While many places in the East are hurting right now, the past week in western Maine saw two to three feet of snow fall steadily over the course of three days, creating a stellar opportunity for midweek powder chasing. I was lucky enough to be in on the action.
"Show" - Monday 12/17 at Sunday River: 8 - 10 inches of resonably light snow on top of a solid manmade base. Winds moderate, temps in upper 20s. Open lifts included Barker detatchable, Spruce Triple, North Peak Chondola, and Aurora chair. Plenty of terrain open, thanks to their good snowmaking work earlier in the season. (Note that before Sunday evening 12/16, there was essentially no natural snow on the ground in the southern half of Maine.) More than half of that had been groomed out, unfortunately. There was a lot of grumbling in the lift line, especially after a poorly placed snow gun hobbled everyone who rode up to North Peak early, when it coated everyone's ski bottoms with frozen droplets. (Interesting sight: a dozen skiers all madly scraping their bases with credit cards and season passes, in order to get past the unloading zone without walking out of their heel pieces.) However, it emerged that there was still a goodly amount of unadulterated goodness, albeit quickly tracked out. Skied onto the lift in every case. American Express shortly after the rope dropped was notably good, and skier right on Risky Business also excellent. This was one of the best December days in memory, great for getting the soft snow legs on, but soon to be matched or bettered.
"Place" - Tuesday 12/18 at Sugarloaf: Absolutely dumping at 8:30 when I arrived at the mountain, with probably 4 - 8" new. Snow was heavy and wet, with a possible change to rain in the forecast. Winds gusting out of the east, temps in the low 30s. NCAA race of some kind in the works. Lots of college racers, plus lots of younger S/CVA kids in a program. Open lifts included Skyline and Superquad. While there were no lift lines, the first few runs revealed snow that was surprisingly cut up, and runs surprisingly crowded for a Tuesday, due to the two race contingents swarming over the hill. However, by 11:00 or so the crowd had thinned dramatically, as the college race was cancelled due to snow, and the younger kids' group checked out. Meanwhile the snow continued to fall at what seemed like a couple of inches an hour, so that by early afternoon there was easily a foot everywhere, and more than that in many places. Early morning tracks were filling in quickly. The heavy snow was not trivial to skin in, but it was fun nonetheless. (Thank you, elf shoes!) For example, Skidder, which is the exhibition bump run, was a different beast with a foot of whipped cream cheese cushioning every trough. The knowledge that this was exactly the kind of snow needed to cover up all the logs and rocks in the woods and on the natural-snow trails made it that much sweeter. Had to quit at 2:00 because my early season legs were toast.
"Win" - Thursday 12/20 at Saddleback: More snow fell in the highest elevations of western Maine Tuesday night through Wednesday. During that period temperatures fell and the snow became less cement-like. When two friends and I arrived at Saddleback at 8:15 on Thursday morning, we were the third car in the lot. That was the first good sign. The second good sign was that even at the base area we could see there was loads of new snow that had been skied only lightly the day before. Essentially there was a foot of easy skiing powder on top of the 18" of solid accumulation from Monday and Tuesday. Unfortunately the upper lift was closed, but most everything accessible on the lower 2/3 of the mountain was open, and much of it had only a handful of tracks on it. The only way up the mountain was on the fixed grip double, and only about every fourth chair was occupied. By 10:00 it became clear that there would be no lift queues or competition for the best snow, and we settled in for a day of ridiculously huge grins and some of the best early season skiing in anyone's memory. A few friend and acquaintances were hiking up to get the truly untracked, but we didn't bother; the snow was too good everywhere, as you may be able to see in parts of the appended video.
Edited by qcanoe - 12/22/12 at 6:11pm