Sports

Stan Grossfeld

Early opening at Sunday River draws joyful skiers

Snow guns blew full blast during Opening Day at the Sunday River ski resort.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Snow guns blew full blast during Opening Day at the Sunday River ski resort.

NEWRY, Maine — It was near dawn on Sunday, and Trish Ryan was abruptly awakened from a sound sleep.

“I heard a sound like this,” she said, giving her best impression of cans of whipped cream being sprayed everywhere.

She ran outside and looked at nearby Sunday River Ski Resort, where 150 snow guns were making it look like Christmas.

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“It was the guns,” said Ryan. “Oh, my God, are you kidding me? The snow was flying.”

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She woke the children, and they all went over to play in the snow. By Sunday morning, Sunday River confirmed that opening day would be Monday at 9 a.m.

“I declared Monday a national holiday,” said Ryan, who moved here recently from Woods Hole because her family loves to ski. “My kids are going to ski all day. Oh, my God, Opening Day is the best day ever.”

Sunday River opened on a picture-perfect day, with whoops from lift operators who were stationed halfway up the mountain.

Tickets were $29 a head, and 750 people showed up to ski. They also got a bird’s-eye view of spectacular peak foliage.

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For the second year in a row, Heather Galvin and her fiancé Doug Pemberton of Harrison, Maine, were the first to ascend the mountain. They looked as if they had won the lottery.

Following them was a parade of happiness — skiers giving high-fives, thumbs-up signs, and stretching their arms skyward as if they were auditioning for a remake of “Rocky.”

Andy Blanchard of Mumford, Maine, a bartender, was the first one to Locke Midstation, where the green alpine trees meet the colors of fall.

“I’m always here the first day of the year,” he said. “I bought my pass in April, and I’ve been waiting since then.”

The anticipation, he says, is similar to the ushering in of spring with the Red Sox season opener, but he concedes he’s not in midseason form.

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“It’s always the best day and the hardest day, that’s for sure,” he said. “The legs aren’t warmed up and ready yet. I haven’t got 30 days in me. I haven’t fallen yet, so we’re doing well. ‘’

Skiing the T2 trail with him was Sean Coleman of Greenland, N.H., who owns a pizza restaurant in Bridgewater. He awoke at 4:30 a.m. and was in line at 7:15 to ski the virgin manmade snow.

Coleman, who is also a ski instructor at Sugarloaf, is coming off the disabled list.

“I tore my ACL on New Year’s Eve,” he said. “I’ve got my new carbon fiber ski brace on, and I’m testing it out.”

Coleman called the conditions “exceptional.”

This was the third-earliest opening in Sunday River’s history.

In 1996, it opened on Oct. 3. In 2009, it opened on Oct. 13.

Newry, Maine--October 19,2015- Globe Staff Photo by Stan Grossfeld- Opening Day --Sunday River ski resort is open for the 2015-16 season amidst peak foliage.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
The T2 trail on Sunday River’s Locke Mountain, one of eight peaks at the resort.

By early afternoon, temperatures nudged above freezing under a bright blue sky. Sunday River even opened Lower Sunday Punch for top-to-bottom skiing, which typically doesn’t happen until November.

This time of year, skiing is only on weekends, with extensive snowmaking during the week.

Jeff Steenburn of Lewiston, Maine, who has a season pass, takes some heat at the group home where he works because of his love of snow.

“People at work get mad at me,” he said. “They say, ‘What are you, crazy? Don’t be asking for more snow.’ It does not bother me. The more snow, the better.

“I like to ski. Without snow, you can’t ski. It looks very beautiful out there, and it’s a nice ride.”

Michael Deschenes, 13, of Naples, Maine, should have been in social studies class at Lake Region Middle School; instead he was skiing down a mountain.

“This is a lot more important,” he said.

Opening Day is sacred to him.

“Oh, yeah, this is the first day of the season,” he said. “I practiced trampoline in the summer, so I can do flips and stuff off the jumps.”

His buddy, Deven Fagan, 13, won at the USASA nationals at Copper Mountain, Colo. He says he’s not technically missing school.

“I’m home schooled,” he said with a smile.

For him, it’s a break from trampolines, ski camps, and skiing into airbags. Look for him at the Winter Olympics someday.

“I had trouble sleeping last night,” he said. “Skiing is awesome. And opening day is even more awesome.”

Newry, Maine--October 19,2015- Globe Staff Photo by Stan Grossfeld- Sunday River ski resort is open for the 2015-16 season.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Sunday River plans to open on weekends until mid-November.

Stan Grossfeld can be reached at grossfeld@globe.com.