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March into Eastern Mountain Madness

Snowboarders test their skills during the Sugarloaf Banked Slalom in Maine. Image courtesy of Sugarloaf.

With March here, a flurry of next season winter pass deals fall from ski country’s ski. The day is longer thanks to more sunshine. Score discounts on lift tickets around St. Patrick’s Day. And if you’re in New England, you’re not too far from some serious, and not so serious, event shred.

Ever since the U.S. Open ditched Vermont for Colorado, the slack’s been taken up by the Vermont Open Snowboard and Music Festival at Stratton Mountain Resort. Slated for March 10-13, old dogs and young guns take to Suntanner in a series of categories like slopestyle, rail jam, pipe and banked slalom. The beauty of this one is that you never know who is going to show up, but it’s easy to bet on gold medal winning Olympian Ross Powers. Powers, a local boy, led the impressive U.S. snowboarding medal sweep in the 2002 in Salt Lake City.

Go big or go home is the mantra for the Carinthia Freeski Open at Vermont’s Mount Snow March 11-12. With a seven grand purse, top pros and amateurs show their goods in the freeskiing slopestyle competition. The course is usually huge. That’s because Mount Snow’s got some history when it comes to events like this. It’s XL park Inferno has hosted both X Games and Dew Tour competitions. Plus, the judges are usually top notch. Local girl Devlin Logan, an Olympic silver medalist, has been known to drop by the ATP Silver event. mountsnow.com
Attention all crazies. Bolton Valley is hosting New England’s first ever 24-hour backcountry ski and splitboard race March 19-20. Given the lackluster winter it should be interesting, but who knows what Mother Nature has in store for the entrants. Called the 24 Hour Backcountry Skimo and Splitboard Race, contestants will go up and down again and again during the day on a backcountry loop and by night on the mountain’s groomed terrain. There are several categories including individual 24-hour classes, individual 12-hour classes and team relays.

In Maine, the 6th Annual Sugarloaf Banked Slalom takes to the Loaf March 19-20. The laid back vibe is also a showcase for up and coming talent. Based on the legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom, the field of 225 negotiate a course of banked turns on the Sidewinder Trail. A time trail, fastest rider down wins. The event is hosted by resident Olympian Seth Wescott who has won a pair of Olympic gold boardercross medals.

Old-school and new-school skiers and riders share the snow during the nostalgic Hannes Schneider Meister Cup at Cranmore in North Conway, New Hampshire March 11-13. The race, a fundraiser for the New England Ski Museum, honors Austrian Hannes Schneider who came to the area in 1939 to teach his then cutting edge skiing techniques. The race also pays tribute to 10th Mountain Division veterans of World War II. Schneider was a World War I mountain soldier. His son, the late Herbert, was a World War II vet. Vintage sweaters rule the wardrobe. Olympian Leanne Smith is slated to attend.

If there’s ever a reason to take a Monday sick day, it’s to huck away during the 16th Annual Last Call at Loon Mountain Resort in Lincoln, New Hampshire. With a $5,000 purse, pros and amateurs take to the park with its three zones—transition, jumps and rails—to show their mastery. The field is limited to 80 riders, and you really should be that good. New Hampshire natives turned pro riders Chas Guldemond and Pat Moore have been known to drop by.

The Ski the East Freeride Tour, a 6-stop all-mountain series with an overall $5,000 purse, has its final competitions in March. The second annual Sidecountry Showdown rocks Sugarloaf March 12 while the always gnarly Unconventional Terrain Competition takes to Mad River Glen in Fayston, Vt. The series is topped off with the championship Extreme Competition at northern Vermont’s Jay Peak March 19-20 with its legendary chutes.

When a race is sponsored by a well-known ski pub you know the competition rocks and the apres scene is frothy. The Red Parka Pub Challenge Cup on March 18 at Attitash in Bartlett, New Hampshire attracts some of the best amateur races in England England. Former college stars and U.S. Ski Team members take to the pro-style dual giant slalom race with a sweet bump. When the Parka opened its doors back in 1973, the race was born too.

Though it seems a tad early, Nashoba Valley outside Boston, Massachusetts is hosting a 1980s TV themed pond skim on March 13. Judges score your style. Dress in theme and get a free barbecue. It’s going to be a splash.

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