Despite steady rain and soggy conditions Thursday, skiers and snowboarders were still hitting the slopes at Sugarloaf Mountain.
The Carrabassett Valley ski resort, the only mountain still open in Maine, plans to close for the season on Sunday, according to spokesman Ethan Austin. Colder than usual temperatures and a long, snowy winter made for optimal ski conditions this season, with many mountains across Maine reporting busier than normal customer traffic.
The season got off to a slow start at Sugarloaf, where there was a base coverage of between 10 and 24 inches of snow on Thursday. But it took off mid-winter and 42 of the mountain’s 154 trails were open Thursday afternoon.
“Overall, it was a very good year,” Austin said. “The start of the season was kind of slow because we missed a lot of the big snowstorms that hit Portland and south of here, and because it was so cold. But then about mid-February we started getting hammered with snow and the skiing was great through March, April and into May too.”
The mountain finished the season with a total of 150 recorded inches of snow, which is less than typical. The end of the season typically finishes the first weekend in May and last year’s closing day was May 5.
“It’s been a very slow melt this spring, so we really haven’t lost a lot of snow,” said Austin.
Maine’s ski industry generates more than $300 million in economic activity each year, mostly in rural Maine, according to the Ski Maine Association, a nonprofit group that seeks to promote the industry and increase accessibility.
About 1.3 million lift tickets were sold this year, which is about on par with last year, said Greg Sweetser, the executive director of the Ski Maine Association. Sub-zero temperatures in January hurt sales mid-winter, but the losses were made up for with the extended spring season, he said.
Other mountains in Maine also reported strong seasons, with some saying that they were able to extend their seasons because of good conditions.
Rachael Wilkinson, marketing director at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton, said strong ticket sales and 109 recorded inches of snow made for a solid year. The mountain closed on April 5, which is later than the usual season end in March.
“We had such a strong year with plenty of snow and there were plenty of skiers coming out. We had strong ticket sales and a lot of season passes sold,” she said.
In Farmington, officials at Titicomb Mountain reported having a successful Nordic and alpine season, with Nordic skiing lasting through late April. The alpine season closed on March 30.
“People have been out there, even as of a couple days ago,” said Megan Roberts, co-manager of the mountain. “We had a lot of snow. Farmington was kind of in its own little snowbelt.”
Sunday River in Newry got a head start on the season with an opening in late October, said Darcy Morse, director of communications. The last day of skiing this year was April 21.
“It was an amazing season. We had some really killer snowstorms throughout the year that were nicely timed with holiday periods and vacation weeks, so business was really good,” she said. “The winter was certainly conducive to snowmaking and maintaining snow.”
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368 [email protected]