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Downhill From Here

Tim Jones column: Mother Nature brings the best Christmas present ever!

  • The morning had been busy but a lot of skiers and riders headed home on Sunday afternoon to watch some football team or other play . . . leaving more snow and emptier slopes for the rest of us.(Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    The morning had been busy but a lot of skiers and riders headed home on Sunday afternoon to watch some football team or other play . . . leaving more snow and emptier slopes for the rest of us.(Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • The morning had been busy but a lot of skiers and riders headed home on Sunday afternoon to watch some football team or other play . . . leaving more snow and emptier slopes for the rest of us.(Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    The morning had been busy but a lot of skiers and riders headed home on Sunday afternoon to watch some football team or other play . . . leaving more snow and emptier slopes for the rest of us.(Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • The morning had been busy but a lot of skiers and riders headed home on Sunday afternoon to watch some football team or other play . . . leaving more snow and emptier slopes for the rest of us.(Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    The morning had been busy but a lot of skiers and riders headed home on Sunday afternoon to watch some football team or other play . . . leaving more snow and emptier slopes for the rest of us.(Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • The morning had been busy but a lot of skiers and riders headed home on Sunday afternoon to watch some football team or other play . . . leaving more snow and emptier slopes for the rest of us.(Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)
  • The morning had been busy but a lot of skiers and riders headed home on Sunday afternoon to watch some football team or other play . . . leaving more snow and emptier slopes for the rest of us.(Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)
  • The morning had been busy but a lot of skiers and riders headed home on Sunday afternoon to watch some football team or other play . . . leaving more snow and emptier slopes for the rest of us.(Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

You’d have to have been living under a rock to miss this. Mother Nature has been really kind to skiers and riders all across the Northeast, bringing us the gift of lots and lots of snow and cold temperatures. I’m writing this on Sunday, and since well before Christmas, it’s been snowing somewhere in New England.

Today’s pretty quiet in many places, but the upslope northwest winds are dumping more snow on the northern mountains. And perfect snowmaking temps are bringing more snow to slopes where it isn’t snowing on its own at the moment. You just can’t get any better than this – at least not this early in the season. Can you imagine what our ski season will be like if this keeps up?

Whiteface (whiteface.com) in Wilmington, N.Y., has gotten more than five feet of snow this season. Jay Peak (802-988-2611, jaypeakresort.com) in Vermont is just an inch shy of five feet of snow in the last week; nearby Mont Sutton (866-538-2545, montsutton.com/en) in Quebec has gotten more than five feet. Mont Sainte Anne (800-463-1568, mont-sainte-anne.com)

in Beaupre, Quebec, has gotten 54 inches so far this season. Sugarloaf (207-237-2000, sugarloaf.com) in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, has gotten more than four feet of snow since Dec. 16.

But it’s not just the northern areas that have hit the jackpot. Mohawk Mountain (800-895-5222, mohawkmtn.com ) in Cornwall, Conn., has gotten 14 inches of natural snow on top of its man-made. Jiminy Peak (800-882-8859, jiminypeak.com) in Hancock, Mass., has gotten 14 inches in the last 72 hours.

Everywhere in between has gotten snow.

Given skiers’ pent-up demand from last year’s non-winter, it’s not surprising that many areas had more skiers on their slopes after Christmas than ever before. All-time one-day records were set, then shattered, then shattered again. And conditions have been so good that no one seems to have minded longer than usual lift lines. With so much terrain open, the slopes haven’t seemed crowded at all.

Now that vacation week madness is about over, it’s time to settle into a long and wonderful ski and ride season. There’s (a lot of) snow on the slopes. What are you waiting for?

Football is a wonderful thing for skiers

Even on busy holiday weekends, Sunday afternoons are usually a wonderful time to go skiing – at least until the Super Bowl is played. Pull into the parking lot of any ski area anytime after noon on Sundays and you are likely to see an exodus of cars headed home. Many of those folks are leaving earlier than they might otherwise to get home and watch “the game.”

The rest of us can take advantage of half-day ticket prices and get in what amounts to a full day of skiing on rapidly emptying slopes.

I’ve just returned from a Sunday afternoon sojourn to Pats Peak (428-3245, patspeak.com) in Henniker, where I got on my Tele gear for the first time this season and, as usual, looked like a total dork attempting to make free-heel turns. Fortunately, there weren’t many people around to see, though there were enough, I’m sure, who were pointing and laughing.

Pats has gotten about a foot of new snow in the past couple of days and most of the trails and even a couple of their lower-angle glades were open (not that I’ll ski glades on Telemark gear). They’d obviously had a good crowd for the morning, and the trails were pretty well skied off in the middle of the steeper pitches, but lift lines were 10 seconds long, and the edges of the trails were soft and delightful. Everyone was smiling – including me.

Here’s the deal

∎  Sunday afternoons at Mount Sunapee (763-2356, mtsunapee.com) in Newbury are $35 after 2. With the slopes emptying out, you can get in a lot of runs in two hours. Its sister resort, Okemo Mountain Resort (800-786-5366, okemo.com) in Ludlow, Vt., has the same deal for $39.

∎  On Jan. 2, 3, 7 and 10, an all-day adult ticket for Ragged Mountain (768-3600, raggedmountainresort.com) in Danbury is just $26.99 if you buy online at least a day in advance. On Jan. 8 and 9, tickets are $21.99. But quantities are limited. They are offering similar deals all season.

∎  Starting on Jan. 2, Ski Butternut (413-528-2000, skibutternut.com) in Great Barrington, Mass., has $25 midweek, non-holiday lift tickets all season long. Nearby Catamount (413-528-1262, catamountski.com) in South Egremont, Mass., has $29 midweek day tickets and $27 lift tickets on Wednesday nights.

∎ Magic Mountain (magicmtn.com) in Londonderry, Vt., has $39 lift tickets on non-holiday Mondays, Fridays and “Powder Days” (any non-holiday Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday when the mountain receives more than six inches of new snow – check the snow report for powder day alerts).

∎  Non-holiday Saturday nights are $39 at Gunstock Mountain Resort (gunstock.com) in Gilford.

∎  Black Mountain (800-475-4669, blackmt.com) in Jackson has $25 lift tickets for non-holiday weekdays all season long.

∎  Think those prices are too high? Whaleback Mountain ( 448-1489, whaleback.com) in Enfield has $20 midweek, non-holiday lift tickets all season long.

(Tim Jones can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com.)

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