Maine’s community ski areas are a precious resource for winter family fun in the rural parts of the state. These areas are critical to the sport because the kids out there learning to love skiing and riding, well, you’re looking at the next generation of adult skiers at the big mountains. Never mind that these little ski spots are just plain fun, and a whole different experience from a day on the big slopes.
Glenn Parkinson, in First Tracks, his venerable book on the history of skiing in Maine, put it this way: “Maine offers… some of the best terrain, fastest lifts, and best snowmaking to be found anywhere. Maine also offers skiing as it was in the past. Homemade donuts, T-bars, areas within walking distance for the kids, and trails that twist and turn with the mountain are still a part of Maine skiing.”
So if you haven’t been to one of the small, family-oriented ski areas in a while, well, you’re really missing out on a good time. Take a day and do so, kick back and enjoy the slow pace, the old-time look and feel, the fun people and smiling faces. It’s a very good time!
Recently I chatted with Greg Sweetser from the Ski Maine Association on what’s new this winter at ski areas big and small around the state. We always have a good time and I always come away with a lot of great information.
Continuing on from my previous post, here’s more of the rundown on the community ski areas.
Visit Lost Valley in Auburn this winter and you’ll be greeted by the new Riverview Ski & Bike Shop on the mountain, complete with the usual ski goods and services plus biking gear.
Lost Valley in Auburn. Photo courtesy Sun Journal.
Lonesome Pine Trails in Fort Kent, Hermon Mountain in Hermon and Mt. Jefferson in Lee have been busy doing some summer grooming, aka mowing. Something I never considered before, mowing the slopes allows the small areas to open earlier because the ski trails require less snow cover. Brilliant!
Mt. Jefferson has to have the very best donuts on the planet, a big plus for this skier. Hermon has close to 100% snowmaking so they can get open with those early season snowstorms. They also serve a darn fine slice of pizza too. And if you haven’t night skied at Lonesome looking over at the lights of Canada across the St. John River, well…
Baker Mountain rises high above the Kennebec River in Moscow. Plum Creek has added some much needed cash to assist the mountain, which has rebuilt their T-bar. Nothing like a few runs at Baker followed by a spell around the comfy base lodge fireplace. The Baker Mountain Ski Tow Club continues to operate the ski area with lots of great volunteers, plus grants and donations.
Spruce Mountain in the papermaking town of Jay has a terrific crew of volunteers that keep the place operating and in great shape. The snowmaking system has “good pumps and pipes,” says Sweetser, and a “network of three rope tows from base to summit.”
Overlooking the mighty Androscoggin River, Spruce is a real scenic spot for a lazy ski day or night. In fact, the Boston Globe called Spruce “the best small mountain that’s operated by locals.” It’s also home to the world’s best $1 grilled cheese sandwich!
Spruce Mountain in Jay. Photo courtesy Spruce Mountain.
Powderhouse Hill in South Berwick, where you can still ski for just $5, will be installing a permanent snowmaking water line. This will allow them to open two trails and a rope tow with just a few cold days, as well as allow for a more consistent operating schedule for us skiers.
Nice. And kudos to Shawnee Peak for lending Powderhouse Hill some snowmaking equipment over the last few seasons.
Powderhouse Hill has a very interesting history, dating back almost a century before it began operating as a ski slope in 1939, a history that includes gunpowder, arson and even murder.
Titcomb Mountain in Farmington has new managers, managers Jaime Ranger and Megan Roberts, as well as a mechanical super, Tim Norton. Good luck!
Titcomb folks have been busy sprucing up the place, paintings the buildings and putting new shingles on the roof. They’ve also replaced two T-bar cables, with help from a grant from Plum Creek. Nice touch Plum Creek.
Titcomb Mountain in Farmington.
The rebirth of Big Squaw Mountain in Greenville enters its second season with continued support from the nonprofit Friends of Squaw Mountain.
“A lot of locals are making things happen there. Kids needs to get outside in winter, and tyhe resource is right there,” said Sweetser. “They raised some serious money to open. It’s a big turnaround in this economy.”
The mountain is operating within its original boundaries with 17 trails and a 500-foot vertical. Skiable acreage has been expanded on Rip Gorge, Lean 2 Ski and Canada Falls trails, while a new roof, windows and siding have added to the base lodge.
And keep up the good work there, Friends of Squaw!
Finally, Quoggy Jo in Presque Isle is expanding its free learn to ski & ride program to get more local kids into snow sports.
That’s all for now on what’s new at Maine’s community ski areas. Next up are Maine’s big five ski mountains, Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Saddleback, Shawnee Peak and Mt. Abram…