There are lots of places to go cross-country skiing in Greater Bangor, but there’s only one place to try your hand at downhill skiing: Hermon Mountain, the family-friendly ski area that boasts 20 trails and offers an affordable way to ski and snowboard all winter long, as well as go tubing. Area skiers and boarders are likely eagerly awaiting the large amounts of snow predicted for this weekend.
As recently as 40 years ago, however, there were at least 12 known ski mountains and hills in the Bangor area of varying size and popularity. A few of them were big enough to boast paid memberships, ski lifts and full-service lodges. Some were little more than a hill with a portable rope tow set up for parts of the winter. Today, they’re all either overgrown, privately owned or in some cases, both.
Here are some of the more notable ones that existed at one time in the greater Bangor region.
Bald Mountain Ski Area, Dedham
People who lived in the Bangor area in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s fondly recall Bald Mountain Ski area in Dedham as a family-run place that was perfect for people just learning how to ski.
Though skiing happened there as early as the 1930s, a major expansion took place in 1951 when a rope tow was installed and many more trails were created. At the peak of its popularity in the 1960s, there were 12 trails, from easy ones such as the Sidewinder to the toughest trails: Bumper Scraper and Old Race Trail. According to a brochure from the 1968-69 ski season found on the New England Lost Ski Areas Project website, an all-day weekend lift ticket was $5 for adults.
Bald Mountain Ski Area was functional until the season ended in 1974, when owner Arthur K. Watson donated the chairlift, T-bar, snowmakers and lights to the Camden Snow Bowl, not long before he died. Today, like many former ski areas, the slopes are overgrown — but hike up the mountain, as many day hikers do, and you can clearly see where just a few decades ago there were trails. And it’s still a popular spot for backcountry skiing enthusiasts.
Essex Street Ski Area, Bangor
Though today Essex Street Recreation Area is a place for bird-watching, jogging, playtime with your dog and ill-advised sledding adventures, at one time in the 1970s, it was the site of a planned municipal ski area that, sadly, never came to fruition.
People had been skiing on the slopes there throughout the 1950s and 60s, and at one point a rope tow was installed. According to a number of Bangor Daily News stories in the 1970s, Rolland Perry (the Bangor city forester for whom the Bangor City Forest is named) had big ideas for the area. The area, adjacent to what was a city dump site until the 1950s, was slowly being reclaimed, and Perry envisioned a municipal winter recreation facility, complete with a ski lodge, rope tow and lights for night skiing, alongside trails for skiing, sledding and snowmobiling.
Though volunteers made some initial progress, clearing out a new ski trail and constructing a small ski lodge (now the Police Athletic League building), the project had fizzled by the late 1970s. This was due in large part to the fact that the downward slope faces into the sun, meaning it was hard to reliably keep skiable snow on the hill.
Today, the slopes where the ski area was are totally overgrown — impossible to ski, but great for a growing array of birds and other wildlife, for dogs chasing balls into the woods, and for mountain bikers who use the newly constructed trails.
It is also notable that Essex Street was not the only ski hill in Bangor. Bald Mountain Ski Area in Dedham would loan out its portable rope tow to the city for use on the large slope in Cascade Park off State Street, though that only happened for a few winters in the 1950s.
Ski Horse, Newburgh
Ski Horse, located on Miles Road in Newburgh, just off Route 202/Western Avenue, was a ski area that was actually operational until 1990 — though only for personal use, as the former owners stopped offering passes and memberships to the general public sometime in the 1970s.
Ski Horse at one time boasted a T-bar, rope tow and ski lodge. Though it only had a 200-300 foot vertical drop, it did have four trails, and today, it remains a popular spot for sledding. The area is private property, but judging by photos taken in 2010 by a Bangor-area ski blogger, lots of evidence remains of the former ski area.
Snow Mountain, Winterport
Not a lot is known about this ski area in Winterport, located off Route 1A just north of the Winterport village. What is known is that the area known as “Snow Mountain” was built sometime in the 1960s, was operational until the mid-1970s, and at one time had two slopes and 10 trails, a rope tow, and a ski shop with rentals. In a flier printed sometime in the 1960s, the ski area’s owners said the slope was the “greatest vertical drop” within 50 miles of Bangor. The area is now on private property, according to the Bangor Lost Ski Areas blog, which also has some photos of what remains of the ski area.