--Eddie Vedder, "Footsteps"
Another minor admission: I'm a ski bum at heart. I'd kill for the opportunity to spend a winter patrolling for one of the mountains in New England, to help other's enjoy the bounty that Mother Nature reaps for us every December through April, and sometimes May.
So as it stood, it was time to begin my yearly trek to the northwest. This year's exploits come courtesy of Boyne Resorts, and their holdings in New England: Sugarloaf, Sunday River, and Loon Mountain.
Sugarloaf, by all accounts, is the gem of the three. Sure, Loon is easiest to get to (especially coming from Massachusetts and points further south). Sunday River has a more upscale feel, and will generally be the moneymaker for the operation. But it is Sugarloaf that stands above the others. Yes, it is taller than the other two. But it also has a character, a steadfast resolution. You come here to ski, and that's both the mountain's biggest draw as well as the reason why Sunday River draws more people to it.
Fine with me; I'll just keep on lapping.
"Would you say you're feeling low and so a good idea would be to get it off of you're mind?"
--Dave Matthews Band, "The Best of What's Around"
This trip to Sugarloaf was bittersweet for me. The last time I'd been to Carrabassett Valley, I was skiing angry. I was attempting to clear my mind, as my father-in-law was in the midst of his fight against sarcoma. In my anger, I managed to wind up blowing out a ligament in my thumb. I skied the remainder of the day (hey, it was 50 degrees, the Backside was open...I felt justified), but I had the distinct displeasure of having hand surgery to repair the torn ligament. For those wondering, it's glorified carpentry.
Anyways, coming around the mountain on Route 27, and I felt...home. I was a Saddleback passholder last year, for a few reasons: it was all I could afford, but more importantly, I don't think I was ready to have gone back. I was simply lost emotionally. Whether or not I've found myself is an entirely different question, but at the very least, I was ready to head back.
"Gimme some hope I'm coming through...I'm counting on you."
--Foo Fighters, "Rope"
Thankfully, I wasn't alone on this trip: Josh, my ski buddy (a.k.a. "The Guy Who Has a 3-Way with My Husband and a Mountain, according to Mrs. Crashing the Boards) was along for the ride. He's also the guy who introduced me to Sugarloaf, was a member of my wedding party, kick-started my craft beer drinking, helped me through dealing with the loss of Peter...he's everything you could ask for out of a friend, and then some. Stand-up guy.
Anyways, we got ourselves northward and all ready to go by 8:35. First chair was 8:30. Considering that it's two hours and fifteen minutes from Portland to Sugarloaf, and I had to pick up my ski pass...we know how to get to the mountain to get going. Plus, there was some fresh snow from about mid-mountain on up...and we needed to attack.
Heading up the SuperQuad is when I just about lost it, letting Josh know about the last time that I'd been there, skiing to forget, when in his genius, said, "Well, now you get to ski in his memory." It's amazing how a few words can simply jar one into a positive mindset. And that'd be the motto of the year: Make some memories. That, at its heart, is why I ski; for the sheer enjoyment of it, to be constantly amazed at what the Earth and the weather have provided for us, and how we have been able to take and shape it into a sport.
The number of trails definitely leave something to be desired, and just about from the top of the Whiffletree quad on down, with the exception of Tote Road, things are sketchy at best and downright awful at worst. But the skiing was sublime further north on the hill, with fluffy snow from the night before making for a feel of January despite the lackluster snowpack further down.
Then, as if on cue, it started to snow. I looked up at one point, just saying, "Thanks, Peter, for the gift..." as we continually received free refills on the fresh snow. It snowed like hell, off and on, just enough to keep filling in the tracks and leaving places for you to really attack. It was everything one could ask for: good skiing, good people along for the ride.