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Active Outdoors: Bringing in the new year with a sunrise and supermoon

  • This photo was taken at Wildcat Mountain, not Loon, but it demonstrates how to dress for downhill skiing on a cold morning. No skin showing anywhere, and you can bet there are liner gloves and hand warmers in those mittens. TIM JONES / For the Monitor

  • It was too cold on New Year’s Day to take pictures and the sky was clear blue, but the hills glowed just like this at sunrise. Courtesy / Loon Mountain Resort



For the Monitor
Monday, January 08, 2018

It’s good to start a new year on a happy note. My 2018 has been terrific so far (I’ve skied every day) and I’m keeping that streak going. Take New Year’s Day, for example.

It’s something of a tradition for me to catch first chair on New Year’s Day at a ski area I haven’t yet visited that season. This year it was Loon Mountain in Lincoln. A kindred soul wanted to buy an old pair of skis from me and the best place for us to meet was Loon. We agreed to meet at 7:30 in the morning so we’d have time to find each other, make the exchange and still have time to get suited and booted to catch first chairs.

My car thermometer registered 18 below zero as I left the house well before dawn. At one point on the drive it registered -22; the warmest I saw was -11. Just the kind of weather I find invigorating.

I saw only two other cars while driving over the Kancamagus Highway from Conway to Lincoln. Maybe the cold was keeping everyone home. Or maybe they’d been celebrating.

After completing the ski sale, I headed for the Pemigewasset Base Lodge at the South Peak of Loon. This is typically the quietest of Loon’s three lodges, and this morning, only one other skier was there as I got ready. The base temperature was -13, so I dressed appropriately and caught the first chair up the mountain. There was no lift line. In fact, there was no one else in sight.

The sky was cloudless and clear, and the sun was just hitting the peak as I arrived at the top of the lift. I raised my arms in salute, which made the liftie smile. The view across the Pemigewasset Valley to the sunlit peaks beyond was simply stunning. I’d have taken a picture but didn’t dare remove my mittens for fear I wouldn’t be able to rewarm my fingertips.

I made six quick top-to-bottom runs on flawless corduroy without seeing anyone but the lifties and two ski patrollers – my own private ski area. On the seventh trip up, I caught a quick glimpse of one other skier as the chairlift crossed over Lower Twitcher. On my eighth ride, a couple rode the chair ahead of me, and I passed two other skiers on that run down.

Dismayed by the burgeoning crowds, I went in to warm up and found a dozen or so other people suiting up inside. They didn’t know it, but they’d already missed the best of the day.

Two more runs (and five other skiers seen) made 10 non-stop, top-to bottom runs before 10 a.m. Each run on South Peak is just shy of 1,500 vertical feet, and 15,000 feet of skiing makes for a pretty good day.

By then, my legs had lost some of their early enthusiasm and the cold was starting to win. The wind had picked up and giant “snow snakes” were crawling up the hill everywhere you looked. It has to be really cold, dry and windy before the snow snakes come out to play, and when you see them crawling that fast up the hill, you know the wind is blowing hard. In this case, it was hard enough to make it difficult to keep moving on flatter sections of the trails. So I decided to call it a day.

What have you done so far this year? Did you see the sunrise on New Year’s Day from the top of a mountain? If not, I feel a little sorry for you. Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

Supermoon

The cold, clear skies on New Year’s Day set the stage for a special way to end the day as well. The full supermoon was rising that evening. Em was still occupied but our friends Ralph and Cynthia were willing to bundle up and meet me at the trailhead for Jockey Cap, a granite outcropping near the center of Fryeburg, Maine. By then, the temperature had warmed up a little, so extreme bundling wasn’t needed,

The trail is short (less than half a mile), easy to follow, well packed, and only rises about 100 feet, but the top of Jockey Cap gives you an almost-360-degree view. Lots of reward for little effort.

We watched the sun set just north of Mount Chocorua and then turned to watch the moon rise near Pleasant Mountain. Then we eased our way down the trail to arrive back at the car at just about full dark. What a great way to end a wonderful day.

Tim Jones can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com