Trail counts are increasing, and a return to cold has snowmaking rocking around the clock when temps permit.
Still, we're hungry for more terrain and can't wait to carve turns on some favorites in the western Maine mountains.
The sun hits the East Side of Shawnee Peak early and so should skiers and riders. It's the side less seen serviced by the Sunnyside Triple outside the East Lodge (open weekends and holidays making for an excellent base camp, too).
Shawnee’s backside is home to a host of interesting connectors like Chicken’s Delight and Yee Haw that hook up to Upper and Lower Appalachian, a black diamond cruiser which seems to make use of all the vertical Shawnee has to offer. Be sure to thread Needle’s Eye, a natural snow trail that’s a bit boney and pleasantly narrow.
Frozen Moose Pond is the constant on the horizon. The glades off the triple — skier’s left — eventually lead to Upper Roosevelt, a trail which wraps around the hill and leads back to the main base lodge via Lower Kancamagus. Use it to venture down the steep Tycoon and playful Wizard. Then hook up to Lower Roosevelt and head for that island split on Mohawk. Either way is a hoot.
At the Loaf, head to King Pine Bowl with its new terminal on the lift that rolled back last March injuring seven. The bowl, with its mostly expert terrain, tends to hold more snow than other parts of the mountain due to the prevailing westerly winds. It gets smiled on by the sun first thing, making it a prime choice for morning tracks. Head for the forested Cant Dog Glade, broad Haul Back and the slender and playful double black Misery Whip.
Sunday River's Jordan Bowl is a cruiser's paradise with its Mahoosuc and Presidential views. A bit of an effort to reach via a series of chairlifts from South Ridge, the Jordan Bowl Express Quad is a quick ticket to the summit after the journey.
The easy one is Lollapalooza, a 1.5-mile beginner’s way down complete with a series of s-turns near the onset and a sweeping right near the mid-section.
Turn up the volume on Rogue Angel and Excalibur, a pair of terraced intermediate cruisers with steeps and rolls.The initial drop on Rogue Angel gets the adrenaline going for the ride down and after a snowmaking session, the sweet spots are on trail’s edge. Excalibur is a step up, the rolls making it like skiing a dragon’s tail. So dig in with those edges and hang on.
When it first opened in 1960, Mount Abram was owned by three brothers who would groom the slopes by trudging up and down the mountain on snowshoes. Though machine grooming and snowmaking has made its way to the mountain, there is that yesterday feeling on the trails. Forget about high-speed quads. Travel back in time — or at least to the summit — on The Wayback Machine. Sweep down runs named after Bullwinkle cartoon characters. The black diamond straight shot called Boris Badenov is wicked bad, which is good. Winding down Bullwinkle's Horn from the top gets skiers to Boris as will taking the hairpin on Sweeper which flies in the face of the rippling Mahoosucs on the horizon. Let gravity win and drop down on the horse leg for Dudley-Do-Right.
Now that’s something you'll really like.
Ski for $29 day and night at Bridgton's Shawnee Peak Jan. 8 by showing your New England driver's license on New England Ski Day. Donate blood Jan. 10 during the Red Cross Blood Drive (appointments a must at redcrossblood.org) and get a midweek, non-holiday lift ticket for the 2016 season.
The second annual Vintage Ski Fashion Show benefits the Ski Museum of Maine Jan. 9 at the Bethel Inn from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Lots of door prizes, $25 admission.
College Week wraps up at Sunday River Jan. 8 with the spectator-friendly (and free) Red Bull Frozen Rush with supercharged trucks going head-to-head on a snow course outside South Ridge.
DJs from Portland area radio stations like WBLM, WHOM and WCYY crank tunes all day in the Loose Boots Lounge during Mt. Abram's all-day Snowbash 2016 on Jan. 9. Night skiing is slated to start that night too. It's offered on most Saturdays from 4-7 p.m. and is including in the all day all mountain ticket. Otherwise, it's 10 bucks.
WinterKids Passport holders (Maine students in grades 5, 6 and 7) and their families get discounts on lift tickets, rentals and lessons Jan. 10 during WinterKids Family Day at Lost Valley in Auburn.