Friday January 25, 2013

Normally, I wouldn’t go near a busy ski area like Mount Sunapee (603-763-2356; www.mtsunapee.com) in Newbury, N.H. on Martin Luther King weekend, traditionally one of the busiest of the season for most ski resorts. But I’d been swamped with work and needed to ski!

Sunapee is the easiest of the big hills for me to get to and I thought I could get there, burn my legs out, and make it back in time to get some more work done (including writing this column).

So Marilyn and I got an early start, arrived at the hill in time to get a prime parking place, put on our boots in a lodge that was pretty near empty except for a large and boisterous group of young racers preparing for a big competition, and made it out to the Spruce Triple in time for first chair.

We didn’t notice the wind until just before the unloading platform at the top, but up there it was, shall we say, enthusiastic.

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For the next couple of hours we were in skiers’ heaven. Our first warmup run down Lynx was on untracked corduroy, and we skied right back onto the triple at the bottom.

We could have taken the high-speed quad, but that wouldn’t have let us reach one of our favorite trails on the mountain, Upper Cataract, which drops down to the Sunbowl Quad and is only accessible from the triple (which means it gets less traffic than any other major trail on the hill.)

Cataract was in near-pristine condition: firm, smooth fast corduroy, absolutely Marilyn’s favorite conditions and pretty high on my list as well,

For the next five or six runs, we yo-yoed off the Sunbowl Quad, making fast runs down Skyway Ledges to Skyway, Upper Whingding to Liftine or Lower Whingding.

It was all perfectly wonderful, playing in the morning sun and, best of all, the Sunbowl Quad was completely in a wind shadow except for the last few feet at the top.

We could see the wind tearing clouds above us, but it couldn’t reach us.

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To get back to the base, we dropped into Upper Blast Off which was covered in deep, soft snow. Marilyn missed her corduroy, so she popped over onto Ridge, while I continued down Blast Off, and took Becks Brook over to meet up with her and continue down Ridge. She liked her choice, I liked mine.

At the bottom, she decided to go in and warm up. I had intended to ride back up the quad, but there was a three-minute line by then, so I decided to hop in the singles line (always the fastest option) to ride back up the Triple with two very charming young ladies from New Jersey who wished they could convince their families to move to New Hampshire so they could ski more.

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My last run was down Hansen Chase through Chase Ledges (also in superb condition) and back to the base. By then, my legs were telling me I’d had a good morning and my conscience was telling me I had work to do.

The baselodge was bustling with late comers, and it was all we could do to find a space to change out of our boots.

A perfect morning of skiing made it a lot easier to settle back in and get some work done in the afternoon, listening to the wind roar outside my office window.

Sure, it’s tempting to tell yourself you have to get every last run out of that expensive lift ticket, but sometimes it’s better to just take the best of a day and smile as you walk away.

Tim Jones can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com.