SKOWHEGAN — Ten-year-old Nicholas Woodside sped down the hill and up a tall snowbank as his snowtube came to a stop. His father, Pat Woodside stood by, camera ready.
“It’s school vacation and I’m on vacation so I invited everyone. For the kids and employees it’s a good place to get people together to have fun,” said Pat Woodside, 40. On Monday Woodside was at the base of the snowtubing hill at Eaton Mountain, watching as his children, Nicholas and Lauren, 6, made runs down the hill.
Woodside, who is also the general manager of North Country Harley Davidson in Augusta, invited his staff at the store, which was closed in honor of Presidents Day, to come out, and many were there taking runs along with the children.
“It was wicked awesome. It’s an excellent team building thing and it’s good exercise. It’s fast and fun,” said John Miller, 30, of Vassalboro.
Dave Beers, the owner of Eaton Mountain, said the snowtubing hill was already at three-quarters of its capacity by 1 p.m. Monday, a good start to what he expects to be one of the busiest weeks of the year aside from Christmas.
Despite less than desirable snowfalls this year, Eaton Mountain and other area ski slopes started off Presidents Day week with good weather and expectations for a profitable week, with many extending their hours and offering specials.
“We’re counting on a good Presidents week for people to try snowtubing and get hooked on it for the remainder of the season,” said Beers. “We have plenty of snow here and we’ve been trying to convince people that even though there might not be a lot outside their windows, there is enough for winter sports.”
At Eaton Mountain, Beers said, they are making snow for snowtubing. The ski slopes haven’t been open since Beers and his wife, Donna, bought the mountain in 2008.
Beers said that the mountain, which is normally open only on weekends, will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday this week.
“Even with all the rain we had about three weeks ago, the snow that we made prior to that was beautiful. The new natural snow is a huge help, not that we needed it,” he said.
Beers said the mountain received about 12 inches during winter storm Nemo and about 4 inches the following Monday. Over the weekend he said they got about 1 or 2 more inches.
“Since then the phone has been ringing off the hook,” he said.
In Franklin County, employees at Sugarloaf and Titicomb Mountain said they also expected to be busy this week and that so far conditions looked good.
“It was windy this morning so I think people held back, but this afternoon the wind calmed down, the sun came out and so did a lot of families,” said Karleen Andrews, manager at Titicomb, on Monday.
The mountain also is extending its hours and offering two nights of free skiing this week. On Wednesday and Friday nights skiing is free and is being sponsored by the medical staff of Franklin Memorial Hospital, Franklin Savings Bank and Western Maine Financial Services, Andrews said.
The mountain also has about 12 miles of Nordic ski trails with natural snow that are open, she said.
Communications manager at Sugarloaf Ethan Austin said that conditions there have also been good.
“This is one of our busiest weeks of the year and it’s looking like our lodging is pretty much sold out,” he said.
A few deals can still be found on the mountain’s website, though, he said.
Between the blizzard and a few more snowy days, Austin said, the mountain has about 18 inches of natural snow. Brackett Basin, the mountain’s newest terrain that contains only natural snow, is also open.
“That’s a sign that conditions are really good,” he said.
Still, there are some smaller mountains that have struggled with low amounts of snow this year.
At Baker Mountain in Bingham, a non-profit ski mountain that is run by volunteers from the Baker Mountain Ski Tow Club, Cathy Foran, the club’s secretary, said the mountain has been closed for the last couple weeks due to lack of snow.
“Usually we are quite busy this week and have to line up volunteers ahead of time. This year it’s just not looking like we’ll be open unless there’s another storm,” she said.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368