GREENVILLE, Maine — When it’s 15 degrees out and the wind is blowing at 20-25 mph, not many people consider this to be “nice weather” — unless you’re a skier, of course.
And last week’s sunny skies made conditions ideal for Big Squaw Mountain in Greenville.
“The whole family enjoys it up here,” said David Bedell of York. “I go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake in the morning and ski in the afternoon. [Squaw Mountain] is fantastic. And the food is great, too.”
More than 140 people bought lift tickets on Jan. 2 alone, bringing the season’s total to over 1,400, said Amy Lane, president of the Friends of Squaw Mountain. “We’ve had a lot of first-timers this year, which is very encouraging.”
Lane, with her husband, Steve, are usually “the first ones here in the morning and the last ones to leave at night. But I love it, even though [Jan. 2] was the first time I’ve been able to get out on the slopes since before Christmas.”
Squaw Mountain bought three used snow guns from Plattekill Mountain, a small resort in upstate New York earlier this fall, but they’ve only had to use them twice — mostly to fill bare spots.
“Rodney [Folsom] stayed up all night a few days ago filling in the spots by the lift,” said Amy Lane.
After the facility was shuttered for three years, Squaw Mountain reopened in February 2013 with a group of volunteers, retirees and business owners who donated thousands of dollars in goods and services and raised enough funds to get it off the ground.
Last winter’s heavy snowpack, which lasted from December to April, sparked the sale of more than 7,000 tickets, and the money went right back into the business.
This year, the IRS approved the mountain’s application as a nonprofit 501(c) (3) corporation, which may make fundraising easier in the future.
But for skiers such as Melody Salmi, Big Squaw Mountain is the best bargain in the Northeast.
“One weekend, five of us went to a resort in western Maine,” Salmi recalled. “By the time we paid for rentals, lessons for two people, food and overnight accommodations, we spent around $1,500. Season tickets at Big Squaw are only $250 for adults and $200 for students.”
Salmi is a professional show dog handler, travels extensively and spent only 70 days in Greenville during 2014.
“And I was here every day I could make it,” she said.
“What they have done here is amazing. It gets kids away from their video games and iPads and out getting exercise in ‘God’s Country,’” she added.
Earlier this year, Salmi purchased a sponsorship banner for a lift chair; and even though a season ticket was part of the package, she still bought one.
“I’m going to support this place any way I can,” she said.
Rocky Rockwell has been Greenville Consolidated School’s ski coach since the late 1990s, and having a reliable place to practice and host meets has been a blessing to the program, he said.
“We’ve had opportunities to train every day but two since Dec. 19,” Rockwell said. “This has been a huge boost to our program as well as the Moosehead Lake region in general.”
Rockwell said that the mountain needs “about 6 or 8 more inches of snow before we can race. But the forecast looks promising. The kids are really excited about this year.”
Big Squaw Mountain has returned to its 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday through Sunday schedule, but it also will be open on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 19.
For updates and trail conditions, visit www.skibigsquaw.com and the Friends of Squaw Mountain Facebook page.