WATERVILLE — Sam Shirley took a short break from cross country skiing Saturday to get a drink of water at Quarry Road Trails, but soon, he was right back at it.

“I started coming here during college,” Shirley, 23, said. “This is the only cross country ski area in the state that makes snow. It’s amazing. It’s basically a big city park that’s great to have in Maine in general because when there is no snow anywhere else you can come here and there’s a lot. It’s a great place.”

Shirley, of Farmington, is a Massachusetts native who came to Maine specifically for the outdoor recreation business administration program at the University of Maine at Farmington, and graduated with that degree last year. He now works for the conservation organization High Peaks Alliance and loves Maine so much he plans to stay, he said. Amenities such as Quarry Road Trails make it even more attractive, he said.

“It’s the only one of its kind in Maine,” he said.

Saturday was sunny and a cool 27 degrees and, with the artificial snow and several inches of natural snow that fell Friday into Saturday, Quarry Road was booming.

Top-notch snow-making equipment, along with a new air compressor, has allowed the trails to withstand difficult weather conditions to continue to make snow, city officials say. Quarry Road has hosted events in recent weeks that were supposed to be held elsewhere, but were rescheduled for Waterville because of the lack of snow in other places.


Hundreds of cross country skiers of all ages skied free of charge Saturday as part of a Colby College-hosted event in the afternoon. Children in grades four through eight also took part in the “Learn to Downhill Ski” program in the morning on the alpine slope where they learned to use a rope tow.

Dave MacLeay, a snowmaker with Quarry Road Trails in Waterville, uses a torch to adjust a snow gun Dec. 28 as the nordic ski area tries to overcome unseasonably warm temperatures and rain. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Jeff Tucker, program director for Quarry Road Trails, which is run by the city, said that in some ways, the lack of snow this winter has been tough, but the artificial snow being made, in addition to the recent snowfall, makes a big difference. Artificial snow, he said, holds up really well in warm temperatures, and even rain.

Jeff Tucker Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

“Our snow making system, and probably more importantly, our snow making volunteers, are really world class,” he said.

Tucker, who also is a high school ski club coach, had just returned to Quarry Road early Saturday afternoon from races in Bethel.

With more snow expected Sunday into Monday and later in the week, the trails should remain in good shape, according to Tucker.

“The long-term forecast is looking really good for us,” he said. “More snow is on the way.”


First-time skiers learn how to use the rope tow Saturday during ski class at Quarry Road Trails in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

He said the average skier thinks when there’s not a lot of snowfall, there’s no skiing, but Quarry Road has had cross country skiing since Thanksgiving, anywhere from a half mile loop to just over a mile of track. The Eastern Cup Ski, scheduled for the first weekend in February, is expected to draw about 500 people from all over New England, as well as New York and Canada, he said.

“We draw people from all over, especially for that early season snow,” he said.

Sitting on a picnic table outside the welcome center, Peggy Jones, 20, of Ghana, was taking a break from cross country skiing, which she was experiencing for the first time.

A freshman at Colby College studying economics, computer science and mathematics, Jones said she has been in the United States only about five months and the snowfall is the most she has ever seen. She said she was enjoying learning how to ski.

“I think you need a lot of practice to get the hang of it,” she said. “It’s just a lot of falling. I’ve fallen, like, four times. I’ll get the hang of it and it is going to be so fun.”

Gale Davison, center, issues skis to Katie Carlson at the visitor’s center Saturday at Quarry Road Trails in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

At the welcome center, which is actually a yurt, a steady stream of skiers came in and out to either get equipment or return it. Some people purchased granola bars or other snacks and some brought in hot food they bought from Pinky D’s Poutine Factory food truck outside.

Gale Davison, a center staff employed by the city, said the recent snow served as a magnet, drawing lots of people Saturday.

Tucker noted that Quarry Road is a four-season location that has not only skiing but also snowshoeing, hiking, mountain biking, a running race series in the summer, disc golf and a boat launch at Messalonskee Stream. The site is open every day and even has lights on a mile of trail for night skiing, which goes until 9 p.m., he said. He recommended people visit quarryroad.org for more information about year-round activities, and quarryroadskiclub.org to learn about youth programs. Quarry Road also has a Facebook page, he said.


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