SKOWHEGAN — Eaton Mountain Ski Area was hopping Sunday during its first weekend open for skiing and snowboarding since 2006.

“We opened yesterday for the skiing season,” said manager Julie Keaten. “We opened the weekend before, but yesterday was our first day skiing and snowboarding, which was huge for us. We had good attendance yesterday, too. We have some customers back who were here yesterday.”

The mountain had offered snow tubing and refreshments at the lodge over the last couple of years, but electrical problems prevented the use of rope tows until this year.

A new rope tow for skiers and snowboarders was operating on the mountain near the Fawn trail and a separate rope tow for snowtubing also was busy.

Jody Rose, 25, of Canaan, and her husband, Glenn, 28, were about to go snowboarding for the first time ever.

“I skied here 12 years ago at least,” Jody Rose said. “I live not too far from here so I plan to come more often. I plan to get my boys into it. They’re 5 and 3 — Kayden and Jayce.”

Ski instructor Mattea Powers, 16, of Skowhegan, had given three lessons by early Sunday afternoon. Powers, who said she has been skiing 10 years, learned to ski at the mountain. A junior at Skowhegan Area High School where she is a member of the ski team, she said she has been waiting a long time for the mountain to offer skiing again.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I have a lot of friends who want to learn here, that want me to teach them. It’s very affordable and if you rent equipment, you get a free lesson with it.”

Powers described skiing conditions as good and said they will get better as time goes on.

The lodge was cozy Sunday as a large wood stove in the center of the room pumped out heat. Workers at the snack bar were cooking up hamburgers, sandwiches, french fries and chicken tenders, among other menu items, and hot coffee and beer were served.

Mountain hours are 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, according to Keaten. Skiing and snowboarding are offered only from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, she said.

The facility also is open at other times for public events, school groups and private parties, according to Keaten. Only about a third of the mountain is currently open. Keaten said discussions are ongoing about how to get the chairlift, which was installed in 1967 but has not been used in many years, back in operation.

“The big chairlift has been the topic of the town for a long time,” she said. “A lot of people are anxious to see it go to the top of the mountain.”

A public informational meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 to discuss what it will take to get the chairlift operational, she said. “We’re open to ideas,” she said. “We’re calling it, ‘Bring Back the Chairlift.'”

Bradie Castonguay, 35, and her son, Ethan Gilman, 9, of Waterville, skied both Saturday and Sunday on the mountain. While Bradie Castonguay has skied for many years and is a former ski instructor, her son is new to the sport. He said he didn’t really know what to expect, but after practicing on the rope tow a few times, he felt more confident.

“I was kind of nervous because my Mom was really good at it and I’d never done it,” he said. “I was surprised to see kids younger than me skiing.”

His mother said the cost for using the facilities is reasonable.

“The food here is awesome,” she said. “It’s the small mountain environment, and I like that.”

David Beers, who owns Eaton with his wife, Donna, came into the lodge after running snow grooming equipment.

“It’s good to be open — it’s been a long time coming,” David Beers said. “It’s been a race since we closed last year, getting everything together here.”

Beers, 44, was injured in 2011 when a snow groomer rolled over him at the mountain. He suffered skull fractures, broken bones, his jaw was broken in three places and he became deaf in one ear as a result of the accident. He said he is mostly recovered.

He said the idea was to open this year with skiing and snowboarding and next year he plans to add lights and more snow guns.

“My plan is to have a bigger operation schedule and to push out a full ski program and aggressively reach out to the schools.”

A skier himself since the age of 12, Beers does all the snow-making at Eaton, which he bought in 2008. He offered snow tubing in 2010. After his accident in 2011, the business was not open again until 2012.

“This is our fourth season with the tubing, the third consecutive,” he said, adding that people of all ages and walks of life go tubing.

Meanwhile, the lodge has been repainted inside and has several new wooden benches Beers crafted himself.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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