Chairlift collapses at Maine ski resort, sending six to hospital

What started as a great day on the slopes at Sugarloaf ski resort ended in disaster yesterday when a chairlift collapsed, sending seven guests to the hospital and leaving more than 200 others stranded above the snow for hours.

Located in Maine, Sugarloaf is considered one of the top ski resorts in the northeast United States. Yesterday, the slopes were filled with skiers and snowboarders taking advantage of the holiday season for some quality time on the snow. But reportedly many of them were riding the chairlift when the accident occurred. Passengers on the lift reported feeling a few sudden lurches before it came to a complete stop, amidst the screams of tumbling skiers.

The Spillway East lift ran into problems when one of its cables derailed sending five of the machines chairs falling 25-30 feet to the ground below, taking their passengers with them. Those passengers were treated on scene then taken to a nearby hospital in Portalnd. Their injuries were described as non-life threatening.

Meanwhile, the other 200 guests on the lift had to be slowly brought down off the lift by the resort staff. That process required them to slide more than 40 feet to the ground in a special swing that is not unlike a climbing harness. That process went without incident, although it did take some time to get all of the stranded passengers down.

The resort hopes to have the lift back in operation soon, and thanks to the recent east coast snow storm, there is more than 20 inches of fresh powder on the mountain. There are still several days of holiday break left for many of us, and now is as good a time as ever to hit the slopes, despite this accident.

Is this pretty much every skiers nightmare? Who hasn’t been on the lift and wondered how often an accident like this happens? Thankfully no one was seriously injured in this collapse, but I know what I’ll be thinking about the next time I get on a lift.

[Photo credit: WCSH-TV Maine]

Maine ski resort to charge for backcountry rescues

Sugarloaf Mountain, a popular ski resort located in Maine, has had enough of skiers and snowboarders going out of bounds and then requiring a rescue. In fact, they’re so fed up, that following two recent incidences, they have decided to charge the snowboarders who were rescued for the expenses incurred during the operation.

The two incidences in question took place on Friday, February 26th and the following Monday, March 1st. In both cases, snowboarders elected to ignore warning signs and fence lines, to leave Sugarloaf property and move onto privately held lands. When they became lost, search parties needed to be organized, with volunteer firefighters and Sugarloaf search and rescue teams going into action.

The first rescue involved five snowboarders, and cost a total of $2300 spread out between the local fire department and the resort. At $460 each, these boarders are getting off on the cheap side however, as the second rescue operation required the extraction of four out-of-bounds offenders, and extended to 15 hours in length. As a result, the tab came to just over $8350 or $2087.50 each. That makes for an expensive day out on the slopes.

All told, about 500 man hours were spent on the search and rescue operations, which convinced both Sugarloaf, and the Carrabassett Valley Fire Department, that they would send the bill to the people that were rescued. They argued that the snowboarders made a conscious choice to go out of bounds, and as a result, they would have to be held responsible for their own actions. Perhaps a big fat bill in the mail will help convince them to stay on the proper slopes next time.

Skiing in Maine offers bargains in March

When I think of Maine, I think of leaping off barnacle covered rocks into the ocean and eating clams dipped in butter in Ogunquit like I did one summer when I went there to visit a high school friend. She was was working as a waitress at a hotel resort and I was a kitchen grunt and laundry girl at a kids camp–the only way I could afford making it to camp as a high schooler. Whenever else I’ve been to Maine, the theme has been the same–beach seafood,and leisurely strolls. Just recently I’ve thought of a different scene.

A friend of mine–a different one–just emailed me this week with news that he expected to be skiing in Maine until April. He lives near Portland. With the 70 degree weekend we’re having in Ohio, I’d say my one-day pass for tubing at Snow Trails will go unused. Maine is a different story. If I lived there, I’d go tubing and more. Perhaps, I’d dust off those cross-country skis of mine propped in a corner of our basement.

With the snow that socked in the northeast the beginning of this past week, the skiing in Maine has had an extra boost. The Ski Maine Association Web site offers links to each of the Alpine and Nordic ski areas and tells when it last snowed at each. Most places just got fresh snow.

The events page on the site offers a list of the myriad activities that are going on through the middle of April. I have to say the 22nd Annual Parrot Head/Bust N Burn Festival sounds intriguing. It’s taking place at Sunday River, April 3-5. Here’s an article in from last year about the event. Key lime pie, Jimmy Buffet music and skiing are involved.

As a note, Sunday River is offering lodge and ski packages through March with an even greater price drop during the middle of the week. If you buy lift tickets ahead of time, you get a 10% discount. The Ski Maine Association also is offering discounts through the Maine Winter Activities Pass. Before you head somewhere, check out the deals.

The photo is of Sugar Loaf. College students who show ID can ski for $39 during mid-week days. That means Mon.-Thursday.

For those looking for skiing longer into the season, I’d seriously think about heading to Maine. Surely you can find steamed clams to dip in butter which could tide you over until summer.

Here’s an events page for what to do in Ogunquit in the winter. On Wednesday nights at Tapas and Tini’s there’s Divine and Dine–where you can have a choice of entrees that come with side dishes for $9.99. The deal ends the beginning of June.

The photo from Maine Coast Semester is of a winter trip to Holbrook Pond. Maine Coast Semester offers wilderness trips year round for adults and young people. Just another way to see Maine in the winter–or any season.

Sonoma Valley ideas for Valentine’s Day

Need ideas? Yeah, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and like me, you probably haven’t put a shred of thought into it. Take a moment to feel sorry for my wife. Okay, with that done, take a look below at 16 Valentine’s Day ideas all involving travel to the Sonoma Valley. Wine, vineyards, resorts … there’s no need to keep thinking!

Now, you have choices. Resorts, restaurants and hotels are putting together the most interesting ideas they have for the most romantic day of the year. Montecito Heights has a 50-minute rose petal massage on the menu, and Zazu has put together a fantastic meal. The provocatively named Wild Jungle Love Romantic Safari, which is for adults only, introduces you to the mating habits of a variety of exotic animals … and sets the scene for you to explore your own!

[Thanks, Sonoma County Tourism Bureau, for the list you’ll find after the jump]Winter Romance Getaway at Cypress House in Valley of the Moon
Enjoy time away this winter in the Valley of the Moon. This three-bedroom, two-bath home in Kenwood sleeps six and features a pool, hot tub, beautiful vegetable and cutting gardens, and roomy outdoor area for you to experience true wine-country living. The kitchen is a “foodie” haven, with lots of counter space and an open dining area.
Winter Romance Getaway Special (up to six guests)
$385 per night with two-night minimum
$350 per night for three to five nights
$1,900 special weekly rate (six nights)
Rates inclusive of all tax and fees
Valid through Feb. 28, 2009

20th Annual Wine & Chocolate Fantasy 2009 at Rodney Strong
Rodney Strong Vineyards celebrates its favorite pairings: rich, Sonoma County chocolates with delicious Rodney Strong wines. The event is from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 7. This year, even more local chocolatiers will offer samples of their delectable confections. Festivities also include music by Earl Thomas. Treat yourself and your Valentine to an afternoon of indulgence!
Tickets are $40 for general public or $35 for Rodney Strong Collector’s Circle members, and include a commemorative logo glass. Make your reservations in advance; no tickets will be available at the door.
Rodney Strong
11455 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg.

Valentine’s Day Chocolate and Reds at B.R. Cohn
Bittersweet chocolate is rich enough on its own, but pair it with B.R. Cohn’s equally rich 2006 Olive Hill Estate Cabernet Port, and it’s a match made in heaven. On Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 14 – 15, guests will be treated to a complimentary wine and truffle pairing at the winery tasting room.
B.R. Cohn
15000 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen
11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cupid comes to The Spa at Montecito Heights
The Spa at Monetcito Heights will be giving Cupid a hand this Valentine’s Day. Tell Cupid exactly what you would like by sending a postcard. Simply fill out your gift choice, name and address of your Cupid and let The Spa do the rest. Visit the website for more information.

Inspire love and romance at The Spa this Valentine’s Day with a little something special. Indulge your body and your senses with a day of pleasure. Select from any one of our romance inspired treatments and relax with a glass of sparkling champagne and chocolate truffles: 50-minute Couple’s Rose Petal Massage, 50-minute Chardonnay Massage, 50-minute Rose Petal Facial, 50-minute Sweetheart Manicure or Pedicure, 50-minute Rose Petal Sugar Scrub, or 50-minute Chocolate Sugar Scrub.
The Spa at Monetcito Heights
2777 4th Street, Santa Rosa
(707) 526-0529

Aphrodisiac Dinner at Tolay Restaurant
Enjoy a three- or four-course pre fixe Valentine’s dinner on Friday or Saturday, Feb. 13 and 14. Choose your starter, choose your entree, and choose your dessert from items including Liberty duck two ways, lobster avocado salad, pan-seared foie gras, Hog Island oysters, grilled rack of CK lamb, veal sweetbreads, diver scallops, and more. Dinner per person is $55 for three courses and $65 for four, and includes a complimentary glass of champagne and amuse bouche.
Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma
745 Baywood Drive, Petaluma
(707) 283-2900

Valentine’s Romance Package — Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma
Your overnight stay will include one night in a traditional room (upgrade to deluxe if available), breakfast for two (room service or in Tolay), champagne and strawberries delivered to your room, and a late checkout of 4 p.m. Rates start at $139.
Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma
745 Baywood Drive, Petaluma
(707) 283-2900

Seeing Your Sweetie in a New Light — Driving Tours Offered
You and your Valentine can spend the day exploring Bodega Bay and Sonoma County‘s more than 50 miles of Pacific coast. Until Feb. 16, Sonoma County Tours is offering its Bodega Bay tour audio CD for half price, or $9.99. Enjoy a private tour of Bodega Bay. Take in all the sights while driving at your own pace. Relax as your “tour guide” directs you where to go, how to get there, what to do and see.
Sonoma County Tours
(707) 824-1304

My Sparkling Valentine at Vintners Inn
Your Valentine’s Day will sparkle at the Vintner’s Inn. Offered Feb. 13 – 14, the package includes two nights in a fireplace room overlooking the beautiful winter gardens, a bottle of sparkling wine and six chocolate-covered strawberries.

Indulge your taste buds at the renowned John Ash & Co., by using the included $100 certificate for dinner. Relax and unwind with two 50-minute therapeutic massages. A continental breakfast is offered each morning, homemade cookies are left at turndown and a half bottle of Fume Blanc awaits you upon arrival. The two-night package for two is $800.
Vintners Inn
4350 Barnes Road, Santa Rosa
(800) 421-2584

Get Hot in the Kitchen — Turn up the Heat at Landmark Vineyards
Get hot in the kitchen with the one you love. Landmark Vineyards is offering an interactive Valentine’s Day experience. Cook with your sweetie on Valentine’s Day, then sit down to a romantic meal paired with Landmark’s finest wines. Appetizers and wine will start flowing at 5 p.m. on Satur
day, Feb. 14.

Working with professional chefs from Hands-On-Gourmet, couples will create a gourmet three-course meal. The menu for the evening includes buckwheat blinis with cedar planked trout, steak au poivre with potato puree and heirloom carrots, and milk chocolate pot de crème with burnt orange chantilly. After working up an appetite in the kitchen, couples will be served an elegant dinner in Landmark’s dining room. Each course will be paired with Landmark’s wines. Dinner tickets are $125 per person. Reservations are required; you must reserve your place no later than Feb. 6.
Michael Baughman
(707) 833-0228

Romance among the Vines at Landmark Vineyards
What is more romantic than two nights at a vineyard with a romantic dinner for two at the winery? Landmark’s cozy cottage, nestled at the base Sugarloaf Mountain, is offering the perfect romantic weekend get-away in wine country.

On your first night, settle in and explore the surrounding Sonoma Valley. The next day, Landmark will pack a picnic lunch for your docent-led hike in Sugarloaf State Park where waterfalls abound, brooks babble, and the views are divine. After an exhilarating hike return for an in-room, couple’s massage. Later Landmark’s viticulturalist will take you on a private tour of the estate vineyard and teach you about the vines and the art of wine making.

In the evening, you and your companion will sit down to a private romantic candle light dinner in Landmark’s elegantly appointed dining room for the ultimate gastronomic experience that will dazzle your taste buds with perfectly paired wine country cuisines with limited production and library Landmark wines. After dinner, you can retire to your cottage by simply walking around the vineyard to your room.

On your final day at Landmark, Proprietor’s Mike and Mary will schedule appointments for you with some of their favorite local wineries where you will receive the VIP treatment. You and your companion will be chauffeured in a 1950s Cadillac convertible. The cost for one couple for the entire package is $2,500.
Landmark Vineyards
101 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood

Be Mine, Be Fresh at Zazu
Zazu dishes it up fresh from the farm with lots of love for this special Valentine’s dinner on Saturday, Feb. 14. Dinner, before beverage, gratuity or tax, is $63 a person for three courses and $73 a person for four courses.

Choose from: Kusshi oysters on the half-shell — three tobikos; ginger mignonette
Hamachi tartar — grains of paradise cracker, coconut, lime, chilies; hearts of romaine – green goddess dressing, avocado, watermelon radishes, boccorones; marinated pig heart – tiny potato salad, mustard seed aioli; Italian wedding soup — black pig sausage meatballs;
Bellwether sheep milk ricotta gnudi – spinach, pomodoro; or seared foie gras — yeasted waffle, passion fruit syrup.

Choose from: bone-in rib eye steak (for two) — backyard marjoram salsa verde, red bliss mashed potatoes; coriander- and fennel-crusted ahi tuna — hot and spicy cappellini puttanesca; ruby beet ravioli — backyard fava leaves and white truffle butter; or breast of guinnea hen — dirty farro, red crimson pear, quince saba.

Choose from: Mexican hot chocolate and “just fried” churros; red velvet cake and rosewater cream-cheese frosting; citrus, citrus, citrus — blood orange sorbetto, lime curd, and lemon cooler cookie; or a good old-fashioned root beer float, bourbon gelato and two straws.

Zazu restaurant + farm
3535 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa
(707) 523-4814

Extended Valentine’s Day Excursion at Dawn Ranch
Stay two nights and receive the third night free. Have a special dinner in the Roadhouse Restaurant Friday or Saturday, Feb. 13-14, for just $99 for two. Price includes a three-course meal (your choice from four entrees) two glasses of sparkling wine and a beautiful floral arrangement on your table from Nexus Organic for you to take home.
Dawn Ranch Lodge
16467 River Rd., Guerneville

Drive Your Sweetheart Wild in Wine Country — Wild Jungle Love Romantic Safari
On Saturday, Feb. 14, indulge your wild side at Safari West’s Valentine’s sex tour and dinner party package, for $150 (tax and gratuity not included). Adults only are invited and reservations are a must. Only 90 adults can be accommodated on the sex tour.

This hot ticket begins at 2:30 p.m., with a wine and chocolate reception followed by a safari in an open-air vehicle among some of the world’s most exotic creatures. You’ll learn intimate details about the mating habits of African mammals and birds including bongo, giraffe, gazelle, zebra, warthog, cheetah and more. Yes, love is in the air!

Then, it’s time to kick up your hooves (or paws) and party into the night with your very own two-footed animal! Can a holiday get any more wildly romantic? An overnight package is available for $450 for two adults. This includes the sex safari, dinner and dancing, and lodging for two adults. (Tax and gratuity not included.)

Private sex safaris are also available during the entire month of February. Costs are $800 for up to 10 guests and include a wine, chocolate and cheese basket.
Safari West Wildlife Preserve and African Tent Camp
3115 Porter Creek Road, Santa Rosa
(707) 579-2551; (800) 616-2695

Ah … Romance is in the Air at the Flamingo
Stay at the historic Flamingo Conference Resort and spa for Valentine’s Day, Saturday, Feb. 14. The package includes couple’s spa treatments; a special gift; dinner for two at the Terrace Grille; two cocktails in the lounge or a bottle of sparkling wine in the room; continental breakfast in the Terrace Grille or room service; and passes to the Montecito Heights Health Club. This all-inclusive package is $499 for a deluxe room, $549 for an executive king, or $599 for a suite.
Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa
2777 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa
(707) 545-8530

Will You Be Mine … at the FountainGrove Inn?
Retreat to the newly renovated FountainGrove Inn and Equus Restaurant for a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend. This package includes one night’s accommodation for two in a deluxe king room; complimentary tasting vouchers to local wineries; sparkling wine and chocolates upon arrival; a three-course dinner in Equus Restaurant for two; a full breakfast buffet for two; and late checkout, for $335 for two adults, including tax and gratuities.
Fountaingrove Inn and Equus Restaurant
101 Fountaingrove Parkway, Santa Rosa
(800) 222-6101

Pure Indulgence in Luxury
Tour the Sonoma Valley town of Glen Ellen in luxury, for a decadent, sumptuous and stress-free experience. On your tour, you will visit three mouthwatering, innovative establishments for tastings in Jack London Village: Figone’s of California Olive Oil, Wine Country Chocolates, and Raymond & Company Cheesemongers. Delight in the lush valley of Glen Ellen surrounded by the hillsides of the Sonoma and Mayacamas Mountains while gratifying your palette. The tour is offered Wednesday through Sunday only. Maximum group
size is 10 guests. Pricing begins at $79 per person for five-hour package, minimum six guests. Add-on options for $95 per person — more wine tasting at Benzinger Family Winery.
Pure Luxury Limousine Service, Inc.
(800) 626-5466

[Thanks, Sonoma County Tourism Bureau]

Sights Unseen

Don’t you just love when you seem to have hit the zeitgeist moment for a trip? We had been planning a trip that would take us through Rio when U.S. News & World Report ran its cover story on Sacred Places in the World with the Christ the Redeemer statue on the cover. Brazil trades as heavily (arguably, more so) on this iconic statue that literally lords over Rio’s beachfront as it does on ‘The Girl from Ipanema.’ Named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the sheer scale of the 125-feet tall Christ statue is a siren call to travelers who want to add a major landmark to their ‘been there, done that’ lists.

But Rio had its own plans on the day we arrived. We landed in the morning to a bright haze at Antonio Carlos Jobim Airport. Not serious cover but the clouds stuck like dryer lint to the surrounding mountains, most notably Corcovado, the one the statue rests on. We figured we could see it the next day before we left, but no such luck. While the sun broke through and turned Copacabana Beach into a sizzling white strip, a cove-curve away, Ipanema Beach remained covered, including the mountains above it.
This isn’t my first run-in with a legendary landmark going shy. A highlight of a cross-country drive in 2001, was to be my first visit to the Grand Canyon. We arrived the week before Christmas and as we drove the last miles up to the South Rim it started to snow. And snow. And snow. We reached El Tovar lodge on the canyon edge, in blizzard mode. Standing against the rock wall at the very canyon edge, I looked out to see … white. Not canyons shrouded in white, not valleys covered in snow. Just … white. We joked that the Canyon had stayed home on account of snow but it was with disappointment that we left without seeing it.

I couldn’t help but think of that day as our taxi careened through the Brazilian traffic, back to the airport for the next leg of our trip. We could see Corcovado, even the suggestion of a straight line like a statue’s base. I waited five more years before I finally saw the Grand Canyon and really, it was worth the second trip. What about you? Have you ever been thwarted — thanks to the weather or fate? — from seeing a landmark in your travels?