June 19, 2018
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Squaw Mountain’s potential may help economy

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

BIG MOOSE TOWNSHIP, Maine— Most people agree that the privately owned Squaw Mountain Resort and ski area has great potential to become a first-class ski facility, but whether it is appropriate for county government to play a role in that process is questionable, according to county officials.

On Wednesday, Piscataquis County Commissioners Tom Lizotte, Eric Ward and Fred Trask, along with County Manager Marilyn Tourtelotte and Erik Stumpfel, an attorney for the county, met at the mountain for about two hours with owner James Confalone and his manager, Javier Romero, to discuss the mountain’s future. While there, the commissioners toured the closed hotel and restaurant complex, as well as the chairlift building, Lizotte said Thursday.

“The Big Squaw Mountain ski resort is an impressive property with the best view in Maine and tons of potential,” Lizotte said. “The question is how to turn that potential into reality to benefit the economy and whether it is appropriate for county government to play a role in that process.”

Confalone said earlier this year that he spent millions of dollars fixing up the resort property before the economy took a dive. In recent years, the lower mountain has been open only on weekends and school vacations, depending upon Mother Nature since the mountain has no snowmaking equipment. The hotel and restaurant on the upper mountain have been closed.

Residents and ski enthusiasts hope the four-season resort will make a comeback to its heyday, when it played a vital role in the Moosehead Lake region economy.

In late August, Confalone offered to lease the ski area to the county for $1 a year for 30 years, but that offer was contingent on the commissioners acting on the offer within 60 days, and it excluded the hotel and main restaurant.

The offer was made after the commissioners discussed whether the ski resort was in operation enough for the county to continue to plow the county-owned access road to the resort. The commissioners voted to continue the maintenance after several people told them that local volunteers operated an after-school ski program on the lower mountain and that the lower lift was available to the public on weekends and vacations.

Lizotte said the commissioners have made no decision on Confalone’s offer but will consider what they heard and saw at the mountain and will continue their discussion at their Oct. 19 meeting.

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