2012-12-26 / Front Page

We got snow

Winter sports enthusiasts jubilant as area receives two to three feet of snow
By BJ Bangs Irregular Staff Writer

Ritter Bopp enjoys some powder skiing at Sugarloaf last week. (Ethan Austin photo) Ritter Bopp enjoys some powder skiing at Sugarloaf last week. (Ethan Austin photo) NORTHERN FRANKLIN COUNTY — Four storms, two feet of snow with more on the way has left alpine and Nordic skiers, boarders, and winter enthusiasts absolutely thrilled, looking forward to taking advantage of snow totals they haven’t seen during Christmas vacation for years.

“We had about four inches this morning, bringing the total to three feet this week, 36 inches, since Sunday night,” Sugarloaf’s Communication Manager Ethan Austin reported on Friday. “There were nine inches on the ground before that, bringing the total to 45 inches.”

As of Friday, 115 of the 154 trails and glades were open. The ski patrol was slated to check out the summit and the snowfields Saturday, with hopes they could be open for vacation week.

Saddleback, as of Friday, reported 34 inches of new snow in the last seven days. “The conditions are amazing, more terrain is opening daily,” JoAnne Taylor, Saddleback’s director of marketing and communication, said. “We have the snow skiers and riders crave. People are anxious to get on the snow, especially the glades which are open now with knee deep snow.”

A total of 53 trails and the glades were open with more opening every day. Expert, intermediate and beginning trails are open.

Austin pointed out, “To get this early is really good. We’ve had big December storms before, but to get it the week before Christmas week is so huge.”

Even better, he said is that Franklin County’s snow held up. Bethel’s Sunday River got a fair amount of snow, but then a bit of rain. “Between us and Saddleback, we’re the only two ski re- sorts to get this snow. New Hampshire and Vermont really didn’t get anything.”

Word could be spreading because last week on a runof the-mill mid-week Thursday, parking lot E was full. The super quad had been up and running since the week after Thanksgiving. It’s been open every day this week, except Friday, when it was on wind hold due to some sleet and icing on the rope.

“This is incredible,” Austin said, “especially for this early in the season. We couldn’t ask for anything better. It’s absolutely perfect.” Because this is such an anomaly, they have benefited from a lot of media attention.

Taylor said, “There is no downside to this much snow. We welcome the snow and work diligently to get our terrain open as quickly as possible. The biggest challenge is getting the word out that we have snow even if you do not where you live.”

Continuing, she said these snowstorms are particularly good news because they fall right before Christmas vacation, Taylor said last year there was 25 inches of natural snow at this time of year. At mid-week, there was 42 inches. Early season conditions are very dependent on cold temperatures for snowmaking in addition to natural snow.

The ski school is open and people are calling for reservations for Christmas week. They have been very busy, she said.

The exhilaration over this much snow extends beyond the major ski areas. Maine Huts & Trails sent out an email saying, “We’re pumped! The winter season opens tomorrow, and we have winter-wonderland conditions. We just got blanketed with two feet of fresh snow and more is on the way.”

But it was not cause for joy for everyone. Plow crews in Kingfield worked 45 hours through Wednesday’s clean-up, with plans to come in and deal with Friday’s snowstorm. They took Thursday off to get ready for more coming for the weekend. On Tuesday alone, Franklin County Sheriff’s Department reported a dozen accidents in the Irregular’s coverage area.

MSAD #58 cancelled classes Monday, Tuesday and Friday, with a one-hour delay Wednesday. The holiday concert set for Tuesday at Kingfield Elementary School was not rescheduled because of so much uncertainty over the weather.

Eustis saw 10.24 inches drop on Tuesday alone. As of Friday morning, the snow total since Sunday was 20.3 inches. That compares to 10.3 for the month of December last year. So far the snow total equals 1.96 inches of rain. Friday afternoon NOAA weather reporter Betty Wing of Eustis said it was snowing with some sleet mixing in. “Maybe there’s been an inch today. I’d rather see it remain the light fluffy snow,” she said.

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