When American Ski Company dissolved and sold off its assets, no one could have predicted how many great things the new ownership would do in such a short period of time. Boyne USA Resorts stepped right up to the plate and began transforming its new Maine Resorts, Sunday River and Sugarloaf, from the neglected bastard childs of ASC to the impressive resorts they have the potential to be. Both Sunday River and Sugarloaf fired up snow making during the last week of October and Sunday River managed to open T2 on Halloween via uploading on Chair 4, thumbing its nose at the tight pockets of the former owners.
After this past Tuesday’s effort at Attitash, I was eager for some quality turns to make up for the desperate display of stupidity earlier in the week. With a planned opening date of November 9th and the snow making capability to do it, Sunday River is currently the early season leader to beat. The combination of less hiking and nearly enough snow to ski back to my car made Sunday River the obvious choice for turn earning instead of Killington.
Arriving at the Barker Lodge around noon time, the overcast sky was threatening rain from a coastal storm but thankfully would not deliver on the threat until after I was already heading home. Snowmaking was in process on Locke Mountain but the air felt warmer than snow making temperatures should allow even considering the temperature difference at elevation. Sure enough, snow making ceased operations shortly after I began skinning up Cascades which followed a brief hike up to where the snow began.
While skinning up Cascades, I noticed that both Chair 4 (Locke Triple) and Chair 9 (Tempest Quad) were testing during the afternoon which was a welcome sight. The skin up to the Chair 4 mid-station was fairly uneventful with only two completely broken segments of the snow patches. My skins have seen better days, so I eagerly skinned up some occasional grass sections between snow patches to avoid stepping out of my bindings and carrying the skis.
T2 looked magnificent as I arrived at the intersection with Cascades. I quickened the skin pace. I spied two skiers yo-yo’ing some short vertical and filming near the top of T2. After a short stop to say hello, I sped on up to the unload station of Chair 4 for a brief lunch and gear change over.
My first tracks down T2 were suspect as my body became re-accustomed to the physical forces exerted on the body when sliding down a snowy slope. Conditions were variable with generally a soft finish over a moderately firm base. Both the ground and the air temperature were well above freezing, which was causing substantial melting of the previous snow cover. Base Depths are at least one foot deep throughout T2 which made for worry free sliding. My first run was less than graceful as I got my boots back under me.
After my first run down T2, I decided to investigate the cover on Upper Sunday Punch. Less snow making had occurred on Upper Sunday Punch making for a few breaks in the cover down low. Base depths were generally no more than half a foot with a few places sporting bare spots and an occasional open stream. Melting was much more substantial on Upper Sunday Punch. Considering the obstacles and less snow cover, I opted to return to T2 for my second run despite generally better snow conditions and no random snow mounds on Upper Sunday Punch.
I began to really dial the skis in during my second run. While the turns were not as graceful as I would have liked, the turns were much more fluid the second time around. Halfway down T2, just shortly after the steep pitch, I let out a “Whooo!” and laughed in ecstasy. It is on.
Finishing out my second run, I was able to perform survival skiing at its finest down much of Cascades. Clicking out of my bindings for ski carry was required only three short times. Occasional straight lining down one foot wide cat tracks allowed me to connect many patches together. Thankfully, Cascades is almost completely rock free which allowed me to easily turn on only an inch or two of frozen snow. I finally surrendered to hiking when the snow ran out just 100 vertical feet above my vehicle.