What’s new at Maine’s ski areas

By Dave Irons

Feature Writer

Whether community ski area or giant resort, Maine’s ski hills and mountains are coming off a busy summer. Investments range from thousands spent in brushing trails and maintaining lifts to millions on lodge improvements and snowmaking boosts. Some of the upgrades can be seen, but others will only be noticed in the improved snow conditions that come with new snowguns and new groomers.

It’s always interesting to see how community areas fund their improvements. Baker Mountain, just north of Bingham in Moscow, rebuilt the T-bar with fundraising by the ski club and a grant from Plum Creek. New this year will be a skating rink at the base of the area for another community recreation opportunity.

Plum Creek also contributed to Titcomb Mountain’s T-bar cable replacement project on two lifts. The base lodge was repainted and reshingled under the supervision of new managers Jaime Ranger and Megan Roberts, and new mechanical supervisor Tim Norton.

Another area counting on volunteers is Squaw Mountain, in Greenville, which got back in business last season under the Friends of Squaw Mountain. Going into their second season, the base lodge has been reroofed and new windows and siding are in place. Plans include refurbishing the pony pull lift and more snowmaking.

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The big news out of Rumford is the return of Black Mountain to its founders, the Chisholm Ski Club. After giving the area a multi-million dollar make over, the Libra Foundation gave the area back to the community and a successful campaign raised the necessary funds to operate. New this year are glades off the Allagash Trail, a widened Lower Androscoggin Trail and warming hut at the summit.

Construction hasn’t started yet, but Camden Snowbowl has taken a huge step in a future expansion. The plans include lift, lodge and snowmaking along with other improvements to totally transform this community ski area. A few years ago the community set out to raise $4 million with the town to kick in the rest for a $6-million dollar project. The $4 million was raised and Nov. 5, the town voted overwhelmingly to fund their $2 million share.

Volunteers at Spruce Mountain in Jay have mowed the trails, tested the snowmaking system and held several successful fund raisers in preparation for the upcoming season.

At Lost Valley, Riverview Ski and Bike has taken over the on-mountain ski shop and the area will offer the usual variety of learn-to-ski programs and the popular racing leagues are back.

Mt. Abram’s partnership with Mountain Rider’s Alliance has taken another step with Dave Scanlon of MRA taking the helm as general manager. Operating hours have changed, tubing is back and snowmaking has been extended to Lower Easy Rider to make the run from Westside to the base area easier.

Saddleback will be able to groom the steep runs easier this winter with their new Winch Cat.

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Shawnee Peak has once again beefed up their snowmaking, an annual investment at the area. The roof on the east lodge has been raised to provide sleeping space for a dozen skiers.

Sugarloaf continues their glade expansion and snowmaking is once again expanded with new snowguns, and a hot tub has been added to the hotel. The resort has also bought Gepetto’s, one of the most popular restaurants on the mountain, and regulars are anxiously hoping the menu and the staff won’t change.

Sunday River has added more energy-efficient snowguns as part of an ongoing conversion of older snowmaking equipment. A new terrain park trail has been cut between Dream Maker and 3D on North Peak.

These are some of the highlights of this year’s improvements. For more details, go to www.skimaine.com and click on the individual ski areas.

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