Most of the state’s smaller ski areas have taken advantage of the cold weather, snow and holiday vacation weeks to open for the season. And, like Sugarloaf and Sunday River, which opened earlier, community areas big and small put major efforts into improving their facilities in the off-season.

Greenwood’s Mount Abram focused on upgrades and maintenance of existing infrastructure over the summer, with $500,000 of investment. The venerable Wayback Machine and Skyline lifts both got facelifts, with a new drive and brake system installed on the former and a variable drive on the latter. Snowmaking was upgraded (and put to good use during the runup to this season), and a second snow groomer was added to the resort’s fleet.

At the base, new roofs, new kitchen equipment, and a literal new coat of paint freshened things up. And Butcher Burger, a burger joint with locations in Bethel and Old Orchard Beach, has jumped into food duties at the Loose Boots Lounge.

Lift 2 at Lost Valley was overhauled last year. Photo by Josh Christie

Lift work was also undertaken at Lost Valley in Auburn. The area has completed an overhaul of Lift 2, repainting the towers, re-galvanizing the chairs, adding a variable speed drive, and upgrading safety communications. LED lights both upgraded and expanded lighting for night skiing, and nearly a dozen new snowmaking hydrants helped double the snowmaking capacity in the beginner area.

New terrain has been added, with nine new gladed areas created around the mountain. Base area improvements include a new outdoor patio, fire pit and a rebuilt deck. The improvements aren’t limited to Alpine areas; Lost Valley’s Nordic trails have been both improved and expanded.

Check out the solar panels on the roof at Shawnee’s East Lodge. Photo by Josh Christie

An immediately visible change at Bridgton’s Shawnee Peak is its solar array, with solar panels located on the roof of the East Lodge and Ski Wee buildings. The panels, which produce enough energy to power four of the resort’s six buildings, are just the second on-site solar array installed at a ski area in Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont. Lights throughout the lodge — including all the lighting at the ski school desk and cafeteria —have been replaced with LEDs, further increasing energy efficiency.

On the snowmaking side, Shawnee replaced the water feedline between their pumphouses, and added HKD Klik hydrants and snowguns around the mountain, including on the Sunset, Crossover and Main Slope trails.

And while Sugarloaf and Sunday River reported a move towards RFID (radio-frequency identification) ticketing, Shawnee is the first area in Maine to install the technology. Shawnee Peak’s Summit Triple, Pine Quad and Rabbit Run lifts have RFID-enabled access gates, which gate lift access for both day tickets and season passes. No more hand-scanning or visually checking tickets. Instead, a signal from the pass automatically opens the lift gate.

In Rumford, Black Mountain of Maine once again saw significant terrain improvement during the off-season, thanks to the work of the Angry Beavers. The Beavers, an all-volunteer corps dedicated to cutting and maintaining the resort’s glades (along with other volunteer work), have developed over 500 acres of woods with 50 trails and gladed zones over the last decade. A major project for the group this summer was work on The Royal, a steep glade with a number of cliff bands.

Maine is home to over a dozen alpine ski areas, and even those without marquee changes to report were busy during the summer. Bigrock (in Mars Hill), Big Squaw (Greenville), the Camden Snow Bowl (Camden), New Hermon Mountain (Hermon), and Titcomb Mountain (West Farmington) focused on trail maintenance and snowmaking maintenance and upgrades, which were crucial to get open before the Christmas vacation week.

Community hills like Moscow’s Baker Mountain, Jay’s Spruce Mountain, South Berwick’s Powderhouse Hill, Fort Kent’s Lonesome Pine Trails, and Presque Isle’s Quoggy Jo also geared up for the season, and are almost all open as 2020 begins.

Josh Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. During the winter, he writes about skiing and other outdoor recreation in Maine. Josh can be reached at: 

[email protected]


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