis in his arms saying that he was never going to ski again! I thought it was over.
Every year since then we have gone skiing and he has joined the ski club at school but never did I hear the phase mentioned above. Or should I say not until this year.
Last year was the learning to snowboard year. We had an opportunity to go over to Wachusett ski area near Worchester, Mass. While we were there, AJ took as many as 7 snowboard lesson in the 2 days we were there. He even took advantage of the night skiing too. By the end of the weekend he was actually coming down from the top on an intermediate trail with lots of confidence. I am not sure that he is a convert yet though.

Aj is now is 14, and a typical 14 I might add, with a shrug of the shoulder when asked how are you doing, and a “whatever” for an answer whether appropriate or not. As well as the typical cell phone posture of head down, fingers moving on the keyboard and mind in lala cyber land. However when it came to gearing up for skiing and snowboarding this year he has been planning since September. Where are the sharpening tools, what kind of wax are you going to get me, where are the extra pair of skis, and will you get me twin tips? He has grown to the point that he is now in my size 13 ski boot. ( I hope he doesn’t grow that foot any bigger?)
He has taken over my new shop in the garage. There are skis everywhere, 3 pair are sitting up against the wall and they are all sharpened, holes filled with ptex and waxed. There are wax shaving all over the floor, ptex drippings there too. The vise table is right where it was set up and basically everything is still where he left it in the middle of the floor. Not a complaint, I am happy that he is willing to do it!
Every day it has snowed over the past two or three weeks he has come to me saying let’s go skiing, So, this coming holiday week will be his first time out and he is chomping at the bit, he has been warned that skiing will be earned with good grades especially for special ski trips. But it is the holiday week and since he is off. I think we will get out for a couple days of skiing. Now the big decision is where to go?

Whiteface Off to Another Great Start

Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington New York is off to a great start again this year.

The cold weather in November without a warm up has enabled the snow making crews to laid down the white stuff. As of the second week of December over 34 of the 87 trails were open. According to General Manager Aaron Kellett, the near term goal is to have the summit open by Christmas and sustain it. He believes that is possible. The skiers that make their way to Whiteface over the Christmas Holiday are different than the season long clientele and we have to accommodate them according to Kellet.

The snowmaking at Whiteface is headed up by Mike Snow who has been making snow since the 70s. Mike and his crew will use the five pump houses around the mountain to turn the Ausable River into the white stuff. The snowmakers will strategically by making snow in the areas where they anticipate the most traffic. Aided by several new Technoalpin T-40 Snow guns placed around the mountain more and better quality now is available. We’ve made significant investments in new technologies. It is necessary to provide the best customer experience Kellet said.

T40 Snow Gun at Whiteface
T40 Snow Gun at Whiteface

 

Whiteface also invested in a third PistonBully winch cat to its grooming fleet this year. Having the highest vertical in the east makes winching a necessity.

The food service experience is a little changed up this year. The traffic at the mid station lodge has been re-routed to make for a smoother flow and easier in and out.

The base lodge continues to offer a number of cafeteria options but for those who are looking for more re-fined dining at the J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines Cafe & Wine Bar in the base lodge. This year the menu includes a number of local offerings from cheese, breads and even coffee that locally roasted and ground.

The  J.Lohr is ready serve
The J, Lohr Cafe & Wine Bar is ready to serve

Whiteface has some great value packages lined up again this year including Super Sundays. Whiteface will feature $40 Adult | $35 Teen | $30 Junior lift tickets, food & drink specials in the Cloudspin Lounge, fun slope-side games and more! The dates are:

2013-14 Super Sunday Lineup December 8 Historic Sunday January 5 Island Madness February 2 Super Football Sunday March 16 Shamrock Sunday April 6 Retro Sunday (weather dependent – please call in advance)

Coca Cola $42 Lift Tickets from Coca-Cola Present any Coca-Cola product at the Whiteface ticket office and get a lift ticket for $42 on Wednesdays ONLY, non-holiday. Offer is valid non-holiday Wednesdays only from Opening Day, 2013 through Closing Day, Spring 2014. Coke product should be completely empty or unopened. Not valid on Dec. 25, 2013, Jan. 1, 2014 & Feb. 19, 2014.

SKI3 Frequent Skier Program If you’re planning on skiing more than a few days this season at Whiteface, Gore or Belleayre Mountain then we’ve got the ticket for you!  With the purchase of an Empire Card, Student Card or Snowball Card you’ll receive your first day on the mountain FREE and every 6th visit free and any of our mountains! Whiteface is not all about skiing and riding. There are plenty of other things to do in nearby Lake Placid and the other Olympic venues such as bob sledding, ski jumping, ice skating, hockey and cross country skiing.

Whatever your passion, get out and enjoy the Whiteface-Lake Placid area this winter.

Sunday River Spents $2.5 Million to Open

Sunday River
Sunday River Ready to Go

Sunday River in Newry Maine invested heavily in early season snow making and it shows.  With 40 trails and 200 acres of terrain open the conditions on mountain were extremely good for the first week in December.  Even though there were plenty of patroons out for the early season, the lift crews moved them around.  Except for a line at the Barker Mountain Express, lift lines were non existent.  Note:  there was a FIS Race going on on Barker which contributed to the line.

The mountain crew did an exceptional job piling the snow on Dream Maker which parallels the newly opened T 72 terrain park.

Speaking of T-72, or Trail 72, the park enthusiasts were out in force Saturday for the opening.  There was plenty of jumps and other park features.

Early season is great!  The conditions were good, and crowds were small .  Use this as a chance to get out and ease bad into the sport.