In Search of Eastern Skiing: Sunday River
We pick up the story in Bethel, Maine. Home of sprawling Sunday
River. The date is January 24, 1995. The depth of the natural
snow cover outside our bed and breakfast is about four inches.
You might note from my previous postings that I have a certain
fondness for natural snow and old-timey ski hills. I admit to
being a curmudgeon regarding ski area development and the "MacSki"
phenomena often cited in the ski press. Guess I've been skiing
too long -- "yep, sonny, I remember how it used to be."
These reactionary tastes were well satisfied by the previous day's
visit to Wildcat, and the surprise powder day we experienced there.
Sunday River, of course, was a world apart. A universe apart.
But gosh darn it, they had snow, and lots of it. Entirely synthetic,
mind you, but snow nonetheless. Best snow money could buy.
And thus, a moral dilemma: for years now, I've been decrying the
unnatural texture of machine-made snow. Its tendency to rapidly
compress and ice. The terrible and frightening noise of the snow
cannons that spew into my face and then onto the ground. The things
they do to it once it has landed -- things that give rise to those
"Stop Evil grooming" bumper stickers. Give me gnarly
crud, or give me death cookies.
Now here it is, the week after the thaw of the century. Vermont
skiing is virtually wiped out. Nigh on every hill and valley we
crossed to get here was practically sprouting daffodils. While
at "Someday Bigger," the prize jewel of empire builder
Les Otten's crown, we're eating up mile after mile of sumptuous
Lazy River cruisers, with some steep Vortex bumps for dessert.
And sucking up beers in architecturally delightful mid mountain
lodges and riding one high speed quad after another like they
were going out of style and....
Good Lord, have I sold my soul to the devil?
Burke can't find the cash to pay their property taxes. Mad River
keeps on chugging along, but I have to wonder where they're chugging
to -- their cooperative ownership deal is still in flux. Meanwhile,
Preston Smith and Les Otten are cutting deals and cutting trails
and building empires. Is it any wonder that Gary Kiedash wants
Stowe to have a measly new lodge and a couple of extra lifts?
Well, I guess it's no wonder, but I'm still not sure its right.
Guess I've been skiing too long, Stowe in particular. I like Mansfield
just fine the way it is -- and the way it was,
for that matter. Sure, Sunday River was fun, but who wants all
that in their backyard?
Grump, grump, grump. Now, if I owned Stowe....
Wesley Alan Wright
Last modified August 31 1995 11:12 AM