NEWRY, Maine — Skiers and snowboarders have much to look forward to once the season starts in earnest at Western Maine ski resorts.
Owners of Sunday River in Newry and Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley invested $8.3 million in capital improvements during the off-season.
Sunday River’s projects included improved snowmaking, grooming and lifts, renovations to its South Ridge Base Lodge, road maintenance and creation of a new glade, spokeswoman Darcey Morse said Thursday by email.
Additionally, two new real estate developments are being added.
The first, which is located just off the Ridge Run Trail, will include 13 single-home ski-in/ski-out lots, each sized at a little over an acre. These centrally located lots provide direct access to the popular South Ridge base area, Morse said.
The second development, located just off the Sunday River Golf Club course and south of the resort’s Jordan Grand Resort Hotel, will include nine single-home lots ranging between 3 and 4 acres.
The second phase of the area’s Tempest Ridge development is expected to be completed this winter. It will include 12 new townhomes to be built just below the first phase townhomes.
Several renovations will be evident at South Ridge Base Lodge, including double the seating capacity in the food court, which will sport a new Japanese and Korean dining option.
Morse said the owners of Bethel restaurant Cho Sun are putting in a small food court station to offer noodle bowls, sushi and sake.
The lodge will also have added storage for guest belongings, a combined ski and snowboard shop, plus new paint and carpet.
Sunday River added $300,000 in additional snowmaking and grooming equipment, including two new PistenBully 400 grooming machines with “Alpenflex” tillers. The tillers create a better corduroy surface than any other groomer, Morse said.
The resort also invested $300,000 in lift maintenance, including a new drive, carriers, line equipment, ramps, lift houses and paint.
Additionally, work started this summer on the final phase of the Jordan Road reconstruction, which includes a 6,000-foot section.
The Blind Ambition glade was expanded to 75 acres and a mile down-slope, making it twice as large as any of the River’s current glades, Morse said.
At Sugarloaf, the Spillway chairlifts were replaced with a new $3 million state-of-the-art, fixed grip, quad chairlift built by Dopplemayr. Construction is expected to be completed by mid-November.
Sugarloaf also allocated $150,000 to upgrade drive systems in the SuperQuad. The upgrades, which will convert the systems from analog to digital, will provide more reliable and consistent operation with fewer stoppages.
For terrain, an additional 135 acres of glades on Burnt Mountain are to open for the 2011-12 season.
Over in Rangeley at Saddleback Ski Resort, Events Director JoAnne Taylor said Saturday by email they have built a new ski patrol warming hut at the top of the Kennebago quad lift.
They’ve also improved snowmaking on Tight Line, widened the Cupsuptic T-bar line, built additional condos and expanded the PEAK Pass program to include all U.S. and Canadian honor students.
General Manager Christopher Farmer said Saddleback also did a lot of trail work to improve snowmaking efficiency and to reduce snow depth requirements for trail opening.
At Black Mountain of Maine in Rumford, Ski School Director Jennifer Leduc said Friday that they’ve added a new race program led by Julie Parisien, Tim LaVallee and Mark Thibodeau.
Three new trails from the top that were added last year for experts only will reopen this year when there is enough snow.
Hoping to expand snowmaking capacity, Black is also demoing new snowmaking equipment, Leduc said.
They also still have free season passes for children in kindergarten, first and second grades in Maine. Many children are already signed up for ski lessons, she said.
The resort’s first snowmobile hill climb will be held on Dec. 17. The next day, Black Mountain will open for the season, a week earlier than normal.
“We’re excited to get started,” Leduc said.