CAMDEN, Maine — A plan for the Camden Snow Bowl will tear down the old lodge and push a new, twice-as-large building against Ragged Mountain — a lodge and slope plan that should make recreation easier for Snow Bowl visitors. At a meeting Tuesday night, officials and the plan’s architect whipped out charts and slide shows for a room of 60 people to show off their mountainside plans that have been two years in the making.
“I can’t overstate the importance of the Snow Bowl to this community,” said John Christie, a Maine resident who has owned several ski resorts and wrote a book on the history of Sugarloaf. “It’s all part of a uniqueness that can’t be found anywhere else,” he said of the mountain, which offers skiers a view of the sea as they zigzag down the mountain.
The mountain is owned by the town of Camden, which makes the Snow Bowl a potential burden to taxpayers. In the plan, the $6.5 million in expenses will be carried mostly by private donations. Jeff Kuller, the director of Camden Parks and Recreation, said he expects the town’s property tax payers to take on $2 million of the $6.5 million over a 20-year bond — tacking on about 6 cents to the mill rate.
The plan, made by Stephen Blatt Architects, calls for a 13,700-square-foot lodge at the base of the mountain. The cedar-sided building will be two stories. The downstairs will feature a lobby, public lockers, the ski rental store, a meeting room and a first-aid room. The second floor has a great room that will offer panoramic views of the trails and the nearby pond. It also will have a kitchen, eating space and wrap-around porches at snow-level.
“Our efforts have been to tame it, make it sensible, relaxed and comforting,” Blatt said.
Other parts of his plan include relocating the lodge to a position in the middle of the slopes, rather than to the side of them. The plan also includes a paved road to the mountain and parking lots separated by walls of trees. The slopes will be re-arranged to keep snow tubers to the right of the lodge, beginners in their own space to the right of the lodge with a moving-sidewalk lift and the more advanced skiers will be in the two center-most slopes. Veteran skiers, under the plan, will be able to ride the new lifts to the top of the mountain — something skiers can’t do now.
A new, higher-capacity, faster-performing snow maker will cover more of the mountain more quickly under the new plan.
According to Kuller, the mountain will offer year-round access for hikers, bikers, Frisbee golfers, swimmers and more, but about 90 percent of Snow Bowl income comes from downhill skiers, so many of the changes are tailored to those needs.
In the question-and-answer session at Tuesday night’s community meeting, a resident asked why now is the time to make improvements.
Rick Knowlton, the co-chair of the redevelopment committee, said the current Snow Bowl assets are aging and are costly in terms of upkeep, including heating costs for the inefficient building.
“We think this is the perfect time to set a new bar — the facilities are tired,” Knowlton said.
No timeline has been set for the project. According to Kuller, it all depends on the fundraising. So far, volunteers have raised almost $2 million, according to redevelopment committee co-chair Bob Gordon. They must raise about $2.5 million more in private donations and grant money. Once the money is raised, the committee will ask the Camden Selectboard to ask voters to bond the remaining $2 million for the project.