Lights bring night skiing back to Pittsfield

Posted Jan. 30, 2011, at 8:05 p.m.
Amya Braley, 4, holds tight on Friday as a rope tow pulls her up the hill at Pinnacle Park in Pittsfield.
Amya Braley, 4, holds tight on Friday as a rope tow pulls her up the hill at Pinnacle Park in Pittsfield.
Amya Braley, 4, of Pittsfield, has her helmet adjusted by her father, Cory Braley, on Friday, January 28, 2011 at the Pinnacle in Pittsfield. Amya has been on skis since she was two years old, according to her father.
Amya Braley, 4, of Pittsfield, has her helmet adjusted by her father, Cory Braley, on Friday, January 28, 2011 at the Pinnacle in Pittsfield. Amya has been on skis since she was two years old, according to her father.
A group of skiers finish up a run on the main trail Friday, January 28, 2011 at the Pinnacle, a publicly-owned ski facility in Pittsfield.
A group of skiers finish up a run on the main trail Friday, January 28, 2011 at the Pinnacle, a publicly-owned ski facility in Pittsfield.

PITTSFIELD, Maine — When the lights at Pinnacle Park are on at night, it’s almost as if the snow is shining brighter back up at them.

Skiers coming down the main trail weave through the large, illuminated circles and the shadows between, the cuts of their skis throwing puffs of powdered brilliance. On Friday, this was a scene that hadn’t been seen at the Pinnacle in at least three years, but night skiing is back thanks to repairs to the lighting system and a decent snowpack.

Youths have been learning to ski at Pinnacle since 1953, a tradition that continues on Saturdays for anyone who is a member of the Pinnacle Ski Club. The property, located on Waverly Street, is owned by the town of Pittsfield and Maine Central Institute. Though the names of the trails are informal, Big Hill, Little Hill, Head-wall, Country Trail and Sewer-Side Trail are part of the local lexicon.

Amya Braley was one of a few dozen people skiing at the park Friday night, and at 4 years old definitely the youngest on the Big Hill. In pink ski gear, she held the thick tow rope and was whisked up the hill. About a quarter of the way up she lets go and glides back to the bottom with grace and confidence, and soon will be ski-ing from the top.

“This is her third year already,” said Amya’s father, Cory Braley, while adjusting her helmet. “She started at 2 and she took to it well.”

Even from the top the run to the bottom is quick, but so is the ascent along a quick-moving tow rope. That allows for dozens of runs in a short period of time.

Jennifer Siter, president of the Pinnacle Ski Club, said more than 50 memberships were purchased this year, representing more than 160 skiers. Those are average numbers for so early in the season, said Siter, but they could grow if the snow keeps falling. The $75 memberships, which can cover a family of five, support the maintenance of the park. That includes materials to fix the lights, which were repaired with the help of Cianbro Corp., who donated the use of a specialized piece of equipment designed to reach high places.

Siter said the club, which is responsible for operating and maintaining the park, is exploring the possibility of installing snow-making equipment so the facility doesn’t lie dormant when there’s not enough natural snow.

“Slow years hurt us financially,” said Siter. “We have to rely on Mother Nature when we can’t make our own snow.”

Siter said the club has some funding set aside and may appeal to the community for donations for the project, though no firm decisions have been made.

Keeping things running requires a lot of volunteer hours — much of it fulfilled by a requirement that each member contribute 10 hours a season. There are two rope tows to operate, trails to groom, a skating ring to maintain and numerous other tasks.

“We could always use more volunteers,” said Gary Jordan Jr., the club’s secretary. “It’s a core group of people who keep this place going.”

For more information about the ski club or to volunteer, visit www.pinnacleskiclub.wordpress.com. The facility is open from noon to 4 p.m. weekends and from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. More information is available in the Pinnacle Lodge.

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