Outdoors
Downhill Skiing
 

Maine Sunday Telegram - SKIING

2001/02 Season Columns - 
November, December 2001

 
 
 
"Family takes a look back at 'best of' ski season 2001"
Sunday, December 30, 2001
By Heather Burke
 
As 2001 comes to a close, we reminisce about the year’s experiences. During our commute to Sunday River last weekend, we found discussing the peaks and valleys of our past year on the slopes to be a wonderful diversion.
 
We range in age and experience (though even our youngest has skied 35 different resorts), which makes our family judging as unpredictable and varied as the terrain we encounter in a New England winter. Unlike most contests, you needn’t be eighteen to enter; kids count since their opinions can make or break a ski trip.
 
Here are the completely unscientific results from our family’s polling of ski “poling” around the Northeast.
 
Last winter was an all around winner. All four of our judges agreed it was a record best ski season here in the East, (an easy conclusion for those jurors born since 1992). Our senior panelist likened it to the blizzards of 1968. Plenty of snow, no devastating thaws, and superb conditions that extended well into April made last winter tops in recent memory. Can this season possibly catch up? That’s the question on everyone’s mind.
 
In our most difficult trail category, we span New England to handpick paths of choice. The Goat at Stowe was the winner. There is no other quite like it, (steep, narrow, twisty, crazy and humbling).
 
Sunday River’s Agony got a vote from our youngest judge for its big bumps, persistent double fall line and the exposed aspect of the trail under the Barker quad chair for all above to watch. Mad River Glen received a mention for the “au naturel” terrain, which provides its own degree of difficulty during certain hard-core days. Mule Skinner at Saddleback was discussed as another “ski it to believe it” trail.
 
Best glades, not always skiable during average “eastern” snow winters, went to Sunday River. We threaded our way through the progressive gladed trails from wide-open Blind Ambition, to twisty Wizard’s Gulch, Flying Monkey, Celestial, Last Tango, and Chutzpah to super steep (and even “skinny” during last season’s epic snows) Spruce Cliffs. Jay Peak received a mention for their expanded glade terrain.
 
Now that every resort has a terrain park in some shape and size, it is no small task to rate them all. As a protective mom of two, this is not my favorite category. I prefer my young skiers be firmly fixed to the snow, not launching in the air. Our young, hot, and hip judges voted for Okemo and Stowe’s half pipes while the terrain parks at Sugarloaf, Sunday River and Ascutney brought big smiles and modest air time.
 
Best snowfield skiing was an easy pick, since the only above tree line snowfields in the East are at Sugarloaf. And this past Easter, our group had the rare privilege of actually skiing these backside snowfields.
 
Sunday River received the distinct narrative of having the best snow quality, “like cold baby powder,” said our youngest panelist. We ski around, and we all conceded that Sunday River’s snow-makers and groomers get the nod here. Bretton Woods and Okemo received honorable mentions for their powerful snowmaking and flawless surface grooming, a veritable daily white carpet treatment for skiers and riders.
 
Best Lift in the East brought some heated discussion among the panel, literally. Everyone mentioned a “heated” or at least enclosed lift in his or her top picks. The two gondolas at Killington, the gondola at Stowe and at Mont Sainte Anne, plus the bubble-covered quad at Mont Sainte Anne all received well-cushioned votes.
 
Worthy of mention, but not yet sampled by our critics, Stratton and Ragged both have high-speed six passenger lifts, more couch than this crew of four needs.
 
Vermont’s Mad River Glen was a write-in for classic ski transportation, as it is one of the last remaining single (read lonely) chairlifts in the world.
 
The best ski area lunch, my personal favorite category, was a tie between Stowe’s Cliff House and Bretton Woods Top O’Quad restaurant. These two offer delicious fare and extraordinary views, with much appreciated table service. I prefer being waited on for an $8 burger, versus balancing a $6 burger on a cafeteria tray while wearing ski boots.
 
The best on-mountain lodging, specifically ski in/ski out, no car necessary accommodations, ranges from the Green Mountains of Vermont to the Laurentians of Quebec. Okemo Mountain Resort captured our hearts and our aching après ski muscles with a fully equipped slopeside condominium complete with fireplace, a Jacuzzi tub, boot dryers and a gorgeous view.
 
Tremblant Resort in Quebec is a spectacular slopeside village with a European flair. Tremblant’s accommodations range from first class hotels to perfectly appointed condominiums, all tasteful and a short walk to the lifts, restaurants and shops.
 
As for the most scenic ski area, the majority named Quebec’s Le Massif, a drivable 6 hours from Portland. This breathtaking northern Quebec ski area overlooks, or plunges 2,526 vertical feet down to, the icy St. Lawrence River. You just have to ski it to get the sensation.
 
Domestically speaking, New Hampshire draws some attention. Wildcat and Bretton Woods share distinct but equally impressive views of mighty Mount Washington, the highest summit in New England at 6,288-feet.
 
Big Squaw and Gunstock each offer stunning vistas of large lakes and big mountains, like Lake Tahoe’s of the East. Maine’s Squaw overlooks Moosehead Lake and dramatic Mount Katahdin in the distance. New Hampshire’s Gunstock is the ideal viewing spot of Lake Winnipesaukee with the White Mountains framing the photo.
 
The best ski resort for families elicited a range of selections. Smugglers’ Notch was recognized for “practically inventing the family ski week.” This Vermont resort offers a mind-boggling roster of activities for every age and an award-winning “Snowsport University” – not your average ski school program. Smugglers’ luxury slopeside condos also earned high praise.
 
Sugarloaf, Pico and Ascutney each got a family-friendly vote for their classic New England trails, lack of crowds and convenient slopeside condos.
 
We must not overlook the best mountain mascots. Maggie the St. Bernard at Mont Sainte Anne immediately fills everyone’s heart and mind. This lovable rescue dog is a fixture atop the mountain, happy for a passing pat from kids or a photo op. Sugarloaf also has a well-loved cast of characters, Amos the Moose and Blueberry Bear regularly parade the slopes and entertain the kids, making this family friendly Maine resort a vote getter from our little girl. Smugglers’ and Ascutney each have skiing mice, named Mogul and Cheddar respectively.
 
In the snow-reporting category, there were sadly no winners. Resorts continue to overstate their trail counts and snow accumulations, using what must be a ruler-sized yardstick.
 
Consumers have a right to the straight scoop. If resorts don’t want us to know the “real” conditions, they should eliminate the fabricated “ski reports.”
 
Now comes the real competition. Our picks for the overall best ski area in New England (drum roll please) were as follows: two votes for Stowe, one for Sunday River, and one for Wildcat. Though all four agreed Sugarloaf is, “the place to be for spring skiing.”
 
These are our impressions. Try a poll of your ski crowd to discover their top picks for 2001. If nothing else it occupies the otherwise mind-numbing drives to and fro the snow.
 
Events: Bring 3 canned goods to Mt Abram on Jan. 3, as part of their Tin Can Trio food pantry donation, and get $10 off your lift ticket.
 
Conditions: Ski areas had to “resurface” some terrain before moving on to blow snow on additional trails this week. Maine mountains are still at limited operation on snowmaking trails, but the man-made snow offers good skiing and riding. Let’s hope the New Year brings a new wave of winter and a more generous dose of Mother Nature’s finest fresh snow.

"Need a reason to get out and ski? Here are ten." 
by Heather Burke
December 23, 2001
 
The long wait for snow is over. We have finally received some natural whitener in our yards and temperatures are seasonably cooler. For those who have been postponing a trip to the mountains, sipping your coffee over this Sunday paper, it’s time to go skiing and riding. To borrow from late night television, which I generally miss for want of first tracks in the morning, here are my top 10 reasons why you should head to the slopes.
  1.  
    It is officially winter; both on the calendar and on Maine’s mountains. Maine ski areas are all open and blowing snow, laying out the white carpet for your arrival.
  1.  
    While shoppers are searching for a parking space and waiting in line for the next available cashier, chairlifts are whisking skiers and riders to pure mountain bliss in mere minutes. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are historically un-crowded, prime ski days. The same holds true for New Year’s morning - for obvious reasons.
  1.  
    Skiing is a superb exercise, burning about 800 calories per hour, far superior to power shopping which offers a fraction of that metabolic rate. Keep the holiday pounds off by making tracks to your local ski hill. Medical research indicates that outdoor activity and exposure to the sun, though minimal this time of year, will stave off sun light deprivation – the precursor to mid-winter depression, a fancy clinical term for good old-fashioned cabin fever.
  1.  
    Early winter skiing makes for late season strength. Sure the terrain is limited and some of your favorite trails still need more snow pack before they can open. But now is the time to develop those quad muscles so that when February and March peak conditions arrive with soft snow and long sunny days, you can be the master of your favored slopes.
  1.  
    If you ski now, you have a much better chance of acquiring a record number of days this winter. Paul Schipper is already way ahead of you, but you can still be ahead of your neighbors. Schipper was at the Loaf on opening day, Nov 14, to continue his legendary 20th season “streak" of skiing every consecutive day that Sugarloaf is open. He’s in his 70’s. What’s your excuse?
  1.  
    Skiing is one of those “life-long sports.” My 84-year uncle skis more days each winter than his age. Ski Hall of Famer and legendary outerwear designer Klaus Obermeyer skis as fast as his age each year. This is no big triumph when you are twenty-something, but try being clocked at 82mph.
  1.  
    What better way to get into the holiday spirit than by surrounding yourself with sparkling white snow, glistening birch trees and crisp mountain air? The manufactured snow may be made from ponds and rivers, but it sure looks like the real deal. Take a side-by-side taste test.
  1.  
    Santa has been known to squeeze in a few jolly runs at ski resorts. He’ll be at Black Mountain in Jackson on Dec. 24 before loading up his sleigh. After his deliveries, he will be at Bretton Woods on Dec. 25, letting his boards rip.
  1.  
    You can shop at the mountain; tackle your last minute holiday gift list with accessories at the ski shop. American Skiing Company sells gift cards, which are redeemable for tickets, lessons, food, and lodging. Shawnee Peak gift certificates can be purchased on line. Give the gift of a “Learn to ski or ride” certificate for your non-skiing friends. (You actually admit you have friends that do not ski? They must have “great personalities.”)
  1.  
    Give the gift of skiing to your family this holiday week. Taking your family to the slopes means quality time together on the snow. What will the kids remember years from now, tearing off the gift-wrap on that short-lived toy or tearing up the hill with Mom and Dad?
Events: Shawnee Peak will be welcoming winter and praising the snow gods during their Ullr Fest, Dec. 27. Fireworks and a torchlight parade will be a bonus for night skiers and riders at the Peak that evening. 
 
Conditions: Maine’s ski areas are finally all open and snow guns are blazing, just in time for this important holiday week. Sunday River has remained open since Nov. 10 and their powerful snow arsenal should have all eight peaks open this week. Sugarloaf has skiing and riding for all abilities on over 2,400’ vertical including the Superquad.

Remembering The 10th - A Look Back At Ski Warriors
By Heather Burke
December 16, 2001
 
16,000 ski troops were on their way to the Italian Alps, just prior to Christmas 1944. Today, 1,000 troops of the modern day 10th Light Division are stationed in Pakistan and Uzbekistan as part of the “Enduring Freedom” mission. This seems an appropriate occasion to reflect upon the accomplishments of the legendary 10th Mountain Division and recall how this ski-mountaineering army began.
 
The history of the 10th Mountain Division is one of brotherhood, perseverance for global freedom, and a passion for skiing that dramatically influenced the sport in America.
 
It was 1941 when Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole, founder of the National Ski Patrol, proposed a mountain division to assist with the war effort. His letter to Roosevelt stated, “in this country there are 2,000,000 skiers, equipped, intelligent, and able. I contend that it is more reasonable to make soldiers out of skiers than skiers out of soldiers.”
 
Recruits were difficult at first. That changed following Pearl Harbor, when “Minnie” Dole received 15,000 applicants of volunteer skiers and mountain men. Famed European skiers flocked to the 10th, including Rupert and Werner Von Trapp of the Von Trapp family (you know, “The Sound of Music”) and Norwegian Torger Tokle, to instruct the troops.
 
Members of the U.S. ski team, who were unable to compete in the 1940 Olympics, and Dartmouth ski coach Walter Prager, joined “Minnie’s ski troops.”
 
The first training camp was Fort Lewis located near 14,411’ Mt. Rainier in Washington, the highest elevation army base in our history.
 
The press referred to the Mountain Unit as an “elite” group since skiing was considered a rich man’s pastime. The word spread and the division became larger. A new training facility was built in Colorado, called Camp Hale. Here the men trained for three years, learning to ski in all types of conditions, camping in temperatures well below zero, and practicing mountain maneuvers and rescues.
 
The men learned about Army skiing, which was about endurance, not just schussing down the deep powder slopes, as photos sometimes portray. The National Ski Patrol designed their equipment for climbing and tracking over deep snow and clothing for durability and sub zero warmth.
 
The troops trained 5 days a week, but it was during the weekends that they would share their love of the mountains by exploring and skiing the surrounding Colorado terrain.
 
The extreme alpine conditions of Colorado’s Rockies in winter are credited with preparing the troops for the harsh and arduous situations they faced when they were deployed to the Italian Alps in 1944 and ‘45.
 
The fact that they trained for several years and formed such bonds of friendship and love of the mountains is another theory behind the success of the 10th Mountain in World War II. Their surprise attack on the Germans at Riva Ridge in the North Apennine Mountains is considered a critical victory in the war.
 
Of the 19,000 men of the 10th Mountain Division, nearly 1,000 were killed and 4,000 were wounded in battle.
 
The returning veterans shared their love of skiing in the States. Freidl Pfeifer and John Litchfield revisited an abandoned Colorado mining town, not far from Camp Hale, named Aspen. They transformed that ghost town into today’s famous ski resort.
 
Peter Seibert became a champion skier, and started Vail in 1957. He even named a trail “Riva Ridge” as tribute to the landmark Italian confrontation.
 
2,000 men of the 10th became ski instructors on U.S. slopes to grow the sport of skiing during the post-war economic boom. With the influence of so many members of the 10th Mountain Division, skiing became an extremely popular sport. 29 members of the 10th have since been inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame.
 
New England members of the 10th include Herb Schneider and Toni Matt of Cranmore’s famed ski school, Jack Murphy founded Sugarbush, Karl Acker developed Pico ski school, Kerr Sparks of Stowe organized the Professional Ski Instructors of America, and William Putnam founded the Mt. Washington ski patrol.
 
Dick Wilson of Sunapee New Hampshire started “National Skiing” magazine, today’s “Skiing.”
 
Here in Maine, Wendall Broomhall skied on the U.S. team and started the Rumford Ski Area. Vance Richardson served as a Gould Academy ski coach and director.
 
“Doc” DesRoches of Farmington is a National Ski Hall of Famer. “Doc” established the ski industry management program at the University of Maine at Farmington.
 
We have the 10th Mountain Division to thank for their tireless alpine training and courageous defense of freedom. There are numerous less monumental but interesting contributions. The first snowmobile was developed during 10th Mountain maneuvers. Studebaker designed the world’s first snow cat, coined “the weasel,” for the 10th Division use.
 
Today’s 10th Mountain Division is based in Fort Drum, N.Y. and trains in the mountains of Vermont near Stowe and Smugglers’ Notch. The original members of the 10th hold skiing reunions, some even hike to the summit of Mt. Washington each spring to honor fellow skiing soldiers and celebrate their brotherhood of the mountains.
 
Events: You might want to shop for a kilt. Sunday River will offer free skiing and riding on Jan. 1 to anyone wearing an authentic Scottish kilt in celebration of Steve Craig day. To join Steve, the crazy Scot who started this skirted tradition last New Year’s, and receive a free lift ticket valid Jan.1, you must pre-register and wear traditional Scot attire for the 11am photo shoot.
 
Conditions: After several weeks of record warm temperatures, there is not much news to report on the conditions front. We have finally received our first natural white stuff. Nighttime temperatures are now more favorable toward snowmaking. With the State’s low water supply, let’s hope areas have sufficient water in their rivers and ponds to pour it on before the holidays hit.
 
For up to date snow conditions, call the Ski Maine snow phone, 773-SNOW.

"The next level: Some ideas on how to get there"
By Heather Burke
December 9, 2001
 
I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for winter. The folks in Buffalo are certainly wondering what’s up. One year after the city’s snowiest November on record, Buffalo still has not received any snow, another first in their history.
 
Northeast temperatures have been 10 -15 degrees above where they should be in early December, record warmth despite what forecaster had predicted to be a cold, snowy start to the season.
 
“The pattern bringing heavy snows to the West and little wintry weather to the Northeast will likely stay in place through mid-December,” said Paul Kocin, winter weather expert at The Weather Channel. “The East may still be a couple of weeks away from any big snow dumps.”
 
Janet Fisher of Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University said, "The snow will come and it will even itself out. What we don't get at one time, we will get later." If she is right, maybe we received all our 2001 snow last season and we have to wait until the new year (fortunately only 3 weeks away).
 
Keep doing your snow dance, if nothing else it prepares your mind and your quads for winter. When the snow does come, you want to be ready to take your skiing and riding to the next level. This could be your year to pump up the volume on your alpine skills.
 
The Next Level
I have long been a believer in skiing with someone who is more advanced than you. Call it peer pressure, rising to the occasion or running with the big dogs.
 
This is not about skiing fast and taking chances, but merely moving beyond your comfort zone and trying the next level of terrain. A little challenge can do wonders for your skiing or riding if you have reached that dreaded “plateau.”
 
I am blessed to have an in-home skiing mentor who continually encourages me to ski untracked glades and steep stuff that I might otherwise skip for an ego-pleasing cruiser. I speak of my husband who was trained by an old-world Austrian (read “skiing drill sergeant”) and went on to Colorado and Utah to continue his vertical tutelage.
 
Now our kids pick up any slack by dragging us into terrain parks and mogul mine fields, we might have skied passed. Admittedly these maneuvers keep our reactions sharp and our turning radius’ tight.
 
If your ski buddies keep you on your (ski-booted) toes, buy them a round as thanks for their guidance. If however you are the leader of your pack, you may need to step up your routine and test your mettle.
 
“Skiing with friends that are slightly better than you provides you with a visual to emulate, which can really help your technique,” says Dan Egan, 12-time Warren Miller film skier and founder of an extreme clinic company based in New Hampshire.
 
Aside from putting out a personal ad or a “plea-mail” in a ski resort chat room, there are some worthwhile programs coming soon to New England’s slopes that can bump up your slope skills.
 
Race Leagues
A race league, like Shawnee Peak’s Race With The Moon series and Lost Valley’s corporate racing program, can give you a new focus and help you with speed, control and carving throughout the season. You should sign up for Shawnee Peak’s 10-week race series by Dec. 21, races begin Jan 9. Lost Valley’s race program registration deadline is Dec. 15.
 
Titcomb Mountain will offer a race clinic on Dec. 22 for high school students. “Our goal is to offer high school age students an opportunity to come for a day of terrific seminars on many aspects of racing. The Rossignol Van will be here from 8:00am-3:00pm with race demo skis,” said Megan Roberts, Titcomb General Manager.
 
Lessons
Taking a lesson can elevate your skiing and riding. Sugarloaf and Sunday River both offer Perfect Turn clinics with their “pros.” Although that verbiage sounds intimidating, there is instruction at every ability level, and different classes can focus on specific techniques from bumps and steeps to carving on shaped skis.
 
Extreme Clinics
Do you want to hang with the guys in those extreme ski movies? Dan Egan, along with his brother John and another ski-star brother duo Eric and Rob DesLauriers, want to put some thrills in your skiing and riding with their Xteam clinics. These guys coined the phrase “extreme” and brought on the ensuing craze, now they are sharing the tips of their trade to help improve your technique and enjoyment on your boards.
 
Jay Peak is the host resort for their XTeam clinic. This 3-day program, Jan.31- Feb. 3, is open to strong intermediate and experts wanting to take their skiing “way, way beyond current levels.” With the XTeam coaches, skiers will tackle every type of terrain from steeps, couloirs, and trees, to air. The $989 clinic at Jay Peak includes lodging, meals, skiing and video analysis. 
 
Big Air Clinics
If your kids are looking to learn from the best in terrain parks, bumps and jumps, Egan’s Big Air Clinic may be just the launch pad. Egan, along with XGames gold medallist Mike Nick, will host skiers and riders age 10 and up for this “free-ride” clinic during school vacation.
 
“The camps are all about what kids love to do, jumps and tricks. We work with the kids and videotape them in action out on the hill. Then they get more feedback during a pizza party in the afternoon,” said Egan. The Big Air camps are $99 per day, offered at Okemo Dec. 27-28, Sunapee on Dec. 29 and Loon Mountain Dec. 30 –31.
 
Couples Only
Meanwhile, marriages or significant ski partners can benefit from Egan’s couples-only clinic, which he hosts with his wife, a 3-time Olympian and pro-racer, Mihaela. The concept behind this sell-out clinic is to improve the experience of skiing with your loved one, particularly when you are at different levels. The only East coast clinic this season will be held at Okemo, Jan. 3-6.
 
Artic Adventure
Last but not least, the Egan brothers will lead a 12-day ski mountaineering expedition to the remote Torngat Mountains of northern Quebec, just south of the Artic Circle.  Adventurers will ski, snowboard or telemark, and snowmobile to remote camping areas where they (not me, they - this is not my cup of tea) will learn to build igloos and ice-fish for dinner.
 
This Artic ski safari is billed as an adventure of a lifetime, with a highlighted snowmobile trek guided by native Inuits across the tundra to the Labrador Coast. Skiing Tower Mountain, a dramatic stand-alone peak, promises plenty of fresh tracks and no lift lines, since there are no lifts.
 
"The Torngats (the largest mountain range in northeastern Canada) are virtually untouched," said Dan Egan. "There are opportunities everywhere for first descents. Not a lot of people ski the Arctic. Wildlife -mainly caribous, wolves, black bear, polar bear and ptarmigan- easily outnumber the people.” This April 18-29 trip is limited to 18 expert skiers with some winter camping skills (I now have an official out) and $4,500.
 
For information on the Arctic Adventure trip, XTeam Clinics, Couples-Only Clinics, and Big Air Camps, you can visit www.skiclinics.com, or call 1-800-983-2670.
 
Events: Mt. Abram will be giving free lift tickets to every firefighter, police, and EMS personnel in the state of Maine on their opening day, Dec. 22. “This is just a good will gesture, our way of saying thanks a lot,” says Bruce Mason, Director of Marketing at Mt. Abram.

Conditions: Skiers and riders are throwing out their Farmer’s Almanac and just praying to moody Mother Nature. Sunday River is the only Maine area to remain open through the early–season thaw. Throughout New England, Bretton Woods, Killington, Smugglers’ Notch and Stowe have been open with spring like conditions and “some walking required.” Many areas were forced to “suspend operations until more favorable snowmaking temperatures return.”
 
Sugarloaf reopened this weekend. Most Maine areas are ready to blow snow as soon as temps allow. Next weekend Shawnee Peak, Camden, Saddleback and Titcomb hope to open.

“Now May Be The Time To Sign Up For Ski Vacation Deals”

By Heather Burke

December 2, 2001

 

After a downright balmy week, temperatures have finally become more winter-like. Most Maine areas have pushed back their opening dates to December 15 & 22. Sugarloaf closed after being open for two weeks and plans to reopen Dec. 7. Sunday River remains open with limited terrain.

 

The silver lining to the past week’s rain (a four-letter word for ski industry executives) is that it helped replenish some snowmaking reservoirs suffering from the recent drought.

 

Western resorts have received the lion’s share of snow thus far. Over 8 feet of snow has dumped on parts of Utah since Thanksgiving, and Colorado areas have received 3 to 4 feet.

 

While Rocky Mountain snow accumulation is up, western resort bookings are down. American Skiing Company’s advance reservations are down 21% in the west, while their eastern resorts are up 8% (as of mid-November reports).

 

John Andrews of Sugarloaf reported that reservations are currently up 10%. “The momentum from last season is phenomenal,” commented Andrews.

 

New England skiers appear to be planning drivable ski trips this year. Travel concerns have grounded annual trips out west for many folks, and those resorts are feeling the pinch. 

 

If you do not have a fear of flying, now is the time to take advantage of lower prices, and predicted fewer crowds, with a western trip. Airlines and resorts are creating deals to draw skiers and riders out of a travel slump.

 

Mainers can shop for ski vacation deals departing from Portland, Manchester (hub of Southwest), or Boston (cheaper fares, good connections but you must negotiate parking and the big dig).

 

Friends fly free to Utah in January on Southwest Airlines, a buy one get one free airfare special. You can choose all inclusive ski packages to Park City or Solitude. As a bonus, your 4th night of lodging is free if you book by Dec 15. The website, swavacations.com allows you to customize a package for your exact dates and lodging preferences.

 

Kids fly, stay and ski free with United Airlines to Colorado resorts including Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge. Airfare, four nights lodging in a one-bedroom condo at Vail, three days skiing, and equipment (even helmets) costs $759 per adult, and the kids go free. Therefore, a family of four can book a Colorado ski vacation for $1,518, a hard to beat price.

 

Ski tour brokers are another source for deals. These travel wholesalers are often the first to hear about airfare reductions, lift ticket incentives and free night lodging specials.

 

David Tanner, president of Ski Tops, an on-line clearinghouse of two-dozen well-known ski tour operators, said, "With so many late-breaking price reductions being announced on a daily basis, www.skitops.com is the best source for centralized, up-to-the-minute information,"

 

Tour operators working with SkiTops bundle together the components of a trip (air, lodging, skiing) and sell them at well-below retail.

 

Expedia.com is another efficient site for surfing ski bargains. Plug in your dates, pick a ski resort and a lodging selection pops onto your screen. I found a four-day getaway to Aspen for $759 per person including air and lodging at the posh St. Regis Hotel in downtown Aspen. Make it a seven-day trip for $999 per person, small price for this world-famous big-ticket ski (and snowboard) town.

 

If the thought of flying still makes you edgy, look no further than our Maine slopes. Nothing beats the value of a midweek vacation that you can drive to. Plan it now so that when the snow flies, you are ready to go. Also, these lift and lodging specials tend to book up quickly.

 

Sugarloaf’s classic ski weeks at $299 per person include 5-day lift tickets, your condominium lodging, use of the Health Club and a daily Perfect Turn clinic.

 

If you go during their Family Fling weeks in early February or late March, your kids (12 and under) ski free and you get a bonus ski clinic. That’s a $975 vacation, for a Sunday-Friday stay and 5 days of skiing for a family of four.

 

Jan. 14-18 is Sugarloaf’s Children’s’ Festival, kids get free lift tickets, rentals and lessons when parents book at least three midweek nights.

 

Sunday River has a similar deal January 13-18, an historically slow week in the mountains. Parents each pay $79 per night for lifts and lodging at The Grand Hotel, and kids stay and ski free and get one free ski clinic. Where else can a family get a 5-night slopeside vacation including lifts and lodging for $790?

 

Saddleback encourages long weekends with their third night free lodging promo. Get a group together to rent a three, four or five bedroom slopeside condo Friday and Saturday night - and Sunday night is free. The same deal applies to lift tickets, buy Saturday and Sunday - your third day of skiing (either Friday or Monday) is free.

 

Saddleback also offers 2 nights for the price of one any Sunday through Thursday period, all winter long except holiday weeks. Midweek lift tickets are $32.

 

Squaw has an on-mountain hotel overlooking Moosehead Lake with lodging rates of $109 per night for two, or four. Add to that the $20 midweek lift ticket and you have long, wide-open runs (1,750’ of vertical and non-existent crowds due to its remote Greenville location), for relatively short money.

 

Events: Sunday River’s Santa Sunday is Dec. 9. Dress up as Santa, donate a new child’s toy and ski free.

Conditions: In a word, “skinny.” Sunday River remains open with a handful of trails. “Some walking may be required” according to the snow phone. Have no fear, December is here and cold weather is on the way. Sugarloaf reopens Dec. 7. Shawnee Peak, Lost Valley and Saddleback plan to open Dec.15.


"Amid great white hopes, Ski Areas Spruce Up"
By Heather Burke
Sunday, November 25, 2001
 
New England skiers and riders had a much-deserved dose of mountain confection last winter, and are now praying for an epic ski season, the sequel.
 
If the Farmer's Almanac is correct (past pre-season predictions have been 85 percent accurate), we are off to a strong start. Their 185-year-old secret formula predicts, "a particularly cold and snowy winter — the first major storm will arrive on Nov. 28, dropping 6-12 inches. Flurries and cold air will blanket the Northeast for the next few weeks with another major storm arriving Christmas week."
Let's hope these words ring true, and the sequel lives up to the deep standards set last winter. Here's a look at Maine ski area improvements for this 2001-2002 season.
 
Sugarloaf ups its trail count to 129, now the most trails in Maine. The new double black diamond "Cant Dog," long enjoyed by poachers, has been trimmed out and legally added to the trail map. This "new" trail, in the King Pine area, is just east of Ripsaw and now the most easterly trail on the mountain.
 
A kid-friendly blue-square glade named "Blueberry's Grove," after the Loaf's mascot bear, has been added to the Whiffletree area. Snowmaking has been upgraded throughout Whiffletree, so popular with families and learners. The "Good Chance Crosscut" is a new trail section between Timberline and Windrow. With this addition and new green circle designation to the Timberline Trail, Sugarloaf now has a 3.5 mile summit to base trail beginners can explore.
 
Twenty new tower guns have been added on South Ridge and Escapade to further expand Sunday River's impressive squad of 1,500 snow guns. Your backside will be greeted with new seats pads on the Barker quad, a comforting gesture. Fans of Airglow will be pleased to learn that the Nebula terrain park will no longer dominate the popular cruising trail on Aurora Peak.
 
Not to worry, park and pipe lovers. You will be elated to learn that The River is expanding and concentrating terrain features in the Locke and Barker zones. A new Zaugg super pipe cutter joins Sunday River's terrain-carving arsenal. "The Zaugg is going to take our parks to the next level and make Sunday River the place to be for serious riding," said parks manager Josh Lempert. Plans include building a 22-foot quarter pipe on Rocking Chair, to complement the halfpipe on Locke and the mini-pipe at South Ridge.
 
Shawnee Peak adds four new trails, something for everyone. "Every skier is going to want to ski 'Fat and Happy' which has a narrow New England feel with a little pitch," said Melissa Rock of Shawnee Peak. "Beeline" will be a second new Blue Square. "Cody's Caper" is a gladed black diamond trail, now officially on the trail map, off the Sunnyside Triple and "Last Chance" is appropriately named as your final opportunity to get back to the main area.
 
Skiers and riders can expect to see more features at Shawnee's Freestyle terrain park. For those who want to try tricks on tires, snowcycle rentals arrive for the season at the Peak. The cost for biking on snow is $15 for two hours.
 
Shawnee Peak's weekend SkiWee program has a new home. The new Alpine Sugar Haus should provide for easier drop-offs and pickups and alleviate the busy base lodge next-door a "wee" bit.
 
At Mount Abram, snowmaking has been expanded to the EgoMainiah Trail and to the Westside connection. A new race start building means Abram can host more family and youth competitions, including the popular Mountain Dew vertical challenge and the Jeep Appreciation tour.
 
To improve services at the base, Mount Abram has created a new rental shop, a renovated retail shop and ticket sales are now in the lower level. All the children's programs and nursery have their own home at the Westside Lodge.
 
Saddleback is for sale, but you don't have to come up with $12 million to enjoy the 41 traditional skiing and riding trails at this remote Rangeley mountain (this year anyway). New this season, four air compressors will increase the ski area's snowmaking abilities.
 
Camden Snowbowl is adding a terrain park. From the folks that offer championship tobogganing — this should be a good one. Black Mountain in Rumford adds a groomer, and has increased its snowmaking to cover 75 percent of its acreage.
 
Big Squaw completes the room renovation of their 58-room on-mountain hotel. It's no Deer Valley lodge, but the reasonable room rates and the views of Moosehead Lake and Katahdin are worth a look. Squaw also opens up two new glade trails off the summit.
 
Lost Valley welcomes a new groomer, and the return of three-time Olympian Julie Parisien as youth race program ski coach. How fortunate are these kids to have a U.S. Ski Team coach? Parisien also serves as the Ski Maine spokesperson, touring the state promoting winter fitness to school kids.
 
Improvements on the Lost Valley hill include new lighting and a PA system to the racecourse. The summit warming hut and base buildings all received a facelift, paint and polish.
 
Bigrock hasn't moved any closer to Portland, but this northernmost Maine area has made significant changes. The Mars Hill ski area has expanded snowmaking, added a new groomer, increased snowshoe and cross country facilities, and renovated the base lodge. Expect to see big news from Bigrock, now under Maine Winter Sports Center ownership, as they have hired a GM with 20 years experience from Big Sky, Montana. (This guy is attracted to "Big" hard-to-reach places).
 
Events: Sugarloaf will host the 4th annual Blues Festival and Demo Days Dec. 7-9.
 
Conditions: Sugarloaf and Sunday River have now been open for 1 1/2 and two weeks respectively and are adding new terrain daily. Other Maine ski areas are making snow whenever favorable temperatures allow. For up to the moment conditions and ski areas openings call the Ski Maine snow phone at 773-SNOW.

“Skiers, it's time for a few test drives”
By Heather Burke
Sunday, November 18, 2001

It's time to get your act in gear, or to get your gear in action. The perennial trip to the basement to dig out the ski stuff is upon us. If you're a fanatic, you did this back in September and have already made fresh tracks. For those who wait until first flakes, evidence that there will indeed be a winter, you should be reaching for your equipment now.

Families should assess everyone's boots and boards before hitting the slopes. If your kids have sprouted over the past eight snowless months, they likely need to upsize their equipment. There are a few routes to go when your young snow-sports enthusiasts are in a growth spurt.

Many ski shops offer an annual trade-in program to address growing kids' equipment needs. Joe Jones was one of the first ski shops, dating back to the 1950s at the original North Conway store, to offer this service.

"We take junior equipment, even helmets, in on trade. If you purchased it here, we give you 50 percent back toward next year's equipment. We really want to get the kids into the right size," said Neil Totman of Joe Jones Ski and Sport.

Putnam's Ski & Sport in Portsmouth similarly will appraise equipment and offer trade-ins and a consignment program on yours and your kids' old equipment.

The Down East Ski Club's annual sale is an opportunity to unload gear that you no longer use, and to buy new and "pre-owned" (to borrow a phrase from the car industry) skis, boots, boards, and clothing at reasonable rates. Equipment you wish to sell should be brought to the USM Gym on from 1 to 6 p.m. Nov. 23. The sale is 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 24. If you are looking to upgrade your skiing or riding with the latest technology, taking a test drive (another idea borrowed from the car industry) is a smart idea before making a purchase.

Sunday River will host up to 30 ski and snowboard manufacturers Nov. 23-24 for "Demo Days." Sugarloaf will offer demos Dec. 7-9. These events allow you to sample the latest products from several vendors in real conditions. Other upcoming demo dates include Dec. 15 at Attitash/Bear Peak and Dec. 22 at Lost Valley.

You can slide up to one of several demo vans at the base of the lift; hand over a license, major credit card and your old equipment for safekeeping. In exchange, the representatives will set you up with an appropriate model to test out — the key word here is "test."

Ryan Snee, Atomic USA representative reminds consumers, "Demo is not a synonym for rental. Some folks seem to think that 2-3 runs means 'free all day.' "

A few tips to get the most from an on-snow demo experience:

"Do your homework, get brochures, and surf the Web," says RJ Turner of Rossignol. Snow sport magazines and manufacturer Web sites are overflowing with information and test results on the latest equipment. Empower yourself with a little product information, and you will be able to converse knowledgably when you are in front of the equipment representative, the guy who eats, sleeps and breathes tech-talk. 

"Go early to get the best selection," says Turner. It is also wise to visit the demo vans between waves. If you see a huge line at the Rossignol van, go to another vendor, or take a run and come back when the technicians will have more time to spend with you.

Give the equipment representative a candid description of your ability and what type of skiing you like to do. "Tell them the who, what, when, where and how often about your skiing" says Turner.

Are you a level I, II, or III? That's ski code for beginner, intermediate and advanced. Do you like to make short turns, or do you tend toward long GS style turns? Do you like a soft, forgiving ski or something with stiffness and snap? Are you a bump lover, a tree-hugger or a high-speed cruiser?

Mark Novak of Dynastar says, "Be honest about your abilities. The reps can help choose a ski that's best for your skiing ability, style, and preferred terrain, and a ski that will not overpower you."

Demo days allow you the opportunity to evaluate one manufacturer against another. Once one rep has matched you with the right product line from their diverse (often confusing) fleet, you can sample similar skis from other companies to make a fair comparison.

Consider taking notes, so that when you visit your local ski shop, you remember the exact model and length of each ski you liked. Ski vocabulary is a veritable mogul field of acronyms, numerals and codes. Was that the 11.20 or 10.22, the Axis or Mod-X that I liked?

According to Ryan Snee of Atomic USA, the following phrases should be avoided when requesting a demo: "I want a red ski," and "It doesn't match my outfit." Other phrases that may affect the service you receive include: "Are they good on rocks?" and the winning admission, "Dude, I'm like an expert and stuff."

Rossignol's Turner cautions against testing skis on your first day, and on early season snow conditions. "How can you compare skis when you are just remembering what it feels like to be back on snow?" Good advice; unfortunately, it flies in the face of the scheduled demo dates.

If you are unable to attend a demo day, you can still try before you buy at slopeside ski shops. Ski area shops generally have a few top-end skis mounted to take out on the hill. Expect to pay about $50 for a day's use of these skis. That rental charge will be applied toward a resulting purchase.

Finally, be prepared to be impressed. Demo technicians are accustomed to people returning to the van after a few runs, with eager grins and a reluctance to hand back the new ski or board that altered their carving experience. I speak from experience. A recent "free" demo resulted in a purchase of Atomics that I simply had to own after a three-run sample that revolutionized my thinking and my skiing, even though they didn't match my outfit.

Conditions: For the 41st consecutive year Killington in Vermont was the first ski area in the east to open, Nov. 7. Here in Maine, sister resort Sunday River opened Nov. 10 for its 43rd season. Sugarloaf, a 3rd ASC company, opened Nov. 14 for its 51st season. Big Squaw and Saddleback plan to be open by Thanksgiving weekend.

 
All Photography by Greg Burke
 
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