Camden Snow Bowl plans upgrades, improvements; report touts economic benefits of recreation area

Posted Oct. 26, 2013, at 9:01 a.m.
Last modified Oct. 28, 2013, at 6:33 a.m.

CAMDEN, Maine — The Camden Snow Bowl is an economic engine for the region with more than $5 million annually generated as a result of the four-season recreation complex best known for its ski area.

An economic impact study was released Oct. 16 by the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Foundation. The release comes ahead of the Nov. 5 vote on whether the town should borrow $2 million to allow for a package of major improvements to the town-owned recreation area.

“The Snow Bowl is and continues to be a huge asset for the town of Camden and the region,” said Rick Knowlton, a co-chairman of the Ragged Mountain Redevelopment Committee.

The report by Camoin Associates of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., concluded that the Snow Bowl supports 62 jobs in the area. While the Snow Bowl is the most well known part of the Ragged Mountain recreation area along with its toboggan chute, the land is also used for hiking, canoeing, bicycling, walking, field sports and tennis to make it a four-season destination.

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The ski resort directly or indirectly generates $3.7 million in retail sales each year, according to the report. Another $1.4 million in salaries and benefits are attributed to the Snow Bowl.

The Snow Bowl has averaged nearly 30,000 users since 2008-09. The fewest users occurred in 2011-12, and the greatest number of users was in 2010-11.

The planned upgrades at the Snow Bowl would stabilize revenues generated by the recreation facility, Knowlton said. The ski resort has seen its revenues fluctuate sharply because of weather and limits on the snow-making equipment.

Annual usage could peak at 40,000 with the upgrades, he said.

The $2 million that would be borrowed by the town would match $4.5 million in private money that has been raised and pledged. Knowlton has pointed out that the work will not begin until all the pledged money has been received.

Work is expected t0 begin in the spring.

The redevelopment of the Snow Bowl calls for new ski lifts, an expanded beginners ski area, added and improved parking, new snowmaking equipment and a new, larger lodge. The latest estimate on the cost of the proposed two-story, 8,400-square-foot lodge is nearly $2.2 million. The new lodge would replace the existing lodge, which is slightly more than 4,000 square feet.

The new and upgraded ski lifts are projected to cost $1.9 million. Snowmaking is projected to cost nearly $1 million.

The lodge is scheduled to be the final part of the construction project, tentatively set to be built in 2015.

The project has been seven years in the making. In November 2008, Camden voters approved a nonbinding referendum, 2,037 to 1,273, to borrow $2 million if supporters could raise $4.5 million in private money. The foundation then went to work and raised that money.

The cost to the property taxpayers if the bond is approved is an average of $110,000 in annual loan repayments over the next 30 years. This amounts to about $9 per year for someone owning a home assessed at $300,000.

The $2 million being requested from taxpayers over the next 30 years is nearly the same as the $1.9 million spent by the town over the past 30 years since the Camden Outing Club turned the Snow Bowl over to the town, Knowlton said at a meeting earlier this year.

The report found that of the 30,000 users of the Snow Bowl each year, 16 percent are from Camden, 24 percent are within a 30-minute drive of the facility in Camden, and the remainder are from a greater distance.

Camion Associates surveyed 3,600 users. Local users spent an average of $65 per trip including food, drink, transportation, recreation and souvenirs. Non-local users spent an average of $132 per trip.

There are 73 employees who work at the Snow Bowl, but most are seasonal and part-time, according to the report. The consultants determined that between jobs at the Snow Bowl and jobs created indirectly from visitors who shop in the Camden area while visiting the ski resort, a total of 62 jobs are created.

The referendum before voters notes that in addition to the $2 million in principal, the town will pay $735,000 in interest.

Camden has slightly less than $2.5 million in debt other than the Snow Bowl proposal.

Knowlton said he is very optimistic that the referendum will be approved by Camden voters.

“This makes sense in economic terms even if you are not a user of the recreation facilities,” he said.

There are about 4,000 registered voters in Camden.

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