If you’re a skier or snowboarder, you are really, really happy right now. With all this fresh powder, it’s shaping up to be a great winter for skiing and snowboarding in Maine. The numbers are already impressive: a base depth of 42 inches and 71 open trails at Sunday River; 26 inches of base and 37 open trails at Sugarloaf.
While Mother Nature has been kind, humans have also been busy. Ski Maine Association keeps tabs on what’s new, not just at the big resorts, but at the smaller mountains, too. Here’s what you can expect for the 2013/14 season:
The ownership of the mountain has been transferred back to the originators of the ski area, the Chisholm Ski Club. Thanks to the Libra Foundation, it’s received a multi-million dollar makeover of the downhill ski area and World Class Nordic trail system. Improvements this year include a new glade off the Allagash Trail, the Lower Androscoggin Trail has been widened, the St. John ski trail has been landscaped and a new public warming hut is being constructed at the top of the ski area.
Opening day is Friday, Dec. 20 at 9 a.m.
Expanded snowmaking and more changes are in the works; the town has just approved a $6 million renovation project.
New this year: expanded hours 11 am -7 pm Thursdays and Fridays (Westside closes at 4 pm). Weekends and holidays lifts will spin 9 am-4 pm. Mt. Abram will host Friday evening and Sunday afternoon Nastar races and will be creating a Friday night town league, under the lights. To ensure better connectivity between the Main Lodge and Westside, snowmaking has been installed on Lower Easy Rider.
A new grooming machine will allow more versatility to maintain snow conditions throughout the winter.
Better trail grooming thanks to the new Piston Bully 600 Winch Cat, a faster, more powerful and more fuel-efficient grooming machine.
The roof has been raised on the East Lodge, allowing sleeping capacity for up to 12 people. The Big Air Bag, introduced last year, will be open for tubing from the beginning of the season.
Improvements include: nearly 70 acres of new glades being cut on Burnt Mountain; snowmaking expansion on Gondola Line, Narrow Gauge, Scoot, Ramdown, Widowmaker; West Mountain trail widened for race training; purchase of an on-mountain restaurant and a new 30-person hot tub at the Sugarloaf Hotel.
The biggest news this year is the new terrain park, T72, which will be located on North Peak between the Dream Maker and 3D trails and service directly by the North Peak Express and Chondola high-speed lifts. the 15-acre T72 will include the resort’s jump line, superpipe and rail park and is the new home to Simon Dumont’s annual spring event — the largest freeskiing event in the East — the Dumont Cup in late March.
Sunday River will also debut Camp, a restaurant that celebrates the Maine tradition of escaping daily life with a trip to camp. It is located at the Grand Summit Hotel. Also new is free skiing and snowboarding access to the Sundance Surface Lift in the South Ridge base area.