MARS HILL, Maine — A massive fundraising effort to keep a beloved community ski area open has been successful, officials at Bigrock Mountain in Mars Hill announced Saturday, as supporters have managed to raise more than $200,000 to save the facility from closure.
During a lively Rocktoberfest fundraising celebration at the mountain Saturday, Ryan Guerrette, operations manager at Bigrock, announced during a radio broadcast that Bigrock would open this winter.
“Once I did that, word spread pretty quickly,” he said. “We are going to make the official announcement tonight during the barbecue supper.”
The Maine Winter Sports Center announced on Aug. 6 that it was ending its relationship with the Bigrock Mountain Alpine Ski Area and turning over ownership to the community.
Friends of Bigrock, a group formed to assist with raising money to open the mountain this winter and continue operations in coming years, was quickly formed.
Donations from business and individuals quickly began rolling in, and fundraisers reeled in even more. Friends of Bigrock raised $150,000 in about 40 days, securing $30,000 through an online campaign and the rest through corporate donations from businesses in Aroostook County and Western New Brunswick.
Initially, Friends of Bigrock announced they were looking to raise $150,000. They later increased that amount to $300,000 to ensure funding to support a turnaround plan that the mountain leadership believes will take three years.
Guerrette said Saturday that Bigrock officials decided to make the announcement because they were confident that they were close to transferring ownership of the ski area from the Maine Winter Sports Center to Bigrock’s board of directors.
He said that season passes are now on sale and will likely be available for purchase online next week.
“The fundraising is an ongoing process,” he said Saturday. “We are not going to stop.”
With 980 feet of vertical drop, Bigrock Mountain is the tallest ski area in northern Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.
Maine Winter Sports purchased the ski area in 1999 and, since then with the Libra Foundation, invested more than $6 million in improving the facility, including by expanding the snowmaking systems, and adding a new triple chairlift and a tubing park.
Maine Winter Sports Center ended a 13-year relationship with Bigrock when it made its announcement. Earlier this summer, the organization also announced it was stepping away from Black Mountain in Rumford after 10 years of ownership. Rumford-area community members quickly raised the necessary funds to take over operations of Black Mountain.
Donations may be made at www.gofundme.com/save-BigrockMountain.