AUBURN — The owners of Lost Valley announced Wednesday that they have launched a fundraising drive in hopes of raising between $50,000 and $100,000 in an effort to open for the 2014-15 ski season.

The resort, which opened in 1961, hit financial troubles after losing nearly $200,000 per season for several years. Its owners, Lincoln Hayes and Connie King, are reaching out in hopes that private donors will deliver the capital the resort needs to put at least one of its two chairlifts into operation.

The resort’s storied past includes its historic significance as being the birthplace in Maine of tower-mounted snow-making, snow grooming and other innovations now commonplace in the ski industry under its original owner, the late Otto Wallingford. Wallingford was an apple farmer and the 200-acre resort was part of his orchard properties.

The Ski Museum of Maine credits Wallingford with being the inventor of the modern snow-grooming system, which he called the Powdermaker. “Today, virtually every skier in the world enjoys the fruits of Otto Wallingford’s creative mind,” according to the museum’s website.

The resort also lays claim to being the training ground for a host of skiers and snowboard riders who have gone on to national and even worldwide fame, including former U.S. Olympian Julie Parisien.

Parisien competed in slalom and giant slalom events in the 1992, 1994 and 1998 Winter Games. She also was a successful World Cup skier and was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 and the National Ski Hall of Fame in 2006.


Parisien started her skiing career at Lost Valley at the age of 2, after her family moved to a farmhouse about a mile from the resort.

New business plan

Hayes and King have developed a new business plan for the resort that should lead to a large reduction in energy costs and may be key to a long-term restructuring, which would help the resort become solvent.

Hayes said he believes the new business plan, which involves more high-efficiency snow-making equipment and low-energy lights, will save the company about $50,000 a year.

The owners also are working closely with the Auburn Ski Association, a nonprofit group that promotes Alpine ski racing and helps fund local ski-racing clubs.  

A third, informal organization calling itself Friends of Lost Valley, which includes some Ski Association members, is forming and holding weekly meetings in an effort to develop a plan to turn the ski area into a nonprofit organization.


Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said Wednesday he was pleased with the community effort that was emerging and was optimistic it would move the resort in the right direction.

“It’s a real testament to the community that’s benefited from Lost Valley over the years, but it’s also a testament to just how important a community institution this place is to the city of Auburn,” LaBonte said.

He said he knew the owners were working hard to upgrade their business plan and recognized the need for changing their operational model.

“So there’s both this short-term effort to get the resort operational and not lose a season and this longer-term effort to make a sustainable future there,” LaBonte said. “That both are happening together is a good sign for things to come.”

Hayes and King said they have been operating the resort at a loss for years, and short of selling the property, the only way to open for this season is to reach out for community support.

Karen Bolduc, a spokeswoman for Friends of Lost Valley, said that group knows the resort needs long-term changes and improvements.


“We know there are problems,” Bolduc said. “But while we chug away at finding more long-term solutions to get Lost Valley on a sustainable trajectory, in the short term, the resort needs cash now just to stay in the game. That’s why we’ve organized this campaign — to rally immediate community support.”

The group has set two benchmarks, Bolduc said. The first is to raise $50,000, which would allow the resort to open its primary chairlift, the one with multicolored chairs in front of the base lodge. If the group can raise $100,000, both of the ski area’s lifts would open for the coming ski season.

Hayes said for those concerned that their donations would be going directly to the owners’ pockets, he and King have pledged to turn over all funds, if they do not reach the threshold amount, to the Auburn Ski Association, Central Maine Adaptive Sports and other local not-for-profit organizations that support skiing in the community. Should that happen, all donations would become tax-deductible.

Hayes said he and King, who have owned the resort for the past decade, frequently donate to a variety of groups and nonprofits.  

Without the resort, also at risk would be a local nonprofit, Central Maine Adaptive Sports, which provides Alpine skiing-related activities for children with developmental disabilities. It serves about 125 children each year.

King said she was hopeful the resort could reach its goal by its Oct. 17 deadline, and that as they prepared for the upcoming season, other programming and facility improvements and changes would be in the works.


‘Bring a friend’

Greg Sweetser, executive director of Ski Maine, said the ski hill’s niche is providing healthy, outside winter activity for families and athletes in the Lewiston-Auburn area.

“Community areas dot the state from Powderhouse Hill in South Berwick to Lonesome Pine Trails in Fort Kent and touch the lives of thousands each winter,” Sweetser said. “These areas are located close to where the people live, and Lost Valley is probably the closest to such a major population center.”

Sweetser said the role of small ski areas is vital to the larger economy of the ski industry in Maine.

“Lost Valley introduces tens of thousands of new skiers and snowboarders and fills that important feeder ski area role,” Sweetser wrote in an email to the Sun Journal. “Plenty of accomplished skiers continue to enjoy Lost Valley for a quick tune-up during the week or participate in the competitive Locals Race League.”

Sweetser said a new national campaign called “Bring A Friend” seeks to build on the “passion of existing skiers and snowboarders to introduce their friends and neighbors to these winter sports.”


Lost Valley has launched its own “Bring A Friend” program. Sweetser said that program, combined with the social media push, would be key to keeping the resort viable.

Lost Valley is one of only a few ski areas in Maine that offer regular night skiing and is the training hill for many middle school and high school teams. Several local colleges also use the resort for training and occasional meets. 

King said Wednesday she was fielding calls from people who want to buy season passes or who are inquiring about the coming season and hopes she will have some news for them soon.

She said a number of local businesspeople have voiced interest in helping the resort move forward, as have a variety of volunteer groups involved in the Lewiston-Auburn skiing community, but the resort’s most pressing need is cash to get its chairlifts in running order.

Chip Morrison, president of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce, said the resort has been a chamber member since 1967. Morrison said while it was an important business in the region, it was also more than that to many people. He said the chamber would do all it could to help.

He said zoning changes to allow the resort to establish lodging opportunities or to develop real estate might be one way local government could help keep the ski hill going.

Those wishing to donate to keep Lost Valley Ski Area open for the 2014-15 season can do so via the fundraising website,

Those wishing to donate to keep Lost Valley Ski Area open for the 2014-15 season can do so via the fundraising website,

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