The ski season kicked off to a promising start in November and December, with loads of early-season snow (remember that Christmas Day blizzard?).
However, a frigid January and rainy, warm February promised to consign the 2017-18 ski season to the “disappointing” column, the “rebuilding year” of the snow sports world.
But more than four feet of snow in the mountains since March 1 saved the end of the season, offering spectacular spring skiing at those mountains that remained open.
While we’re down to just a handful of resorts left open, those left standing are making the most of the remaining few weeks of the season. In Maine, Sugarloaf and Sunday River have full calendars of concerts, tailgating, pond-skimming and other celebrations.
Just across the border in Lincoln, New Hampshire’s Loon Mountain is open and holding events until their planned closing day in mid-April.
Of the three resorts, Loon Mountain will be the first to close, with one more week of skiing until their planned closing day of Sunday, April 15. Though the eight trails on South Peak have closed, Loon Peak and North Peak remain open and buried in soft spring snow. On Saturday the 14th, Loon will host a pond-skimming competition (termed the “Slushpool Party”) at the base of the Seven Brothers trail. The competition is limited to 75 participants, so given Loon’s weekend crowds you’ll want to register early – registration starts at 10 a.m. in the Paul Bunyan Room. If you miss registering – or don’t think skimming across freezing slush sounds fun – you can stake out a spot at nearby Octagon Lodge to watch.
On Sunday, Loon will mark its closing day with an Every-Last-Day jam session in the Little Sister terrain park. Unlike the usual jam sessions, there will be no judges, entry fees or divisions. Instead, Loon is billing Loon Every-Last-Day as “a thank you to all park fans.”
Sugarloaf’s Bud Light Reggae Fest kicks off on April 12, marking the 30th year of the biggest spring ski area event in New England. The four-day festival kicks off Thursday night with a concert at the Widowmaker, then continues through the weekend with reggae musicians and DJs in the lodge (in the Widowmaker and King Pine Room), on the “Beach” in front of the lodge, and even at mid-mountain restaurant Bullwinkles. The performances at Bullwinkles and on The Beach are free; the events in the lodge are ticketed.
The following weekend at Sugarloaf features the East Coast Pond Skimming Championships on Saturday April 21, and a BBQ for pass holders on the 22nd. While the Carrabassett Valley resort hasn’t yet set a firm closing day, skiers can usually expect to make turns until nearly the end of April. With Sugarloaf in the high yield track of March’s snowstorms, the resort is buried in snow from boundary to boundary, including in the above-treeline snowfields. Skiing in the snowfields late this March, I was happy to find conditions at their peak.
Sunday River has long held the crown of the longest season in Maine, and the Newry resort is on track to keep this title. It will, however, start scaling back its midweek and weekend options this weekend. Midweek this week, Sunday River will be skiing off five peaks, with no operations on Aurora, Oz or Jordan. Those three will open again on the 14th and 15th before shutting down for the season. The 16th will be the last day of midweek operations, spanning from White Cap to North Peak. Sunday River will open again on the 21st and 22nd for skiing on White Cap, Locke and Barker Mountains, and then on the 28th and 29th with skiing off just the Barker Mountain Express chair.
Next weekend, Sunday River will host its pond-skimming event (“Pond-A-Palooza”) on the 14th, with the competition starting at 11 a.m. on the slopes of South Ridge. Sunday the 15th is Sunday River’s Pass holder BBQ, a free barbeque at the South Ridge lodge for ’17-18 and ’18-19 season-pass holders. If you’re looking to stock up for next season, Sunday River Sports will also be holding a 50 percent off sale for pass holders on Sunday.
April 21 is Sunday River’s annual Great Tailgate in the Barker parking lot, with a theme of “Caribbean Christmas.” Participants are encouraged to get to Barker early to secure a parking spot and a chance for a coveted tailgate trophy. While there will still be skiing on White Cap, Barker and Locke on the 21st, there will be cornhole tourneys, games and live music at the tailgate for those who just want to stick to the parking lot.
On April 29, Sunday River will offer free skiing off the Barker Mountain Express to celebrate the final day of their season.