Chairlift issues stalling opening of Big Squaw Mountain

The chairlift at Big Squaw Mountain in Greenville was being worked on on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013.
Alex Barber | BDN
The chairlift at Big Squaw Mountain in Greenville was being worked on on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. Buy Photo
By Alex Barber, BDN Staff
Posted Jan. 25, 2013, at 7:05 p.m.

GREENVILLE, Maine — Electrical problems with the chairlift have delayed the opening of the Big Squaw Mountain Ski Resort, the president of the group operating the resort said Friday.

“The fact that [ski operations are] such a specialized industry, there are only about three technicians in all of New England that can service the electrical components on the chairlift,” said Amy Lane, president of Friends of Squaw Mountain. “We had a person scheduled two weeks ago, but Sunday River [in Bethel] had a problem and they have more priority [than we do]. This is the third reschedule.”

The chairlift, which was last run in March 2010, is scheduled to be repaired Saturday. Lane said she hopes the resort will open for skiers the first week of February.

The Friends of Squaw Mountain leased the resort from owner James Confalone for $1 this season. The lower eight trails of Big Squaw Mountain, which was renamed Big Moose Mountain by the state, will be open to skiers and snowboarders when the chairlift is fixed and passes inspection. The upper trails will remain closed.

Lane said everything else is ready to go.

“We have all of our food licensing and inspections ready,” said Lane. “The lift houses are ready, the exit ramp [at the top of the lift] has been replaced. We had a huge firewood delivery.”

The parking lots are clear in order to accommodate hundreds of cars, she said.

Being closed the past week wasn’t so bad, said Lane.

“We got six inches of snow last weekend, but it’s been so dry this week with the cold snap,” she said. “It was freezing cold this week. We didn’t miss anything by being closed this week.”

People or businesses were invited to place their name on a chairlift chair for $500. The banners for the chairlifts arrived on Friday, she said. That money was put toward the trail groomer that also arrived on Friday from New Hampshire.

Once the chairlift is operational, it must pass an insurance inspection.

“We have to test it with more than 30,000 pounds of sandbags to replicate people,” said Lane, adding that 180 people can be on the chairlift at one time.

Although there will be no skiing this weekend, the lodge will still be put to use.

A benefit dinner with live music will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

“Local musicians are offering to play for free. We are inviting the general public,” said Lane, adding that the lodge can accommodate 130 people. “We’re serving Italian food. It’s a family friendly event. There will be hot dogs, cookies, hot chocolate, salad, sweets and all that. We’ll serve until it’s gone.”

There is no cost for the dinner. Instead, Lane is asking for donations.

Once the mountain is open to skiers and snowboarders, the lift tickets will be affordable, Lane said.

“We’re doing donations only for lift tickets” instead of set prices, said Lane. “Rental packages [for skiers and snowboarders] are $20 for adults and $15 for kids, which includes skis, boots, bindings and poles.”

Despite the setback on the chairlift, Lane said she’s amazed at how far the Friends of Squaw Mountain have come in just a few weeks time.

“We have a lot to be proud of,” she said.

Anyone interested in attending Saturday’s benefit dinner should contact Bill Fling at 717-3822.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/01/25/news/piscataquis/chairlift-issues-stalling-opening-of-big-squaw-mountain/ printed on October 2, 2014