Sam Lebel and his friends have been waiting for months for the chance to dust off their snowboards.
So when their local ski resort — Hermon Mountain outside of Bangor — opened for the season Saturday morning, Lebel and his two friends from Winterport, Ian Miller and Kevin Olver, weren’t about to let a little cold keep them from the slopes.
“We couldn’t wait,” said the 15-year-old Lebel, red-faced after snowboarding for nearly five hours in single-digit temperatures.
“It’s fun going out, hanging out with friends and snowboarding all day,” Miller said.
Bill Whitcomb, owner of Hermon Mountain, said he initially was worried that the unusually cold weather would deter some visitors on the resort’s opening day. But the skiers and snowboarders came anyway.
“It was an awesome opening day, very busy,” Whitcomb said Saturday evening.
Most of Maine’s larger ski resorts have been open for business for a few weeks, although not all trails are open. Some smaller operations, such as Hermon Mountain, were opening this weekend. Wildly fluctuating temperatures in recent weeks have made snowmaking more difficult, but the recent cold spell combined with some natural snow have allowed many resorts to lay a solid base.
Big Rock Ski Resort in Mars Hill opened the first week of December and had six of the mountain’s 22 trails open as of Saturday. Big Rock’s general manager, Travis Kearney, said the slopes were busy Saturday despite the frigid weather.
“By Christmas break we plan to be pretty much near 100 percent,” Kearney said.
Others, such as the Camden Snow Bowl, were looking forward to Sunday’s major storm in order to open their slopes. Local accumulations were expected to vary, but meteorologists predicted most of the state could see 10 to 16 inches before the storm tapers off this morning.
The new snow should be welcome news to some of the smallest commercial ski slopes that rely entirely on Mother Nature. Back at Hermon Mountain, which does use snowmaking machines, Whitcomb said he hopes the storm will allow them to open additional trails and the popular tubing areas. On Saturday, two of eight trails were open from the top, he said.
Olver, who was part of the trio of Winterport teens, said Saturday was his first attempt on a snowboard. Olver, 15, said he had only a few spills during the day.
Asked if he planned to try snowboarding again, Olver quickly replied: “Definitely. Probably tomorrow.”