Happy Trails: You can take it out of bounds at Mt. Abram (Feb. 11, 2009)

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Categories: Trips Tags: Skiing, Mount Abram Town: Greenwood

By BOB MENTZINGER

GREENWOOD — Mt. Abram doubled in size last week.

By implementing its new “Boundary to Boundary” policy, the resort’s skiable terrain grew from 250 acres of trails to 650 acres of trails and glades by allowing skiers to lift a rope, leave the ski area and go adventuring in the great white beyond.

Now that’s just out of bounds.

According to a news release this week, Abram’s 400 forested off-piste acres are full of “powder stashes, steeps and cliff drops to thrill the most experienced of riders.”

And now you can rip it all, with the aid of Mt. Abram’s lifts.

“There is a perception that we are a premier learn-to-ski and family resort,” said Matt Hancock, one of the resort’s owners. “This new policy opens all of this amazing terrain to everyone and gives the expert skiers and riders a reason to seriously look at what we have to offer.

“So if you see a killer hit off in the trees, go for it.”

No resort in the East — save maybe Jay Peak, Vt. — seems to have such a liberal “O.B.” policy.

Sugarloaf has the iconic above-treeline alp. Sunday River has acres of sumptuous glades. And these are wild ski experiences that are unique in the East and make Maine skiing the closest to Western skiing in terms of the variety of terrain, particularly the upper end.

But both these heavy-hitters lack any kind of “O.B.” policy beyond subscribing to the universal responsibility code that states, in part, “Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.”

Those are excellent rules to obey. But if you’re an expert skier with skills in technique and in mountaineering who wants to get the untracked freshies in a wilderness setting, you either have to know a sympathetic patroller who’s familiar with your ability — or go duck a rope.

If you’re unlucky, one of two things can happen to duckers:

You get caught, your $75 lift ticket pulled and you are, perhaps, prosecuted.

Or, you hurtle into a crevasse or snag a tip on some low-hanging timber and are forced to pay for backcountry rescue. That’s if you survive the wipeout.

Liberal “O.B.” policies won’t help you in the second case. If you’ve gone out of bounds with the resort’s blessing, you have declared expert ability and that you accept responsibility for what might happen to you.

But, then, if you are a candidate for a wipeout or being lost in a whiteout, you shouldn’t be off-piste anyway.

The best thing for those interested in skiing the wilderness adjacent to Abram might be to take advantage of another program rolled out there: The Wednesday Backcountry Touring Experience.

This program allows skiers and riders to hike the mountain to “earn their turns” and ski or ride any terrain within the 650 acres for less than one third the price of a regular lift ticket. For safety, the program has a sign-in and sign-out requirement, so all backcountry skiers and riders are accounted for and tracked.

Hey! And today’s Wednesday!

Being able to ski wherever you want — at your own risk — has been the rule in Europe forever, and it gained prevalence in the West and the Rockies during the past several decades.

The freedom, adventure and, yes, danger of off-piste embodies the spirit of downhill skiing. It’s great to see liberalized “O.B.” come to Maine.

• • •

Crust alert. Rising temperatures and a lack of fresh snow have produced some crispy snow surfaces out there.

Stick to the groomed or, in deeper snow, exaggerate opposite-arm movements on all turns (left arm when turning right and vice versa), so as to help lift skis out of the crud. Also remember that speed and weight help overcome the slowing effects of grabby, crusted snow, so consider a longer ski that can provide more heft and better “run” in a cruddy environment.

• • •

This week’s events. Call before you go.

Today: New England Prep School Division I Ski Championships, Sunday River; free night skiing, Spruce Mountain and Big Rock; Backcountry Touring Experience, Mt. Abram.

Thursday: Two-for-one tickets, Mt. Abram; February wine dinner, Sugarloaf; free night skiing, Black Mountain of Maine.

Friday: Landscapes for Landsake Art Exhibit opening, Sunday River; Women’s Nordic ski group, Bethel Inn Ski Touring Center; Oxford Hills Winter Carnival, Mt. Abram; Rail Jam, Black Mountain of Maine; Car Load Friday, Mt. Abram.

Saturday: Downtown Show Down, snowboard tricks in an urban setting, Portland, sponsored by Sunday River and Sugarloaf; Maine Ski Heritage Classic, Sugarloaf; Pontbriand Memorial Race, Lost Valley; Maine Huts Marathon Tour, Sugarloaf Outdoor Center; Maine Mountain Series Boardercross, Sunday River.

Sunday: Flying Moose Classic, Bethel Inn Ski Touring Center.

Monday: Maine Class B Nordic State Championships, through Wednesday, Nordic Heritage Center and Big Rock; MPA State Championships, through Thursday, Sunday River.

To view the original column online, click here.

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