Local ski areas receive big boost from three-day snowstorm

By John Holyoke, BDN Staff
Posted Jan. 04, 2010, at 10:25 p.m.

For some of us, the recent snowstorm meant more shoveling, more backaches and some treacherous traveling.

At many of the state’s ski resorts, however, when the three-day storm finally exited Maine on Sunday, it left lift lines full of smiling customers in its wake.

Up in Mars Hill, the marketing manager at Bigrock Ski Resort said a sizeable crowd headed to the mountain on Sunday to enjoy the new snow.

“We got about 10 inches,” said marketing manager Mark Shea, the programming director for the Maine Winter Sports Center, which bought the resort in 2000. “As with most places in the County, we had a little bit of changeover from snow to a light drizzle on Saturday evening.”

That drizzle wasn’t a concern, according to Shea, who said that on Sunday, another inch of snow fell on Bigrock.

“Actually in the long-term that wasn’t a bad thing at this time of year,” he said of the drizzle. “It’ll firm up the base and will keep [the snow] on the mountain rather than have it blown away with the heavy winds that followed the drizzle.”

Shea said Bigrock has received 56 inches of snow already this season, which is probably a bit less than it got by the same date over the past two snowy winters. He’s not complaining.

“It gets us off to a good start, and any time we have the whole mountain open by Christmas break week, it’s a harbinger of good things for us,” Shea said.

Over at New Hermon Mountain in Hermon, owner Bill Whitcomb said he kept busy grooming the 14 or 15 inches of snow that fell.

“We were out packing it so it couldn’t blow off,” Whitcomb said.

Whitcomb said his tubing park had been scheduled to open on Sunday even without the storm, but the snowfall certainly helped. And the light rain or drizzle that fell at the end of the storm will further solidify the base, he said.

Whitcomb said that during December he’s usually nervously awaiting natural snow. For the past two years, Mother Nature has taken care of matters.

“We had an identical [situation] last year,” he said. “When we finally got snow last year, we never got any rain for the rest of the season. Hopefully we’re going to do the same thing we did last year.”

Down the coast, the general manager of the Camden Snow Bowl, Jeff Kuller, said the storm turned out perfectly.

“It was amazing,” he said. “We had people calling from a few miles away saying it was raining there, [asking] what it was doing [at the mountain]. But it was snowing here almost all day.”

At the end of the storm, Kuller estimated the mountain received 22 inches or so of heavy, wet snow that will set up a nice base for later in the year.

“[It has] a lot of moisture. Dense,” Kuller said. “It wasn’t champagne powder [on Sunday] but people were having fun. It’s the kind of snow you love at the beginning of the season.”

Kuller said the snowfall allowed crews to open all the trails below the Snow Bowl’s chair lift. A T-bar carries skiers a bit further up the mountain, but that wasn’t running on Sunday.

Rain that fell a week ago had limited operations and left the snow cover patchy, Kuller said.

“We went from 15 percent of open terrain to about 85 percent in a day and a half,” Kuller said.

At Sugarloaf in Kingfield, communications manager Ethan Austin could sum up the storm in four words.

“It was pretty incredible,” he said.

Austin said that the storm lingered over Sugarloaf on Sunday night, dropping a couple more inches on an already sizeable total.

“That puts our storm total since New Year’s Eve at 27 to 29 inches, which is pretty good,” Austin said.

Austin said most of the snow — about 15 inches — fell between 4 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday.

“There were a lot of smiling faces up here yesterday,” Austin said on Monday. “It was a nice way to end vacation week. We were fortunate that the storm hit on the weekend. A lot of people were able to get out and enjoy it.”

And while it rained a bit further down the Carrabassett River valley, the mountain itself never received rain and temperatures hovered around 32 degrees.

In addition, the resort never had to deal with some of the other problems that often accompany major snowstorms.

“Usually these nor’easters leave us with crazy winds and we have all kinds of difficulties getting lifts running,” Austin said. “We had all our lifts running [on Sunday], it was 32 degrees and we had two feet of powder on the ground. It was about as perfect a day as you can imagine.”

jholyoke@bangordailynews.net

990-8214

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/01/04/outdoors/local-ski-areas-receive-big-boost-from-threeday-snowstorm/ printed on July 24, 2014