Scott Shanaman, owner of Lost Valley in Auburn, advances the chairlift Monday morning so mechanics can get into position to work on the lift towers. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Skiers hitting the slopes in the next month can expect to find nine new glades at Lost Valley in Auburn, $500,000 in lift and snowmaking improvements at Mt. Abram in Greenwood and a huge bar and restaurant expansion at Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley.

What’s new, what’s upgraded and what to know at eight local mountains.

Jon Conant, left, and Nate Swenson work on chairlifts at Lost Valley in Auburn on Monday afternoon in anticipation of the ski season. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Lost Valley, Auburn

Tentative opening: Dec. 13

Crews last summer thinned the woods and underbrush weekly to create nine new, natural terrain glades at Lost Valley, bringing the trail count up to 30.

“Especially the kids, that’s where they want to be,” owner Scott Shanaman said. “We can give them perfectly groomed, beautiful trails and if there’s a couple of inches of snow in the woods, that’s where they go.”

Scott Shanaman, right, owner of Lost Valley, chats with Travis Dow before Down heads to the summit of Lost Valley in Auburn on Monday morning. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The glades are for intermediate to experienced skiers and won’t have man-made snow or night lights.

Snowmaking on trails is well underway, and early, he said. “We’ve been able to start up and run 36 hours straight twice now. For us, in this part of the state, that’s pretty good. That’s helping lay the base down.”

Skiers this winter will find a new outdoor patio and large fire pit. The ski area’s silver chair line was also taken apart over the summer, regalvanized and upgraded with a new variable speed drive with the ability to slow down and give new skiers an easier time loading and unloading.

For the first time, thanks to added and improved snowmaking, Shanaman said he’s also hoping to open the adjacent Maine Family Snow Tube Park by Christmas break. It traditionally hasn’t opened until January.

“We’re ready for it to start,” he said.

 

Shawnee Peak, Bridgton

Tentative opening: Dec. 7

An early morning at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton last winter. Photo courtesy Shawnee Peak

Skiers will find a new wireless ticketing system that allows them to add funds from home or their phone and walk right onto the chairlift on their second visit, skipping a trip to the ticket counter, said Rachael Wilkinson, director of skier experience.

Last summer the resort added new tower guns and more permanent mounts to its snowmaking system. It also added solar panels on the East Base Lodge and Sugar House which will power four of the resort’s six buildings.

“I think that the forecast (for the season) looks great,” said Wilkinson. “Sales preseason have been very, very strong, so it does give an indication people are interested in skiing. Immediately turning cold the way it has, people are certainly thinking about snapping on those skis.”

 

Black Mountain Ski Resort, Rumford

Tentative opening: Dec. 20

For the first time, Black Mountain will have all of its snowguns running at the start of the season, allowing it to move up opening day, which has usually been the day after Christmas, according to Marketing Manager Deanna Kersey.

Another first: An anonymous donor has paid for a free day of skiing for children, families and staff at The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, happening March 5.

Friends of Black Mountain held an auction last week to benefit the mountain and “we had a lot of people who don’t typically attend or can’t typically attend who were there,” Kersey said. “You could just feel, everyone’s excited.”

 

Sunday River Resort, Newry

Opened: Nov. 9

Sunday River Resort installed four surface lifts over the summer, one a T-bar in partnership with Gould Academy in Bethel. “We’re able to keep our athletes to that lift and they get 40% more time on the snow for training purposes, it’s great,” spokeswoman Karolyn Castaldo said. The other three are covered conveyors by its Sundance trail.

The conveyors are all in a row, in the beginners’ area. As you get better, you keep going up.

“If it’s somebody’s first time on skis, then they’re not going all the way to the top of our bunny slope,” she said.

The resort added four new 500 horsepower pumps to its snowmaking system, “so we’re up to 10,000 gallons a minute,” said Castaldo. “Ultimately for skiers, it means we can make snow faster and we can either concentrate on one trail with more capacity or we can spread that out a bit to different locations all at once.”

Want first crack at the fresh snow? There’s a new program with a limited number of tickets each day that allows skiers on the slopes an hour earlier than everyone else, with a guide, followed by a breakfast mid-slope at The Mountain Room.

“They’re trained ski school coaches, so they’ll be able to give tips and tricks throughout the morning, how to maybe approach the snow a little bit differently,” said Castaldo.

 

Titcomb Mountain, Farmington

Anticipated opening: Dec. 14

An aerial shot of Titcomb Mountain in Farmington. Photo courtesy Titcomb Mountain

Last summer, the mountain widened spots of its Nordic trails so the entire width can now get one smooth grooming pass, General Manager Seth Noonkester said.

One of the last club-run mountains left in the country, it has 18 kilometers of Nordic trails, and in February, it’ll put them to extra use, hosting the first combined Class A, B and C Maine Principals’ Association High School Nordic Championships, according to Noonkester.

Historically, Class A has been held on one mountain, B and C on another.

It’ll bring hundreds of students and their families to town.

“Although you’re competing just within your class, you get to see the best out of the entire state of Maine, all racers at the same venue side-by-side,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for our entire community as well.”

 

Mt. Abram, Greenwood

Tentative opening: Dec. 14

A young child gets a ski lesson at Mt. Abram in Greenwood last winter. Photo courtesy Mt. Abram

Last summer, Mt. Abram invested $500,000 in ski lift and snowmaking upgrades.

“Definitely more of a ramp up to this season than last year,” said Kevin Rosenberg, marketing and sales director. “It prepares us to extend our operations right through summer and back into the winter again, which will help compliment each other.”

Next spring, the resort will open its new lift-serviced mountain bike park, a several-year buildout that will start with beginner terrain.

“Winter’s great and it’s been our backbone for the past 60 years, but there’s a new kid in town,” he said.

A sneak peak at the park in October drew 1,200 people.

 

Sugarloaf Mountain, Carrabassett Valley

Opened: Nov. 15

The Widowmaker bar and restaurant underwent a full floor-to-ceiling renovation, spokeswoman Noelle Tuttle said. It has a better live music space, 46 taps, a new outdoor deck and new artwork: The Sugarloaf Mosaic, “a giant image of the mountain built using more than 11,000 photos submitted to the project by Sugarloafers around the world.”

The resort invested in a new groomer to better shape terrain park features, 50 new snowmaking hydrants and started Phase One of a new, large snowmaking project that will include building a dam on Caribou Pond next summer.

Tuttle said the resort will host the New England Nordic Ski Association Eastern Cup next month, drawing some 500 racers, for the first time in more than 25 years.

 

Spruce Mountain Ski Slope, Jay

Tentative opening: Dec. 26

Don’t visit looking for too many changes, Manager Max Couture said.

“We’ve been the same way, for the most part, since we opened in 1956,” he said.

The small, volunteer-run slope has day and night skiing using three tow ropes. You’ll have to tuck your poles under your arms and hang on tight.

Know before you go: Bring your work gloves.

“If you wear regular ski gloves, you’d tear them up pretty quick,” Couture said. “It’s a little bit of wear and tear, but it’s fun at the same time.”

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