NEW GLOUCESTER — As Hilary Billings carried his skis out to the Pineland Farms Nordic trails last Sunday, he shook his head at the lost time on the snow this winter.

“We were robbed in January,” said Billings, of Yarmouth. “It was cold and then there was not a lot of snow. It rained and then it was in the high 60s.”

“We will ski as long as we can,” his wife, Jana Boody-Billings, agreed.

An army of cross-country skiers came to the Nordic trails in New Gloucester last weekend, both those who have skied all winter and some who were out for the first time. All agreed: The late-winter snowstorms the past month were welcome.

The two storms in the beginning of March dropped 32.9 inches of snow in southern Maine, making it the most snowfall of any March in the past decade.

Shawnee Peak ski area in Bridgton reported 42 inches of snow at the summit of Pleasant Mountain on Friday and 37 of 43 trails open.

The ski area’s daily mountain report called March skiing this year memorable, and better than most years with “wall-to-wall terrain.”

Mt. Abram in Greenwood reported 36 inches of snow pack and all 54 trails open on Friday.

And Black Mountain in Rumford saw 34 inches of snow fall in the first two weeks of March to put the mountain 100 percent open, including the glade trails, said Marketing Director Deanna Kersey.

At Pineland Farms, Joy Prescott of Brunswick said she had been too busy with her son’s youth hockey games to get out on her skis this winter – but that all changed last weekend.

“Now that hockey is finished up, (we plan to ski),” Perscott said of her young family. “We’ve been talking about going up to the Maine Huts and Trails. Full service is closed for the season, but there is self service. We may go up there to ski.”

Others had already been on their Nordic skis a few dozen times this winter, like Jeff Griffiths of Portland, a Presque Isle native who skis downhill and cross country as much as he can.

“I skied two weeks ago in Presque Isle. The conditions were primo,” Griffiths said. “The days are longer. It just gets better and better this time of year. We wait all summer for this. This is the best skiing of the year.”

At the Camden Snow Bowl, General Manager Beth Ward said only once before in her 13 years at the mountain was it open into April – and it could happen this year.

All 15 trails and 11 glades were open at the Snow Bowl on Friday and there was 36 inches of snow pack, said Holly Edwards, the Snow Bowl’s administrative assistant.

“I know folks who are driving up from Massachusetts to ski here for the first time,” Edwards said. “If we continue to have good weather through the weekend, it’ll be another great weekend for us. That helps us financially. Those storms made a huge difference, and enough snow has held. We had quite a few bare spots that first weekend of March, but that first snowstorm on March 8 and 9 changed everything.”

Ward added that if the town-owned ski area keeps the lifts running into April, it’s done with trepidation. Ward said the two storms in early March helped put the municipal ski area in the black financially, but staying open into spring risks going into debt again.

“I try to run the Snow Bowl as efficiently as possible, to keep the town out of the red,” Ward said. “The first week of March, we were in the red. We were really considering closing on the 11th. Then these snowstorms came. And we’ve been profitable. That put us back in the black a little. But if we open, and folks don’t come, that’s a loss. It’s a constant battle. Historically, the longer we stay open into March, the more money we lose.”

For Sugarloaf, the March snow has meant just the opposite – a new snowcat lift service. It is the only snowcat service in the East that runs a groomer with an enclosed cab for passengers up to the ski area’s 68 acres of glades. It runs as many as 11 times a day, said Communication Director Noelle Tuttle.

“We had a test run in January,” Tuttle said. “Then we still didn’t have enough snow. Then it rained. We were hoping and praying for snow. The last two storms made it possible.”

For the snowcat service, skiers and snowboarders make online reservations just like with an airline. The 12-passenger snowcat runs Friday to Sunday and sold out last weekend and this weekend, Tuttle said.

The four feet of snowpack delivered largely during the first two snow storms in March made the snowcat service possible, Tuttle said.

“People are excited about it,” Tuttle said. “The others in the East run overnights. This is the only one of its kind in the East.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: FlemingPph

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