Active Outdoors: Planning a fabulous ski season

  • If one Santa skiing doesn't make you smile, how about 250? That’s what you get on Santa Sunday at Sunday River in Maine. TIM JONES / For the Monitor

  • Camp to camp skiing in Maine is on the agenda this winter! This is the view on one of the groomed ski trails near the AMC’s Little Lyford Pond Camps. TIM JONES / For the Monitor

  • West Branch Pond Camps will be the second night on a five-day, four night cross-country ski adventure in Maine. TIM JONES / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My sweetheart Em and I moved to the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire last year for many, many reasons. We love being surrounded by like-minded people who also enjoy the hiking, rock climbing, whitewater and flatwater paddling, mountain biking, camping, fishing ... the list goes on and on. Great local restaurants and convenient shopping don’t hurt, either.

But the number one reason we are here and not anywhere else is the skiing.

Em skis about twice a week; my personal goal is to ski every day all winter, and having so many opportunities so close by makes it possible. She loves fresh corduroy, whether it’s for downhill or cross-country; I ski anything and everything on both Alpine and Tele skis.

If there’s snow, I’ll at least try to ski.

There are nine alpine ski areas within an hour of our house. Combined, they offer 2,952 skiable acres, 567 trails, 76 lifts and 13,752 vertical feet of terrain. It’s the same with Nordic skiing: there are 12 groomed cross country trail networks within an hour of home, offering 434 kilometers of trails. We could ski every day all season and probably never take the same trail twice.

None of the statistics for Alpine and Nordic areas even begin to count the miles of slopes and trails available in the backcountry if you are willing to explore. Every logging road is a prospective cross-country ski trail, every slope a backcountry powder run when conditions are right.

See why we live where we do?

Our first “ski trip” of this year is going to be on Thanksgiving Day to Sunday River in Maine (55 minute from our house). Yes, we are a little late getting started this year. ... Life interferes, even for us.

Sunday River has been blowing snow every possible moment since Oct. 17 and they already have nine trails open with the whole South Ridge complex scheduled to open for Thanksgiving. The weather forecast is calling for sunny and cool – perfect skiing weather – and we are looking forward to a great first day on skis.

We have a wonderful stretch of skiing coming up between Thanksgiving and Christmas, including the always fun Santa Sunday at Sunday River on Dec. 3. If 250 red-clad Santas riding a chairlift together and skiing down one slope at one time doesn’t bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart, you are more of Grinch than I am.

More and more areas will be opening in the and we’ll try to ski all our local hills at least once between now and Christmas. I hope you’ll find time to disconnect from the holiday hustle and bustle and find some joy on snow.

Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

AMC Maine Lodges

Skiing in our own back yard doesn’t take away any of the fun of planning ski trips to somewhere else. I have several “big” ski trips in mind for this coming season. Here’s one:

Back in 2007, just after the Appalachian Mountain Club had purchased its three Maine Camps, I was part of an exploratory group that first sampled the possibilities for cross-country skiing in the empty country east of Moosehead Lake.

We skied one day around Medawisla Lodge, then skied from West Branch Pond Camps to Little Lyford Pond Camps. Skiing all day and arriving at a warm camp to find your luggage and a hot meal awaiting you is magical, and right then, I swore I would come back some day and ski all the way from Medawisla to Gorman Chairback.

But it would be several years before Chairback re-opened and by that time, Medawisla was closed for a multi-year renovation.

Well, Chairback re-opened several years ago and Medawisla re-opened this year (we visited in July and it’s wonderful!), so now is the time. I’ve waited 10 years for this!

I plan to spend a night, at Medawisla, ski to WBPC and spend the night there, ski from there to Lyford, overnight, ski on to Chairback, overnight there and ski out the next day.

This is too much skiing for Em, so she’ll do some of it on skis and some by car. If anyone is interested in joining us, I’d love some ski companions on the trails, send me an email: timjones@easternslopes.com. We can’t plan actual dates until we know snow conditions, but sometime in early February is likely.

Have fun doing good

Many ski areas will have events over the next few weeks to help local charities. It’s your chance to enjoy skiing and do good. Santa Sunday raises money to help local families. Here’s another example:

Okemo Mountain Resort will host its annual December Cares and Shares Food Drive on Dec. 3. When guests donate at least five non-perishable food items, a new child’s toy or new clothing item, they get a day of skiing at Okemo for just $39. Volunteers from the Black River Good Neighbor Services Christmas Basket Program will help distribute the donated items to needy families in time for the holidays. In addition to gathering donations for the Cares and Shares Food Drive, Okemo is donating 100 frozen turkeys to the Christmas Basket Program.

Have fun. Do good. Happy Holidays!