BIG MOOSE TOWNSHIP, Maine — The parking lot was full and the snow was falling as Big Squaw Mountain Ski Resort started its second week of chairlift operation on Sunday.
The Friends of Squaw Mountain, a nonprofit volunteer group, leased the resort on Big Moose Mountain from James Confalone for the season for $1. The group has been working to restore the lodge, chairlift and mountain to use after three years of neglect.
“It’s been great,” said Amy Lane, president of the Friends of Squaw Mountain. “A little snow everyday and more and more people everyday.”
Noel Wohlforth said he was the person who had to shut down the upper chairlift several years ago after an accident. He was delighted to be able to start up the lower lift this month. The upper trails remain closed.
“It’s great. I was standing there when they took the first skiers [up the lift],” said Wohlforth.
Ten of the 13 lower trails are now open, said Lane. About 140 lift tickets were sold on Saturday, said Wohlforth. He expected more on Sunday because of the mountain’s Mogul Mites, a learn-to-ski program for kids.
Many of the kids in the program had parents who had skied the mountain when they were young.
“I got a season pass every single year since I was 7 years old,” said Nathan Woodbury of Greenville. He was at the mountain with his 6-year-old son, Ocean, who was learning to ski.
“It’s amazing. It’s nostalgic to see him go down the same trails I went down,” said Woodbury, 28. “I was the same age he is now when I first started skiing. It seems like so long ago.”
Woodbury said he volunteered in helping repair the lodge.
His girlfriend, Cordelia Seeley of Greenville, said the mountain has a personal connection with many people.
“Everyone has such positive memories of this place,” said Seeley. “That’s what I always hear. It’s so great to be able to be here with our kids.”
She said the opening of the ski resort has had a ripple effect on local businesses.
“It’s awesome for business because people are starting to come back to the area a little bit more,” said Seeley, who works at Stress Free Moose Pub and Cafe in Greenville. “We see people come in and they say, ‘Oh, we’re headed up to the mountain.’ Word’s getting around [that the mountain is open].”
Woodbury said he saw a line of cars outside Northwoods Outfitters in Greenville.
“People are renting skis and getting boots,” he said. “I haven’t seen it like that in five years. Ever since the mountain closed down it has not been like that.”
Resort owner Confalone also made an appearance at the mountain on Saturday.
“He liked what he was seeing,” said Rodney Folsom, agent for Confalone and volunteer at the mountain. “He was generous enough to give us the place for a dollar. We’re trying to make it work.”
The kitchen was working in full force to feed the parents and kids on Sunday.
“They all come in at once, especially on Sundays,” said Bill Fling, Friends of Squaw Mountain board member and kitchen leader. “All these kids are going to come in here and noontime right on the dot — all 35 of them and their parents. We’re out straight.”
Lane had a constant smile on her face while helping with the Mogul Mites program.
“There was never a doubt in my mind [that the resort would be a success],” she said. “Once we committed back in December to opening, it wasn’t a matter of if we were going to open, it was just a matter of when. Now that Mother Nature is on our side, we hope to have some great skiing through the end of March.”