When Joel Osgood started making his documentary film “1000 Feet and Below” more than five years ago, he saw it as a nostalgia piece aimed at drawing attention to the small ski hills in Maine that were disappearing.

In recent years there were 135 smaller mountains in Maine — 1,000 feet and below in elevation — with some sort of mechanical lift where families got together to slide on the snow, visit and eat hot dogs in the ski lodge. These days there are only 14 such ski hills left, Osgood said.

His film was a community action piece wrapped in a rope tow, he said in an interview in January.

So when, on Nov. 4 at the 2016 Maine Outdoor Film Festival, in Portland, Osgood won three of the top awards for his work, it was a surprise.

“That was pretty cool,” he said.

Of the eight awards given out that night to filmmakers from around the world, Osgood, 37, of New Portland, took home three of them — Best Short Film, Best Maine Film and Best Film of Festival.

“It’s great — I never really did it for any recognition, I did it and continue to do it to raise awareness of the hills and also kind of give a dire warning of the state of the state of the ski industry,” he said.

The festival was started by two men from No Umbrella Media whose mission was to promote, healthy outdoor living, Osgood said.

“That’s pretty much what they said when they were giving me the award, was that my film embodied why they started the festival,” Osgood said. “I was expecting the Best Maine Film — I was hoping for that one — and I got Best of Festival.”

He said the recent sale of Sugarloaf and Sunday River to a New York hedge fund as part of a $700 million real estate deal that involves 12 other ski areas and additional properties across the country, is not good news for local, affordable ski areas in Maine and the families that enjoy them.

“Basically the homogenization of the ski industry is going on,” Osgood said. “There’s like two or three companies that own all the ski resorts in North America. I’m feeling it’s killing the culture that existed at these small hills. With the track that this is going on, these little places aren’t going to be able to survive.”

He said if local groups and communities don’t get together and maintain the small ski hills in Maine, there will be no place for people to learn how to ski and be able to start off with their children at an affordable local mountain.

He said he is encouraged to see investments at Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley as it transitions to a community owned ski resort. The Saddleback Mountain Foundation announced at the end of October that it had reached an agreement to purchase the mountain’s 723-acre core ski area for $6 million. The foundation was formed by Rangeley businesses and season-pass holders after Saddleback — Maine’s third largest ski area — sat idle last winter.

Osgood’s 27-minute documentary was made over four years at small ski hills such as Titcomb Mountain in West Farmington and Baker Mountain on U.S. Route 201 in Moscow. To make the movie, Osgood visited several of the state’s lesser known mountains interviewing hill owners, lift operators, volunteers and skiers.

Osgood said the idea for “1000 Feet and Below” began five years ago when he visited May Mountain in Island Falls in Aroostook County, a ski hill he went to often as a boy. The ski area was gone and the trails were grown over.

He said the small ski mountains that are left, including Pinnacle Ski Club in Pittsfield with its 150-foot rope tow, are affordable for families and offer a place to meet during the long, cold winter months and re-engage as a community.

Osgood said his film was aired on Maine Public television and was shown at ski areas around the state. It is also available for public viewing on his Vimeo page, which is linked to the “1000 Feet and Below” Facebook page. The next public showing is set for Nov. 20 in Bethel and will be back on Maine Public television in January.

He also plans to submit the film for possible entry in the Telluride Mountain Film Festival in Colorado.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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