Portland programs power Payson Hill
by Allen Lessels/
They’re bringing the Maine mountains to the masses again this winter.
Portland’s Payson Hill Terrain Park — on Ocean Avenue just off the city’s Back Bay and not far from Cheverus High School — looks to be teeming with snowboarders and skiers working its collection of rails and elements.
Denver has its Ruby Hill Park, an urban terrain park developed with the help of Winter Park Resort.
Portland answers with Payson Hill Terrain Park, a collaboration between Ski Maine, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and Maine ski areas.
Payson Hill has grown — literally — in recent years along with the programs at the facility.
Wipeout Wednesdays at Payson Hill Terrain Park are back for their second season and will be held Jan. 18, Jan. 25 and Feb. 1.
The goal is to turn those dates into mini-festivals.
On Jan. 18, the kickoff date, ski areas including Mount Abram, Lost Valley, Shawnee Peak, Sugarloaf, Sunday River and Saddleback have committed to sending equipment and instructors to the park where they will be offering introductory lessons as part of the industry’s Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month.
Equipment will be available, too, on Jan. 18. There are no fees, but pre-registration is required through Ski Maine’s website at www.skimaine.com, and slots will be allotted as available. There will be coaches only at the hill on Jan. 25 and Feb. 1.
Long known for its sledding, Payson Hill has come on strong as a spot for snowboarding and skiing in the past decade, thanks in large part to city arborist Jeff Tarling, who has overseen the growth of the area with the help of Ski Maine.
“It’s just been really outstanding to see,” said Greg Sweetser, executive director of Ski Maine. “One of the coolest things to come out of it is that little hills like this, that in the old days were the genesis of the ski industry, are coming back.”
Trekking back up the hill with a snowboard or on skis, along with just plain getting outside, pushes the healthy, exercise aspect of it as well.
Through the years, the ski areas have helped provide terrain park elements.
The city, led by Tarling, in the meantime has built up the hill and often brought snow.
Fill from sewer and water line construction projects a couple of summers ago was brought in, and Tarling got contractors to contour it into a natural halfpipe, even adding a couple of vertical feet to the hill.
There is capacity to make some snow for the park, but the more efficient and less costly way to get snow has been to have it dumped from city plowing — on early plow trips before it gets too dirty — at the park.
“Just like with the fill, that saves on trucking costs,” Sweetser said.
A large city snowblower helps spread the snow over most of the hill.
Bromley in Peru, Vt., and Suicide Six in South Pomfret, Vt., are two of the ski areas in the region celebrating birthdays this season. Both turn 75.
Stratton in Vermont spent much of December celebrating its 50th anniversary. In addition, the Stratton Mountain School hits the big 4-0 and will have its 40th Winter Ball on Jan. 28.
Bromley’s festivities revolve around the weekend of Jan. 21-22. A “Dress Your Favorite Decade” race with prizes awarded for best costumes is scheduled for Jan. 21 and an anniversary party featuring the Swingin’ Vermont Big Band will be held that night.
A “$75 for 75” special offers two days of skiing for $75 on Saturday and Sunday with an e-coupon.
Suicide Six is part of the Woodstock Inn & Resort, and its celebration includes a couple of different Woodstock Inn packages.
The ski area will have $7.50 days on selected Mondays in January, February and March and will incorporate the $7.50 into some food and beverages deals.
XC types get to party, too
The Jackson Ski Touring Federation in Jackson, N.H., is marking its 40th year with a big weekend in late January and other events during the season.
Jackson XC is bringing back some of the folks who helped build the sport and the ski area.
The University of New Hampshire Winter Carnival — featuring Dartmouth, Vermont and UNH and the rest of the NCAA Division 1 teams in New England — provides a highly competitive aspect to the weekend on Friday and Saturday.
Joe McNulty of Seattle and Jack Lufkin of Bartlett, N.H., both Olympians who were on the original trail crew at Jackson, are expected to be on hand, along with John Caldwell of Putney, Vt., who is considered the father of American cross country.
“We’ll have some tours on Sunday,” said Thom Perkins, who has been at Jackson for all but about five of those 40 years. “It’s a chance to get a whole bunch of people involved in Jackson over the years to come party and help us celebrate. We’ll have a picnic in the woods.”
Another picnic, when it gets a little warmer in March, is in the works, too.
The Jackson Foundation was formed in the summer of 1972.
“That was after a study to determine what effect cross country would have on Jackson and what benefit it would have for the town,” Perkins said. “It was designed to bring in all the different trail systems in town under one organization. In the study, they said that if it was real good, Jackson might attract 5,000 skiers a year. We’ve done that over a long weekend, and we’ve done over a million skier days in our history.”
Up and down
What goes up must come down in the Winter Wild Uphill Series that will be contested at five New Hampshire ski areas this winter.
The races start at the bottom, go to the top of the mountain and then finish back at the bottom. Cross country skis, alpine skis and shoes are among the items allowed. If you go up on snowshoes, you must come down on them. The same goes for skis. Competitors can carry a snowboard up and ride it back down, though.
Racers must participate in at least three events to be eligible for series awards.
Entrants need not only have a thirst for a grueling workout but also must be early risers. Races generally start at 7 a.m. and some are earlier.
This year’s events are at Whaleback on Jan. 14, at Ragged on Feb. 4, at Pats Peak on Feb. 18, at Sunapee on March 3 and the series championship is at Bretton Woods on March 17.
The first three events are at 7. The Sunapee race starts at 6:30 and Bretton Woods at 6.
More information is available at www.winterwild.com.
Learn to Ski and Snowboard
The organizations promoting skiing and riding in the three northern New England states — Ski Maine, Ski Vermont and Ski New Hampshire — all have programs designed to encourage newcomers in particular to get out and try the sports in January.
January is recognized nationally as Learn to Ski and Snowboard month, and resorts throughout the country offer special packages and deals.
Vermont has a $29 package at several resorts for first-timers; Maine has assorted programs; and most New Hampshire alpine areas are involved in a Learn to Ski Free Week from Jan. 7-13.
The Vermont and New Hampshire programs require registering through the groups’ websites at www.skivermont.com and www.skinh.com. More information on the offerings at each Maine ski area is available at www.skimaine.com.
Tour de Snow
It’s never a bad time to pay a visit to Stowe.
The second Stowe Tour de Snow is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 15. Designed to showcase the offerings of the Vermont town, the festivities begin at the top of the 5.3-mile Stowe Recreation path and participants walk, snowshoe, run, ski or choose whatever method of movement they prefer to make their way along the hard-packed and groomed trail.
This is no race and there are activities planned at several stops along the way, including paintball target shooting, family yoga sessions, disc golf and environmentally friendly arts and crafts.
More information is available at www.stowetourdesnow.com.
Ski New Hampshire makes stopping to smell the snowflakes — and snap a couple of shots of them — pay off.
The organization’s annual photo contest is under way. The contest has various categories — downhill skiing and riding, cross country skiing, terrain parks, scenery and off slope — and runs through April 30, 2012. Photos must be taken at a Ski NH member resort this season.
The grand prize is a Ski NH VIP pass for 2012-13 good at all of the state’s ski areas, and there are numerous other prizes, including skis and boots.
More information is available at www.skinh.com.
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This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of New England Ski Journal.