Season storms open with nor'easter
by Allen Lessels/
Pat yourself on the back: We must all be living right.
There’s got to be something said for a ski season that kicks off with a mega snowstorm, don’t you think?
“Any time a nor’easter hits on opening weekend, we take that as a good sign,” said Darcy Morse at Sunday River a few days after the pre-Halloween storm dumped nine inches on the Newry, Maine, mountain.
Hard to argue with that sentiment.
Sunday River opened as scheduled Saturday, Oct. 29 — the fifth year in a row the lifts have started running on or before Halloween — and the snow that night helped spice things up for skiing on Sunday and Monday, which was Halloween.
“It helped,” Morse said. “It allowed us to open two trails instead of one, which was nice. It was a nice surprise.”
Killington also opened for the season Oct. 29 and planned to be open daily, whereas Sunday River was in early season mode and open only weekends.
Some spots in southern New England got up to two feet of snow and Jaffrey, N.H., not far from Crotched Mountain Ski Area, reported more than 30 inches.
For the most part, the snow came a little too early to allow ski areas to take advantage of it, but it sure got the region in the proper frame of mind for what’s to come.
Skis getting longer
As the 2011-12 World Cup racing season got under way, talk already was heating up about what’s to come in 2012-13.
That’s because of rule changes regarding equipment that the International Ski Federation (FIS) announced in July and plans to implement for next season.
The FIS has ruled that the minimum length and radius of skis will be increased. Officials with the organization came to that conclusion after looking at studies they believe showed that shorter skis were causing more injuries.
Two of the stars of the United States Ski Team, Bode Miller (Franconia, N.H.) and Todd Ligety, strongly object to the changes and believe they could set ski racing — and the sport itself — back decades.
The new rules push the radius of giant slalom skis from 27 meters to 40 meters, a figure last seen in the 1980s, Ligety said.
He told the website skiracing.com that he had tried a prototype of the new skis and did not like them a bit and believes they will be more dangerous than the current skis.
“Wave goodbye to the sport’s progression of arcing the cleanest possible turns,” Ligety wrote.
Ligety and Miller, who is in his 15th World Cup season and always has been in the forefront as racing has evolved, both think the new rules will take some of the fun out of skiing and the trickle-down effect will impact younger skiers and hurt the industry in general.
“Without the athletes driving all the innovations forward — people will stick with the same skis for 10 years in a row — that sort of flatlines the whole industry,” Miller told the Vail Daily while training in Colorado in November. “Without the influx of cash from the industry, then everything kind of starts to stagnate, and it can be a really bad cycle.”
Gunstock has its full ZipTour, featuring what it calls the two longest ziplines in the continental United States, up and running. The newest feature at Gunstock, hard by the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, was up and running the first weekend of November.
The ZipTour will run year-round and has five ziplines that total almost 9,000 feet.
The two longest — the longest in the country Gunstock says — are Recoil at 3,981 feet and Pistol, right behind it at 3,809. Recoil is 155 feet off the ground at its highest point.
A ZipTour session at Gunstock includes time on a 451-foot training zipline and a demo zipline, where participants practice and get the feel for the ride’s braking system.
Windy out there
Burke Mountain christened its new wind turbine, a piece of its commitment to the preservation of the outdoors and sustainability, on Oct. 26.
The turbine stands 121 feet tall and is designed to generate about 15 percent of the mountain’s electricity, and the energy it produces is almost equal to the energy needed for the area’s new chairlift.
Georg Capaul, the man credited with building Waterville Valley’s race program and a former coach with the United States Ski Team, was awarded the Spirit of Skiing Award by the New England Ski Museum at its 34th annual dinner in early November.
A native of Switzerland, Capaul was the head coach and program director with Waterville’s Black & Blue Trail Smashers from 1975 to 1985, when he joined the U.S. Ski Team. He served in various capacities with the Ski Team, including as men’s and women’s World Cup technical coach and as U.S. Olympic, World and Junior World coach.
Since 2002, Capaul has been snow sports director at the Holderness School down the road from Waterville Valley.
Capaul is only the sixth person to receive the award and joins a select group that includes Tom Corcoran, the founder of Waterville Valley; Gilford Olympian Penny Pitou; and Herbert Schneider of Mount Cranmore.
The award, according to the Ski Museum, “celebrates a person or institution whose work exemplifies the memorable axiom by Otto Schneibs that ‘skiing is not just a sport, it is a way of life,’ and who has influenced skiing in a positive manner and enabled others to benefit from the sport.”
Interested in some insider tips from New Hampshire? Found these in a “Secrets from the Locals” section on the skinh.com website (under Ski Central):
* Looking for a little air time? When the old Pinnacle Mountain just outside Keene reopened as Granite Gorge in 2003 after being closed for 25 years, the area’s operators redesigned and incorporated an old 20-meter earthen jump into their Juniper Trail.
* Can’t sleep at night? Crotched Mountain in Greenfield, N.H., takes its Midnight Madness seriously. On Fridays and Saturdays in January and February, skiers and riders can stay at it until 3 a.m. Concerts, bonfires and freestyle events add to the festivities.
* Beat the crowd. The insider’s tip from Mount Cranmore in North Conway recommends working the lesser-used East Bowl double chair, featuring trails with plenty of sunshine and terrain variety. And if the insiders succeed in moving the crowds to the East Bowl, well, you know where to go.
Magic Mountain lovers showed up for three “Volunteer Days” during the fall to help clear glades, mow trails and paint around the lodge and lifts to help get the area ready for winter. During the summer, a grassroots effort helped get the ski area’s Red Chairlift painted.
“Magic is deep-down a community-based ski area of winter enthusiasts who are passionate about the enjoyment and fellowship of skiing and riding as a sport,” said Jim Sullivan, Magic’s president. “Magic’s become a second home for many, and it’s demonstrated in their desire to contribute in so many ways to the future of this great ski mountain.”
Fans of the Londonderry, Vt., ski area also have participated in, and are encouraged to participate in, The Magic Partnership by the purchase of ownership shares.
Peak to Peak
Ski Maine, the association of the state’s ski resorts, is again pushing its Ski Maine Peak to Peak Challenge as a way to get the word out about ski areas from Fort Kent to the Camden Hills to the Western Mountains.
The Challenge grew out of a promotional event Ski Maine conducted over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in January 2008. That weekend, Greg Sweetser, the executive director of the association, led a group of media and others on a 2½-day tour that hit 20 ski areas and covered 1,000 miles by road.
The Peak to Peak Challenge is a bit less daunting.
To enter, skiers and riders log the date when they visit a Maine ski area and in the spring of 2012 submit an entry at the end of the season. Entrants must visit at least six ski areas and by doing so receive a free Ski Maine Peak to Peak pin and qualify for a chance to win free skiing for the following season. The more ski areas they get to, the better the prizes.
More information is available at skimaine.com.
This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of New England Ski Journal.
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