Greenville ski area scrambles to fix snowmaking system after storm

The group that maintains Big Moose Mountain must repair its snowmaking system damaged in last month’s devastating wind storm before it can open the revamped ski area for the season. 

Heavy rains from the storm, which left nearly 420,000 without power in Maine, combined with snow at the top of the mountain north of Greenville caused brooks to “rage with more water than we have ever seen,” said Amy Lane, president of Friends of the Mountain.

Like other major ski areas in the state, Big Moose Mountain experienced damage to its roads, and culverts clogged from quick-moving debris and gravel. The storm eroded the dam and caused substantial damage to pump house foundation during a time when producing snow is most needed, she said.

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Mountain
SKI AREA DAMAGE — Damage from December’s devastating windstorm included broken roadways, an eroded dam, and clogged culverts from fast-moving debris. The most urgent restoration that needs to take place is getting the snowmaking system running again so the ski area can open, said Amy Lane, Friends of the Mountain president.

Before the storm hit, Friends of the Mountain was gearing up for a big season. The group completed major improvements to the ski area, including parking upgrades and clearing four upper-mountain trails that people last skied two decades ago before they became overgrown with trees.

With not enough natural snow to open to the public, repairs to the damaged snowmaking system, which pumps water from an area pond to the base of the mountain, are crucial for the ski area to function.

“The snowmaking window here is really short,” Lane said. “We depend on running brooks to provide our water, but it can’t be too cold that they freeze.”

Friends of the Mountain has operated the lower portion of the mountain since 2012. The nonprofit leases the ski area from owner James Confalone.

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Mountain
MORE THAN MOUNTAIN COULD HANDLE – “We would be lying if we said everything was fine,” Friends of the Mountain wrote in a Dec. 20, 2023, Facebook post. “It’s not fine. We knew the rain was coming and were gearing up to turn all of this water into snow. The deluge of rain was more than our mountain was ready to handle.”

The group created a GoFundMe page earlier this week after receiving many inquiries from people interested in supporting its storm recovery efforts. The campaign had raised $4,845 of its $15,000 goal as of Wednesday afternoon, but Friends of the Mountain has not received bills for all the repairs.

Funds will be used to get the snowmaking system running again and cover increasing utility costs, which cost the group “tens of thousands of dollars,” Lane said.

Despite damage from the storm, the group’s work on the mountain continues, including the installation of a warming shed at the summit, which will feature the wood-burned initials of sponsors. It will be available for members of the ski patrol and skiers needing a hot cocoa break, plus it will store evacuation equipment.

The group pledged in March 2022 to use $200,000 to improve the ski area, including an overhaul of the lift and repairs to the lodge. Much of that work is complete, including reclaiming the trails on the upper mountain. After a ski lift failed in 2004 and injured four people, there wasn’t much demand for the trails, and they were mostly abandoned.

The 1986 Borvig Triple chairlift went through a major overhaul, and now it looks new and is safe to operate, Lane said.

“We’re just another snowstorm or a few good snow-making days away from being able to open officially,” she said.

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