The sky has that look and the air has the feel. No denying it, it appears that winter is here. And when I start thinking about winter I like to give my friends at Ski Maine a call to see what’s up for the coming ski season.
Greg Sweetser has been heading up the Ski Maine Association for, well, quite a while, along with his able sidekick Bo Bigelow. These guys eat and breathe Maine skiing, and that’s why I just love them.
A planned ten minutes on the phone with Sweetser nearly always turns into twenty, or thirty or forty. And we hardly notice most times because, after all, it’s Maine skiing we’re talking about. And on that note we can both get pretty excited.
This time around we got to chatting about the smaller ski areas, near and dear to both of our hearts, those nurturing grounds for the next generation of skiers and low-key ski slopes for the rest of us.
“Maine’s community ski areas have some great new energy this year,” said Sweetser. “A number of crises have really brought some of the communities together.”
Like Mars Hill and Bigrock, Rumford and Black Mountain of Maine.
At Bigrock, the local citizens and businesses have really stepped up to make sure the mountain stayed in operation without any interruption. This was after the Libra Foundation, which had purchased the mountain a few years back and invested several million dollars, transferred ownership back to the community. Fundraising by the new Friends of Bigrock Mountain has exceeded $200,000, so things are really looking up.
“The response from the community has been unbelievable,” stated Bigrock Mountain Operations Manager Ryan Guerrette on the Bigrock website.
No doubt. Great to see!
Bigrock. Carey Kish photo.
At Black Mountain, where Libra had similarly executed a multi-million dollar makeover, ownership has also transferred ownership back to the local community, here to the venerable Chisholm Ski Club, the good folks who created the ski area so many decades ago.
What goes around comes around, just like they say, doesn’t it.
“The ski area was deeded to Chisholm for $1,” said Sweetser. And with that deal, the club “raised enough money to cover the operating budget.”
This year, Black Mountain will feature a new glade off the Allagash Trail. Lower Andro has been widened and St. John widened. A new warming hut has gone up at the top of the ski area.
Black Mountain. Carey Kish photo.
There’s big doings in Camden, especially as of Election Day, when “Camden voters approved a $2 million municipal bond to help fund improvements at the Camden Snow Bowl including additional chair lifts, snow making equipment, parking area, a new lodge, and trails,” according to the Town of Camden website.
The $2 million will be added to the $4.5 million already raised to kick off a planned redevelopment project that is intended to transform the Camden Snow Bowl into a dynamic year-round recreation facility.
Initial plans call for relocating the existing double chair and install a new summit triple chair. There will be continued improvements in snowmaking and parking. A new base lodge will come in succeeding phases.
Snowmaking was already expanded for this season, so skiers will be assured of more slope time over the course of the season. And Landon Fake was hired as the new GM, a great guy well-regarded in the outdoor circles of Maine.
All very good news.
Camden Snow Bowl. Carey Kish photo.
Stay tuned for more on what’s new this season at Maine’s community ski areas in my next blog post. Meantime, stay in touch with the good folks at Ski Maine for the latest ski news and event stuff.