Sunday River has been open weekends for several weeks now, and Sugarloaf is set to open this coming Friday, so it’s looking great for getting some good turns in before Thanksgiving. And it won’t be too very long after that when the other three of the Big Five, Saddleback, Shawnee Peak and Mt. Abram are up and running for the season.
I’m psyched and hope you are too!
Spoke to Greg Sweetser at the Ski Maine Association recently to get the lowdown on “what’s new” this winter at Maine’s ski mountains. Here’s what I learned about the Big Five.
The Rangeley mountain has really been grabbing up a lot of kudos lately. In 2012, Snow East magazine readers rated Saddleback their #1 for Grooming in the East. SKI Magazine readers ranked Saddleback #1 for Value in the Northeast and #1 for Overall Satisfaction.
This season, Saddleback adds to its fleet a beefy new Piston Bully 600 Winch Cat, a faster, more powerful and more fuel efficient piece of machinery, so the great grooming will only get better.
Saddleback is projecting an opening date of Saturday, December 21, 2013.
Sugarloaf has been busy upgrading its snowmaking system for this year, adding a fleet of new low energy HKD snow guns to the arsenal. Crews have been installing the new guns at locations around the mountain, but a good many of them have gone Gondy Line. Gondy also received new water lines and air lines as well.
Glade cutting has been heavy as crews have pushed new skiable terrain further and higher on Burnt Mountain, with the goal of getting all the way to the 3,700-foot alpine summit of the peak. When complete, expect about 70 acres of new side-country glade skiing with 1,100 feet of vertical.
The Loaf plans to open for the season next Friday, November 22.
Sunday River has been pretty darn busy making improvements too, installing over 200 new HKD snow guns on Risky Business, Rogue Angel, Lollapalooza and the new terrain, T72. Older snowmaking equipment has been getting retired and replaced over the last 2-3 years too.
The new T72 terrain park trail – up on North Peak between Dream Maker and 3D – will feature a jump line, super pipe and rail park. Access to the new park is by the North Peak Express or the Chondola. T72 will measure 200 feet in width and 2,300 feet in length, with a vertical drop of 710 feet.
Free skiing and snowboarding will be offered all day, any day on the Sundance Surface Lift at South Ridge. Just grab a free pass from any ticket window and go!
Sunday River has been open weekends for several weeks now anyway. Come and get it right now!
The mountain has made regular investments in snowmaking to continue to expand coverage on the slopes. This year the focus was on increasing the electric power supply to the mountain. New high-efficiency electric compressors have replaced a portion of the diesel-powered generators, a move that will not only increase snowmaking capacity, but reduce by 50% the amount of diesel fuel consumption.
Going green and saving money… nice!
The roof on the East Lodge has been raised to make room for a new ski dorm with capacity for 12 persons. And don’t forget about the awesome mountaintop yurts.
The mountain is continuing its partnership with the Mountain Riders Alliance, a nonprofit group which manages ski area operations. Dave Scanlan has been hired as the new general manager.
According to the group’s website, “The mission of Mountain Rider’s Alliance is to develop values-based, environmentally-friendly, rider-centric mountain playgrounds that encourage minimal carbon footprint business practices as well as alternative energy creation, while making a positive impact in the local community.”
Under MRAs management, “Mt. Abram will be examined, refined and replicated to other community-oriented ski areas around the world.”
Mt. Abram’s operating hours will change this season. On Thursdays and Fridays the lifts will run from 11 AM top 7 PM (Westside will close at 4 PM).
This means, of course, that often-times lazy skiers like me can sleep in on a Friday, for example, show up an hour before lunch to catch the first chair, ski right into the nighttime, and be onsite ready to rock when the Loose Boots Lounge get hopping. Nice.
On weekends, the Wayback Machine and the other Abram lifts will operate the usual 9-4 schedule.
Snowmaking on Lower Easy Rider will make it easier to get between the Main and Westside lodges.
Mt. Abram is set to open on Saturday, December 14.
Read more details about the goings-on at Mt. Abram in John Christie’s latest ski column in the Maine Sunday Telegram.
Photo courtesy Eastern Slopes.
Note: Ski Maine still has the Maine Mountain Pass on sale (about 60 remained as of today). $425 gets you two tickets to all 21 Maine Ski Areas. Transferrable and no blackout dates. Good deal! Get ’em here or call (207) 699-3121.