Snow? We don’t need no stinkin’ snow

For the past 20-odd years, my family has enjoyed a tradition that involves packing up our vehicles with a week’s worth of supplies (picture the Beverly Hillbillies, if you please … these cars are truly stuffed to the gills) and converging on Maine’s tallest ski mountain for a week of fun.

According to that tradition, which began before assorted nephews and nieces were even walking this planet, we’d convene during the February school vacation week. And for years, that’s exactly what we did.

This year, however, things changed. We all grew up. Or, at least, the nephews grew up. (The jury is still out on me).

And because those nephews are all in college now, and are among the most avid skiers in our group, it was decided that a week-after-Christmas Sugarloaf trip, known to the family as Snow Camp, was in order.

Those collegians were missing out on the fun, you see. They weren’t around to gobble down spaghetti on spaghetti night. (Yes, the menu is traditional as well, right down to the make-your-own sandwiches meal, and the chicken dinner meal, and the breakfast-for-dinner meal that my brother whips up on the final evening of Snow Camp).

Those collegians weren’t around to ski. They weren’t around to steal whoopie pies from their rightful owner (me). And things just weren’t the same.

So this year, snow or no snow, we were heading to Snow Camp two months early.

And as you may have noticed, it’s been a decidedly no-snow season thus far.

Not that it stopped us, mind you. Not even when it rained (twice). Not even when only 30 trails were open. Not even when it was 5 degrees and blowing 90 mph on the peak of Sugarloaf. OK: That last one might have stopped us. But only for a day. And truth be told, some of us even skied that day … until the lifts closed.

The tradition lived on. We loaded up our vehicles, Beverly Hillbilly style (my sister has always been the master at that: I pack heavy. She could fill a semi trailer with the gear that she and her family need for a week at Snow Camp, and often has to bring two cars).

We headed to a Stratton condo — a sprawling ski chalet, actually — and got down to the serious part of tradition-building.

This year, six new visitors were initiated into the ritual. They learned that BINGO is a serious game. They learned that whoopie pies are a valuable commodity, and when the supply runs out, things just aren’t the same. They learned that my brother can whip up a mean McMuffin (sorry, McDonald’s. They’re not McMuffins. They’re better).

And they learned that even when there’s not much snow, and it rains, and blows, and gets really cold, Snow Camp lives on.

At its peak, 22 of us between the ages of five months and 77 years packed into Snow Camp this year. We vied for space on couches, playing unsanctioned games of musical chairs whenever one stood up to grab a snack.

We skied a little. We laughed a lot. Some the kids even got the chance to meet two-time Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott, and have him sign their helmets.

And while the skiing could have been better, I imagine most would tell you that the week was a success either way.

The snow was, indeed, marginal. The whoope pies, however, were stellar.



John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.