CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Wearing their ski togs and broad smiles, three teenagers from Freeport spent six hours in the cold Saturday so they could be a part of Sugarloaf history — to be among the first to ride the ski resort’s new $3 million Skyline chairlift.

Mary Noyes and Maria Nappi, both 15, and Maria’s 13-year-old brother John hiked up to the lift’s base long before it was scheduled to open at noon.

“They asked if they could help me shovel the snow off the lift,” said Bob Roderick, Sugarloaf’s chairlift manager, who got to the base himself around 9 a.m. “But I said no, you’re here to have fun.”

And that’s what they did, joining about 300 people in line to climb aboard the speedy new quad lift.

They weren’t the very first — that honor belonged to four people who had made contributions to local organizations, including the Sugarloaf Ski Club, Carrabassett Valley Academy, Sugarloaf Charity Summit, and the local Western Maine Center for Children — but they were close enough to the front of the line to score the complimentary T-shirts that went out to the first 100 to ride.

The state-of-the-art Skyline replaces the 35-year-old old Spillway East chairlift that derailed late last year.

On Dec. 28, five loaded chairs plunged about 30 feet to the snow, sending eight skiers to regional hospitals. About 150 other skiers had to be evacuated from the disabled lift with ropes and pulleys.

A state report issued in June cited wind, mechanical problems and human error as factors in the derailment.

So, were the skiers and snowboarders who came to the mountain on Saturday nervous about climbing aboard the new Skyline?

In an informal survey of about 35 people on Saturday, almost all of whom described themselves as expert skiers, the answer was pretty clear: Not a chance.

“After what happened last year, this is one of the safest places in the country to get on a ski lift, because of what happened,” said Kerry Bell, 27, of Pittsburgh, Pa.

Ellen Mahoney, 48, of Peaks Island, who was heading toward Spillway on the day it came unhitched, said she had no trepidation. She rode Spillway after it reopened last spring and she didn’t hesitate for a moment to climb aboard Skyline along with her family on Saturday.

“It’s a great investment. It’s been needed for a long time,” agreed Don Skillings, 42, of Skowhegan. “This is all I wanted for Christmas, and we got it.”

The new lift is lower to the ground, has heavier chairs to make it more wind resistant, and Sugarloaf has erected fencing to allow the lift to operate in even 65 mph winds.

Everyone said they were thrilled with the speed of the new lift and its proximity to the expert runs and new glades. The skiers relished the thought of accessing their favorite terrain more easily.

And this was exactly the demographic of the skiers and riders that officials at Sugarloaf’s parent company were targeting with this upgrade, said Stephan Kircher, Eastern operations manager for Boyne Resort in Michigan.

Kircher, who flew out from Michigan to be on hand for Saturday’s dedication and grand opening, said the chairlift would minimize the wind-hold days (or periods when lifts are closed due to wind), and improve the flow of traffic on the mountain by spreading out skiers more efficiently.

“Sugarloafers, and Mainers, are so passionate. This place is really excited. It’s heartwarming to give this to them,” said Kircher as he watched the lift load. And he said that the upgrade is only one small step in the improvements planned at Sugarloaf.

While just 11 trails out of 145 were open Saturday, the skiers and snowboarders riding the new lift said they could already sense the improvement it would make to their Sugarloaf experience.

“I expect it will separate the experts from the beginners, so the mountain will be safer to ski. I rode it a lot before and I’ll ride it a lot now,” said Ruth Souweine, 65, of Bangor. She came to the mountain Saturday with her family of Sugarloafers, three generations’ worth.

“This is wonderful,” she said.

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