After a long wait, downhill skiing is on its way back to the Quarry Road Trails.

The Friends of Quarry Road, a non-profit organization of volunteers, has raised the money necessary to build a rope tow at the base of the long-closed Alpine skiing area, bringing downhill back to the Nordic skiing hotspot and prompting hopes for even more development in the years to come.

“It kicks off the re-opening of Alpine,” Friends of Quarry Road president Joe Reisert said. “We found a lot of people really excited about it. The number of people that have agreed to be a part of the Alpine project was really surprising. It was really fast to get people to sign up.”

Reisert said that volunteers began lining up once word got out about trying to bring Alpine back to the Waterville park.

“We reached out to supporters in the community. Some of it was us asking, and there were a couple of people who heard about the possibility of Alpine re-opening and got in touch with us,” said Reisert, whose group got its biggest donations from Golden Pond Wealth Management and Ned and Erica Ervin. “(They were) saying ‘We’re really excited about Alpine, what can we do to help?'”

The rope tow, which according to a release from the Friends of Quarry Road cost $32,904, will go roughly a quarter of the way up the hill and be installed in early January, and is the product of a fundraising effort that ran from August to the end of October and netted $22,300, with a matching $20,000 coming from the Bill and Joan Alfond Foundation. With the 400-foot rope tow in place, skiers will be able to ski a 75-foot drop, and there will be a terrain park added as well.

Justin Pinette, a volunteer snowmaker for Quarry Road Trails, works through the night with the temperatures dropping into the mid teens last Thursday to make snow for the Nordic ski trails. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“There will be a learn to ski program for two weekends at the end of January,” Reisert said. “The rope tow will give people a taste, maybe, for what Alpine could be right here. We hope it gives people a taste, and leaves them wanting more and then facilitates making the case to the city for re-opening Alpine.”

The Quarry Road facility used to have a bustling Alpine scene at the hill run by Colby College before the area closed in the 1970s. The land was then sold by Colby to the city of Waterville in 2008, and work began to turn the park into the Nordic facility that is widely used today and is the site of interscholastic competitions.

All the while, however, there were thoughts of revitalizing the dormant Alpine aspect to the facility.

“From the very beginning, the hope had been eventually to re-open Alpine,” Reisert said. “It’s just that developing Nordic was in some ways easier to get going with less capital.”

The hope now is that the rope tow is a door opening to further development of the Alpine hill. Reisert said the Friends of Quarry Road have aspirations of working with the city to make full use of the hill’s 250-foot drop, including up to five runs for its skiers.

“They wouldn’t be long runs, but they’d be steep and challenging,” he said.

Reisert said he wasn’t sure if the facility, even if it reaches that point, would be able to hold the high school Alpine competitions that the Nordic area does.

“If the venue is re-opened from the top, I think it’s close to being big enough to hold high school races,” he said. “I’m not 100 percent sure on that, but I think that might be a possibility.”

Kelly Leblond, a volunteer snowmakers for Quarry Road Trails in Waterville, adjusts the water pressure to the snow guns last Thursday. The Nordic trails were getting a fresh coat of snow for skiers to utilize. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The biggest obstacle is the cost of not only preparing trails, but providing the hill with lifts and snow-making equipment.

“Even a T-bar is a three-quarter of a million dollar proposition,” Reisert said. “Raising money for that and getting trails cleared, working with insurers and finding out if that’s something the city is ready to do, there’s complexity there.

The goal now is to build a base of interest that would be able to support a bigger venture.

“What we’re trying to do on the Alpine side is follow that same (Nordic) strategy, build a user base so that when the day comes that there is a lift to the top, there’s already interest and demand,” Reisert said. “It’s going to be important, before anybody invests in building an Alpine area at the venue, to know that it will make money.”

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