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Downhill From Here

Downhill From Here: Silly season is upon us

  • Pats Pond Skim 1, 2,  Pats Peak in Henniker, NH kicked off their “Silly Season” with a pond-skimming event on a very cold March day. The sunshine will win eventually, but for now the skiing is still great. (Pats Peakphoto)

    Pats Pond Skim 1, 2, Pats Peak in Henniker, NH kicked off their “Silly Season” with a pond-skimming event on a very cold March day. The sunshine will win eventually, but for now the skiing is still great. (Pats Peakphoto)

  • Pats Pond Skim 1, 2, Pats Peak in Henniker, NH kicked off their “Silly Season” with a pond-skimming event on a very cold March day. The sunshine will win eventually, but for now the skiing is still great. (Pats Peak photo)

    Pats Pond Skim 1, 2, Pats Peak in Henniker, NH kicked off their “Silly Season” with a pond-skimming event on a very cold March day. The sunshine will win eventually, but for now the skiing is still great. (Pats Peak photo)

  • Pats Pond Skim 1, 2,  Pats Peak in Henniker, NH kicked off their “Silly Season” with a pond-skimming event on a very cold March day. The sunshine will win eventually, but for now the skiing is still great. (Pats Peakphoto)
  • Pats Pond Skim 1, 2, Pats Peak in Henniker, NH kicked off their “Silly Season” with a pond-skimming event on a very cold March day. The sunshine will win eventually, but for now the skiing is still great. (Pats Peak photo)

I call it silly season. Every ski area in the East gets just a little crazy as the end of the season looms, perhaps to show the snow gods how much we are going to miss winter. Anyway, almost every ski hill entices folks to a last day on the slopes with friendly races and big-air competitions, chili cook-offs, dummy hucks (sending effigies rather than human sacrifices off some monster kicker), cardboard sled races, on-slope music festivals, pond skimming contests, Hawaiian shirt days, ’70s retro days…you get the idea.

Anyway, I’m planning to watch the pond skimming at Black Mountain (blackmt.com) in Jackson on Saturday. Like many of these events, it’s raising money for charity; in this case for Jen’s Friend’s, a local non-profit cancer organization. The next day (Sunday), I’m helping to judge a chili cook-off at Sunday River (sundayriver.com) in Newry, Maine. Tough job. It’s at noon, so I’ll have the whole morning to ski first.

Pick your favorite area. Check the website. Odds are that some Saturday or Sunday will have some celebration of silly season planned. And there’s still snow on the slopes. What are you waiting for?

“Best Friend Day” at Whiteface

My sweetheart Marilyn asked if she could report on her “Best Friend Day” with her best friend Susan at Whiteface (whiteface.com ) in Wilmington, N.Y. Here’s her take on this great mountain:

“Susan and I had the day to ourselves in Lake Placid, NY. Our husbands, Tim and David, were off skinning up Mount Marcy and skiing down a steep, narrow trail with hairpin curves through the woods. Yeesh! Susan and I had our own plans, starting with skiing Whiteface at our own pace, on our own terms. Were we intimidated by the fact that Whiteface has some very steep trails and more vertical drop than any other area in the east? Certainly not! Well…maybe just a little…

We started with an outstanding breakfast at Generations, the restaurant in The Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort (golden-arrow.com) where we were staying in downtown Lake Placid. Corned beef hash and extra crispy home fries – real food for real skiing, and absolutely delicious. Our goal was first tracks on pristine corduroy and the mountain to ourselves. This was the first morning of Daylight Savings Time, and most people were apparently still making up for that lost hour of sleep while we were getting up close and personal with this monster of a mountain.

“We made first chair, took a warm-up run on Upper Valley, a blue square cruiser – perfectly groomed smooth corduroy! With our legs warmed up, I said to Susan, ‘If we’re going to do something really difficult, let’s do it now, while the conditions are outstanding, we’re not tired and we’ll have the trail to ourselves.’ So we headed for the summit (4,386 feet) and made a run down Cloudspin, a steep, intimidating and unrelenting black diamond. But we took the plunge and, oh, what a thrill! If you’ve ever wanted to fly without a plane, here’s your chance! Next we headed down Paron’s Run, which is technically a blue square, but felt like another diamond. This is some mountain!

“More runs, some easy, some more challenging. We could have kept this up all day, but lunch was calling and we had important afternoon plans. First, lunch at Chair Six (chair6.com) in Lake Placid, where we ordered customized salads from a list of 32 fresh ingredients. Yum! Next stop: The Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa (mirrorlakeinn.com ), Susan was scheduled for the signature massage and I had the custom facial. Major relaxation after a morning of superb skiing! Ladies, if you always ski with your husband or family, try a day for yourself. So worth it!”

A sad farewell to Whaleback

Sad, sad news from former Olympian Evan Dybvig and his partners. Despite eight years spent building a thriving local ski and snowboard community, the realities of debt and a weather-dependent small business are forcing Whaleback Mountain (whaleback.com) in Enfield to close early this season, possibly forever. There’s hope that Whaleback can be turned into a community-based non-profit and keep running. Let’s hope so. The world needs more, not less of these local ski areas that provide lots of fun, low ticket prices, a great place to learn and help build community.

Here’s the deal

∎ Saturday is Teacher Appreciation Day at Crotched Mountain (crotchedmountain.com) in Bennington. Educators (with ID) get a free ticket, adult family members are $39, kids $33.

∎ March 31: Mount Sunapee (763-2356; mtsunapee.com) in Newbury has its Cares & Shares Day. Bring five non-perishable food items at the ticket window and get a lift ticket for that day for $35.

Tim Jones can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com

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