Spring Skiing in Maine, or “Where Is Everybody?!”

river4I’ve been pretty clear over the years that skiing is my favorite outdoor activity. I’m not all that great at it–I can’t keep up with most of my friends and I don’t pretend that I can.

I used to pretend. In fact, when I learned to ski at the ripe old age of 19, I walked around like I was queen of the mountain. I got a job at Sugarloaf (Sugarloafer since ’88–a gentleman would not do the math) tending bar, working the line in a kitchen (and in the back room…hey oh! It was the ’80s after all), and cleaning the scum line at the healthclub.

I was thin and looked athletic and I wasn’t all that bad on the eyes, so I could get away with letting people think I knew how to ski. I just always, always had to have an excuse to never, ever get on a chairlift with any of the people I saw on a day-to-day basis. I’ve sort of imagined I got away with that behavior. I’m hoping nobody unburdens me of that bit of personal autobiographical fiction.

loaf8If I’m going to be completely honest, however, I didn’t really learn to ski until I was well into my 30s. After years of begging me to join him skiing out west, Groom borrowed a pair of boots and skis from a friend and I slopped around on that equipment, moaning and whining all the way to my celebratory beer. I hated it.

Finally, I got my hands on some better equipment and got a job at Sunday River. I’ll admit it, I would have preferred to go back to Sugarloaf, but opportunity awaited at SR. I refuse to call it “The Rivah.” Nope. I won’t have it. No.

I bring this up because I am about to wax rhapsodic about both mountains and I want to be very upfront that, although I do not work at either mountain, I did work at both and I do currently spend my winters living trailside at SR.river3

Spring skiing is the best and I don’t want to spend my time anywhere other than Sunday River and Sugarloaf. While it’s true that Vermont and New Hampshire are fun for some people, I simply cannot pull myself away from these two Maine resorts.

What I can’t figure out is, where is everybody? Sure, people tend to pack up their equipment in early March and start hauling out the soccer balls, tennis balls, fishing line, and baseball bats. But, this year in particular feels really quiet. The Louds on one side of our condo and The Kids on the other have both left. There are no cars in the lot. Are people just so sick of winter they can’t imagine putting their snowpants back on?

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lift all to myself

Let me tell you. If you can sneak away, it is very much worthwhile to think about hitting the mountains in late spring.

Since nobody, and I mean nobody, is on the hill right now, there are minimal (if any) lift lines and you’ll have plenty of long, cruising trails all to yourself. Since I have no friends whatsoever, I really do get to ski these trails alone.

That’s a lie. I have friends who will ski with me (I’ll direct you toward exhibits A & B below). Of course, they typically abandon me to jump into much more challenging terrain. To continue with the spring theme here, I’ll borrow from everyone else’s favorite spring pastime. I’m more like the clubhouse favorite. Great for morale, fun on the chairlift, but when you get down to the final inning, most people just wish I would get out of the way.

But in the springtime? It doesn’t matter. I’ll jump into some trees. I’ll hit those super steep trails. I’ll actively look for the bumps. I wouldn’t say I’m really “skiing” these trails, but I’m happily–and sometimes not so happily–working my way down them.

loaf7

exhibit a

I have spent the past four weeks skiing nearly every day. I’ve spent between one and three days each week at Sugarloaf, which has so much snow, it looks like early March. The rest of the week, I’m at Sunday River, which is still white from stem to stern. I’m annoyingly excited to be back on snow after my neck surgery. And, although my FitBit absolutely refuses to acknowledge my time on skis, skiing is actually good exercise. My thighs. They are like rocks.

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exhibit b

And the sun! I have an ugly sunburn on my face. Not along my jawline, or at least where my jawline used to be, but rather along the only part of my face exposed to the open air. Two upside down triangles on my face that look like smudges of dirt. It’s the much beloved “goggle tan” skiers talk about. I’ve never liked it. But those shots of Vitamin D directly into the face every day? Muy bueno.

If you’re thinking you can’t imagine hauling your boots out of the closet, I’ll tell you last year, after spending nearly two weeks in the British Virgin Islands in late March, Groom and I came back to New England and we went skiing. And it was spectacular.

BVI

one week after this, back on skis

I can already see and hear the comment I hear more than any other: Skiing is too expensive. You’ve got me there. It’s a valid complaint. Not only can skiing be expensive, but it’s also viewed by many as an elitist sport, like golf or Upper Class Twit of the Year competitions, which is why Groom and I opted to pick up jobs in the industry. But listen. The goal for many resorts, not just my favorite Maine resorts, is to get people on snow. Look around. One cursory glance at their websites tells me that Sunday River tickets are only $49 right now. Sugarloaf is offering something called a Spring Pack, which is $155 for three lift tickets. And both resorts are offering installment plans with no interest for next season’s passes.

This weekend, Sugarloaf is holding its annual Reggae Fest, which means plenty of people running around the base lodge but loads of empty trails, and Sunday River is hosting Pond-A-Palooza, which seems like it will be pond skimming dialed up to 11.

Admittedly, things are winding down and segments of both resorts are closing, but my point is this: If you ski or snowboard or snowblade or monoboard or whatever else and you’ve packed up your equipment for the season, you are a big dope. It’s not too late. loaf6

Sarah Devlin

About Sarah Devlin

Sarah Devlin has been writing about the recreational industry since the late ’90s but ironically can’t run, swim, or bike a mile.