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MARS HILL, Maine — Last August, when the Maine Winter Sports Center announced that it was ending its relationship with the Bigrock Mountain Alpine Ski Area and turning over ownership to the community, many supporters of the facility feared that they never could raise the more than $200,000 that was needed to save it from closure.
But after a three-month-long fundraising effort, supporters helped garner the necessary funding to open Bigrock for the winter. And while fundraising continues, Bill Getman, general manager at Bigrock, said late last week that the mountain has had one of the best winters in years.
“It really has been great to see all of the community support,” he said from his office on the Mars Hill mountain. “The community stepped up for us, as did supporters in surrounding communities. They continue to step up for us. We know that people appreciate what we do here and the services that we provide.”
The Maine Winter Sports Center purchased the ski area in 1999 and, with funding from the Libra Foundation, invested more than $6 million in improving the facility, expanding the snowmaking systems and adding a new triple chairlift and a tubing park.
The center ended a 13-year relationship with Bigrock when it made its announcement in August. Shortly thereafter, the group Friends of Bigrock was formed to help raise money to open the mountain and continue operations.
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 their target to $300,000 to ensure funding to support a turnaround plan that mountain leadership believes will take three years.
Management announced a plan at the time to continue fundraising and seek supporting grants.
Getman said that while this winter initially was hampered by rain in early January, revenue during the first week of February has doubled from where it was one year ago. He said that Bigrock has been offering specials such as reduced prices on lift tickets, lower prices during certain days of the week, and more opportunities to get children interested in skiing, including through its “Ski For Life” program. Through that initiative, children pay a small fee for rental equipment, a lift ticket and a ski lesson on the weekends.
“We’ve also been more active on social media, doing more advertising that way,” he said. “That has brought us more attention, I believe. Once the snow is gone, we are going to move right into thinking about what we can do to make money during the summer. We are sure we can better use this facility all year long. Can we do mountain biking or a tough mountain climb or a summer music series? Possibly. Those are all potential options.”
With 980 feet of vertical drop, Bigrock Mountain is the tallest ski area in northern Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.
Donations are still being collected for Bigrock at www.gofundme.com/save-BigrockMountain.