Rough trails happy ones with many local skiers

Posted Nov. 30, 2009, at 11:16 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:27 p.m.

One thing you can say about diehard skiers: When it comes to getting in some early season runs, they’re not overly particular about how good conditions are.

Put ’em on their favorite mountain, with the fresh air in their face, and they’re perfectly happy … or perfectly willing to accept the fact that conditions will only get better.

That was the case at Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley on Sunday, as the resort opened for the season with a grand total of one trail available for use.

But open, it was.

And the skiers and snowboarders who showed up had a great time.

“We had skiing and riding on Tote Road [on Sunday]. Today we expanded that to a few more trails including Kings Landing, Candy Side, Scoot and Glancer,” said Ethan Austin, Sugarloaf’s communications manager.

Austin said recently that the resort was struggling to make snow because of abnormally warm temperatures.

Those continuing snowmaking efforts got a big boost on Friday night in the form of a significant winter storm.

“Here at the base it was eight to nine inches of heavy, wet snow,” Austin said. “Up on the hill it was closer to a foot. And it was quite a bit drier [higher on the mountain], too.”

That was just the good news Sugarloaf officials were waiting for, and the resort was officially opened on Sunday with $25 lift tickets available.

“A bunch of us went up on Saturday to check it out and skied down,” Austin said. “We kind of all agreed that it was enough to make it down, so we said, ‘Come on up and try it out if you dare.’”

Austin and the others knew that if the mountain was open, a significant number of diehard snow lovers would take advantage of the opportunity, no matter how many trails were open, and no matter how rough the terrain was.

“We try to be really honest with people and tell them the cover is pretty thin, but we know everybody’s just dying to get out there and ski,” Austin said. “And we were, too. Even though it wasn’t the best opening day conditions we’ve had, there was enough [snow] to get to the bottom, and that’s all people really needed. They were just happy to get out on snow and ski.”

Austin estimated a couple hundred skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes on opening day. Some made symbolic opening day runs, while others spent the entire day skiing Tote Road.

The resort’s Web site listed nine trails and a single lift open on Monday, and Austin said more trails would likely be opened today after more nighttime snowmaking.

Austin said lift tickets will remain $25 today, but that price will be re-evaluated as the week progresses. The next two weeks are “locals weeks,” with residents of Carrabassett Valley and several other nearby towns able to obtain lift tickets and rental equipment for free.

And this weekend, the resort’s popular Tin Mountain Roundup will offer all visitors the chance to ski or ride at a reduced rate.

Visitors who donate three or more cans of food will be allowed to purchase lift tickets for just $30 on Saturday and Sunday.

The Tin Mountain Roundup began in 1984, and since then about 50,000 cans of food have been collected for local needy families during yearly winter and summer events.

How was your deer season?

For most of the state’s deer hunters, Saturday marked the end of another season here in Maine.

There are a few exceptions, of course. Those bow hunters in expanded archery zones are allowed to hunt until Dec. 12, while a statewide muzzleloader season runs through Saturday and a second muzzleloader season (in 14 of the more southern Wildlife Management Districts) lasts until Dec. 12.

The rest of us — those of us who pin our hopes on filling a tag during the regular four-week firearms season — are left to savor the hunts we had … or to wonder what went wrong.

Which begs the question: How was your deer season? It has been a well-publicized fact that the state’s deer herd, especially in northern regions, has declined over the past few years.

In the coming months, we’ll undoubtedly hear much more about that.

State biologists will compile data, crunch numbers, and we’ll end up getting better idea about the season that was.

For now, however, I’m looking for a few first-hand reports to share with readers.

If you’re a hunter and saw fewer (or more) deer than you’re accustomed to seeing, I’d like to hear from you.

If you run a tagging station and can compare this year to past years, I’m sure readers would love to hear what you’ve got to say.

Thousands of us hunt every year, and thousands of hunters are successful. If you tagged a deer this year, I’m happy for you … but I’m more interested in hearing any comparison you’d care to make between this season and those you’ve experienced in the past.

The basic question you might want to keep in mind: Did you think this deer season was noticeably different from past seasons?

If responses pour in, I’ll share a few of those snapshots from this November’s deer season in a future column.

Stay tuned.

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