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Ski notebook

Turkey brings rail jams

Select venues plan popular contests

By Marty Basch
Globe Correspondent / November 24, 2011
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Rail jams - those jib sessions where skiers and snowboarders slide across lines of steel and other features - have become something of a Thanksgiving-time tradition at a handful of New England ski areas.

The contests tend to attract younger, passionate competitors while allowing ski areas the chance to hold an event with blowing a relatively small amount of snow, as compared to blanketing a trail or creating a huge quarter pipe or table top.

“You need a rail, a launch, and a landing,’’ said Stratton’s Myra Foster. “The rail is center stage. You don’t need to blow the same amount of snow as you do for the giant features we have during midseason events.’’

The field is capped at 50 for Stratton’s Saturday expert-only Village Rail Jam, a big spectator event held in the resort’s village in southern Vermont for the past six years. Entry fee is $20 for the 2 p.m. jam.

Foster said the jam has attracted many snowboarders that call Stratton home, like stand-outs Luke and Jack Mitrani. Though not competing, she said it’s possible Lindsey and brother Ben Jacobellis may be in the cheering section.

Loon Mountain, which opened Sunday, attracted about 100 snowboarders and skiers to last fall’s early-season rail jam.

“We get kids that are into the park scene, kids with parents that have houses up here, and Plymouth State kids,’’ said events coordinator Jordan Yanni. “They probably range in age from about 14 to 28.’’

The Lincoln, N.H., resort is slated to host its Cease and Desist jams Saturday on the Governor’s Lodge side of the mountain, with skiers competing at 1:30 p.m. and snowboarders at 5:30 p.m. Entry fee is $15. Cash prizes include $200 for top male skier and rider, and $100 for the top female in those categories.

Yanni says it takes about two nights of snowmaking to create enough snow for the event and a night for the park crew to install the features.

“In the beginning of the year, we get the diehard park guys,’’ said Yanni. “They want to hit unique stuff.’’

Tonight’s Granite Gorge “Thanksgiving Night Under the Lights’’ was postponed until further notice because of unfavorable weather, according to terrain park manager and event coordinator Dave Morin.

“We just don’t want to blow a little patch of snow and call it good,’’ said Morin. “I want to be able to get in a couple of nights of good snowmaking and have our new bag jump set up. Snow permitting, we’d love to do it.’’

Morin said the Keene, N.H., resort usually does a preseason terrain park event before opening the mountain to get the kids back on their feet.

“We do a lot of freestyle skiing and snowboarding here,’’ he said. “We’re building a whole new line of features and want to debut some of that stuff and have some fun.’’

Though November rail jams may seem early to traditional skiers and snowboarders, they’re not the first. Some 800 people took advantage of last month’s freak snow storm and descended upon Mount Snow in West Dover, Vt., for their October 29-30 rail fest. It raised $6,600 to help North Star Bowl, a Wilmington, Vt., bowling alley, rebuild from damage sustained during Hurricane Irene.

Mount Snow still isn’t open for the season.

“Not only does it create a buzz in the marketplace, but more importantly it makes our guests super happy to be able to get on snow in October and get a taste of winter before it really begins,’’ e-mailed communications manager David Meeker.

Cannon, in print

Meghan McCarthy McPhaul’s book, “A History of Cannon Mountain: Trails, Tales and Skiing Legends’’ (History Press, $19.99, takes skiers and snowboarders on a journey through time on the rugged Franconia Notch, N.H., state-owned ski area.

Cannon is in McPhaul’s blood; her parents first met on the Middle Hardscrabble Trail and she learned to ski there at age 3, later racing for the storied Franconia Ski Club through her mid-teens and at Ithaca College for two years. She and her husband had their first date there, got engaged at the top of Taft Slalom, and now their three children are third-generation Cannon skiers.

The mountain’s history was shaped by and helped mold many characters. The Taft Trail, finished in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, was named after local innkeeper Richard Taft. Under the guidance of Roland Peabody, the area materialized from a one lift hill with a handful of trails during the Great Depression to a Granite State player in the post-War World II era. Sel Hannah designed its early trails while Paul and Paula Valar were instrumental in developing Cannon and neighboring Mittersill ski schools. A kid named Bode Miller went from Cannon grommet to Olympic gold.

“The more I looked into it, the more I realized how important Cannon was to early American skiing,’’ said McPhaul.

The aerial tram, early ski patrol, and World Cup are also parts of Cannon’s past.

“I think the 1967 World Cup was the coolest,’’ said McPhaul. “Jean-Claude Killy raced there. People talked about it for decades. My dad (Red) was a gatekeeper for the women’s slalom. It was a week of big ski racing and big parties.’’

The courses contained sections of Vista Way, Middle Cannon Bypass, Avalanche Extension, Avalanche, and Paulie’s Folly.

Upcoming specials

Try the latest boards from Salomon, Rossignol, Dynastar, and others during Sunday River’s demo days Saturday and Sunday . . . Pay $30 for a Sugarloaf lift ticket this weekend by donating at least three cans of food for local families in need during the Tin Mountain Round-up . . . Stratton kicks off its 50th year celebration with a treat-loaded Village Block Party tomorrow and fireworks Saturday at 8:30 p.m. . . . Burn off the turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie during Okemo’s Trot It Off 5K run Saturday . . . Online registration opens Monday at noon at for the popular 12th annual Santa Sunday at Sunday River Dec. 4. Dress in full Santa costume to ski or ride for free . . . Ski free Christmas Day at Sunday River by booking a $140 per person ski and stay package for the night of Dec. 25 that includes lodging, breakfast, adult ski clinic, free Christmas lift ticket, and a Dec. 26 ticket . . . The Appalachian Mountain Club has a Dec. 1-20 bed and breakfast special at the Joe Dodge Lodge and Highland Center in the White Mountains near several resorts starting at $50 for members, $54 for non-members.

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