Monday, January 11, 2010

1-11-10: A Weekend at Sunday River

First off: Happy Palindrome Day (01-11-10).

I spent the weekend with the lady and a few friends up at Sunday River in Maine for some skiing and fun. Overall it was quite a great time. We stayed at the Jordan Grand Hotel, which is located way to the "skier's left" of the resort by the Jordan Bowl. Sunday River contains seven peaks, and tons of terrain. Me being a beginner skier, I was concerned that I'd be stuck on only part of the resort. Fortunately, they have green and blue trails all over, and I was very happy.

The drive up was quite a chore, but we got there around midnight on Friday. The roads were dicey at times with the snow, but we made decent time. The six of us stayed in three rooms; myself and the lady stayed in the room with the kitchenette. The logistics were worked out beforehand and things were quite smooth. The room came with lift tickets, breakfast, and lessons for both days. Total cost per person was just over $300 for the weekend. Pretty good deal.

Saturday morning began with the included breakfast, which was very good. We then headed out on the slopes. The great part about staying on the mountain is the ability to ski on and ski off. The Jordan Grand is right off "Lollapalooza", which is a very long green trail on the side of Jordan Bowl. My lesson, however, was way over at the South Ridge Lodge. In order to get there, we had to take the lift up to the top of Jordan Bowl, then traverse over. I had no warm up, so I struggled a bit, especially when I ended up on an un-groomed blue trail. But, I made it over to my lesson with plenty of time to spare.

Both of my lessons were adult group clinics, and were fantastic. Of the three mountains/resorts at which I have taken at least one lesson (Mohawk and Okemo being the other two), Sunday River was far and above the best teaching resort. Their "Perfect Turn" instructors are outstanding. Very friendly, and very knowledgeable. The Saturday morning lesson was taught by a guy from Maine named Frank, who was in his mid to late 50's. I was in a Green level lesson, but consider myself "upper green," so I was put in a group with about five others at about the same skill level.

Frank started the first group of about 10 or 11 people off on "Broadway," which is arguably the easiest trail in the entire resort; it's pretty much the "bunny slope", though they do have a smaller trail. After seeing how we all skied, Frank said "If you want to try some more faster paced skiing, come to this side. If you want to keep it a bit slower, stay on this side." I went over to the faster side, and did not regret it one bit. Frank took this smaller group up on Dream Maker to work on basic turns, then edging. Frank had the knack of explaining how turns worked, and was quite the character. I got a lot out of the lesson, but will remember:

- You can't put too much weight forward (well, sort of, but the point is to keep the weight forward on the skis)

- Keep your hands low and wide and just within your peripheral vision

- When you go to edge, you'll be knocked back a bit. Lean more forward to compensate.

- Stay tall

- Long leg, short leg (during turns)

After meeting up with the others for lunch at the North Peak Lodge, I hit some of the greens on the other peaks to work on my edging. Despite some icy and exposed terrain here and there, there was enough snow to make things comfortable. I ended my day at around 3:30PM to save my legs for a second day.

After some brief rest, and a drink or two, we hit the hot tub. That was quite a surreal experience, as the hot tub and pool (heated, fortunately) are both outdoors. There's nothing quite like sitting in a near-100 degree hot tub in 15 degree weather. My hair froze almost immediately, but my legs felt great. After time in the hot tub, we hit the steam room for a few minutes, then headed back to the rooms to change.

The Sliders Restaurant (located in the Jordan Grand hotel) was disappointing. Our server was nice enough, but she was one of those "I don't need to write down your order" type of people, and... she screwed up. She ended up forgetting the lady's order, and had to come back to ask a couple times about certain orders. Please, please, dear food servers and waiters: write down the order. Get a pen, get a paper, and get it right. I'm not impressed with those who don't write down the order, and neither was Shawn, one of my friends in the group, who manages a restaurant. I had the "Slider's Sliders" burgers, which were OK until the early morning. That's all I'll say about that.

After dinner, we took the shuttle over to the Matterhorn, a local watering hole with a ton of ski stuff on the wall. Jimmy's Down, a cover band, was playing, and they were OK. I had a Guinness and struggled to stay awake. I'd only had about 6 hours of sleep the night before, and was exhausted from the day. We got back just after midnight.

Sunday morning started a bit later, which I was OK with. Despite the digestive trouble (and brief spell of dehydration-stirred shivering), I got more sleep. After another good breakfast, we packed the car and drove over to South Ridge Lodge. I didn't have time to do a warm-up run, so I went in to my lesson cold.

This lesson was a bit wackier, but was still a great one. The instructor John's name tag said he was from Roswell, New Mexico, and he repeatedly told us "I'm from outer space!" A delightfully goofy, bearded fellow in his mid 50's, John took us up on Dream Maker and Escapade (a blue) to work on edging. We did some sideways skiing, hockey stops (he taught me how to stop facing to the right!), and a few other drills to work on balance. At the end he showed us the proper tuck technique (put your hands in front of your face to deflect the air). From Sunday's lesson I need to remember:

- Keep the toe at the top of the boot to help keep your weight forward during turns

- Use your edges to turn to help cut into the hill, which helps in icy conditions

- Face downhill when you start a hockey stop

After the lesson, the group again met at the North Peak Lodge for lunch. Afterward, the lady and I hit some of the easier terrain (she had spent the weekend on black and double black diamond terrain). We ended up going down Dream Maker (green) twice, Escapade (blue) twice, and Lazy River (blue). My legs held up surprisingly well, but did eventually tire. We ended the day just after 3:00PM. I was quite satisfied with the improvements I'd made, and the lady also noticed, which was good. The main things I need to work on are to keep my skis pointed more downhill during turns (my left turns are far more like stops than actual turns) and to work on edging instead of just sliding.

The drive back, though lengthy, was very smooth. I got back to my place at around 11:00PM. A very nice weekend. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

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