CAMDEN — Monday was a beautiful day to begin lifting the chairlift towers up Ragged Mountain at the Camden Snow Bowl, and while everybody had hoped to have all 24 towers bolted to their footings on the mountain in one day, it wasn't to be.
The first two towers were hoisted up with precision and seeming ease, and their placement and attachment to the cement footings went just as smooth. The third, and taller tower, gave the crews on the ground trouble, as they had a hard time getting the first bolt secured to allow rapid-fire finishing with the other bolts.
CHI Aviation of Howell, Mich., was contracted to supply the helicopter, and they deployed their four-bladed, twin-engine Eurocopter AS332 L1 Super Puma, pilot Doug Szyperski and a crew for the job.
As the third tower was being positioned over the footing, and the crew charged with grasping the tower's base and guiding it over the bolts, clouds rolled in and the lighting changed dramatically for the pilot looking down from above. Whether it was the lighting or a change in the air flow, both teams made multiple attempts to put the hole over the pin.
Just as it looked like they might have it, the tower would again come up and the ground crew would cling to the base until the last minute, letting go before they went up the air. After five or six failed attempts, it was decided to lay the tower in a clearing, and bring up a crane later to lift it up into place.
"While they were attempting to put the tower up, one of the times they were able to get it over a bolt, but it lifted up and to the side, bending the bolt," said Snow Bowl General Manager Landon Fake. "They tried to fix the bolt, and give it another go, but it couldn't be fixed enough to put the tower up so they decided to move on."
Fake and Facilities Manager William "Fitzy" Fitzcharles have both been eyeing a Dec. 20 opening date since the $6.5 million redevelopment project got under way on the ground this spring. And the entire Snow Bowl staff continues to work hard to make that happen.
Monday's work was to include flying up and installing 15 of the 16 towers for the triple chairlift, and eight of the nine towers for double chairlift. Snow Bowl Asst. Director Beth Ward said that the #1 towers for both chairlifts are close enough to the bottom of the mountain for the Snow Bowl to use a crane to install them.
|Editor’s note: This story has been edited to correct the number of total towers, as well as the number of towers completed Monday.|
As of the end of the day Dec. 1, 20 of the 24 towers they planned to get up the mountain were up. That leaves four towers to fly up the mountain face Tuesday, plus setting in place the bull wheel, which moves the chairlift cables, the f-frame that the bull wheel attaches to, and an operator building. The helicopter work was to also include removing and bringing down two old towers that remain in place from the old chairlift.
According to Fake, the helicopter work was to cost just under $60,000. That includes a $40,000 mobilization charge, $750 for each tower that is installed/removed and $1,000 for setting the bull wheel.
Part of Monday's interruption in the work was due to the fact that the helicopter needed to refuel and daylight was waning, due to a late start.
"They have to fly to Owls Head to refuel, and since it was getting late in the day, by the time they flew there and back it would be dark so it was decided they would stay over and finish tomorrow," said Ward.
On hand during Monday's historic portion of the project was John Christie, who started skiing at the Snow Bowl before he started school and skied there through high school as a recreational skier. A Bowdoin College competitive skier, he is also a "Sugarloafer" and credits his early years learning to ski in his back yard, so to speak, for fostering his love of both the fun and sport of it.
"There is no better example in the country of how you can make something work for the benefit of the community, and the kids, getting them going skiing," said Christie. "My son wrote a column yesterday for the Sunday Telegram, of Thanksgiving, of things he's thankful for. Among the things he said was, that I got him skiing and he said, 'I learned to ski at my father's knee, literally, between his legs on the T-bar at the Camden Snow Bowl.'"
Christie said it was a "magnificent" day to be at the Snow Bowl, watching the next chapter come to life.
"It brings back fond memories for me," said Christie. "When I was at Sugar Loaf we installed 23 gondola towers in a day back in 1965."
He said that the redevelopment of the Snow Bowl will be a boon for the Midcoast, and for skiing in Maine. He also said that the redevelopment of the Camden Snow Bowl is what "everybody at Sugar Loaf is talking about," given that so many Midcoast residents spent numerous days each winter skiing there with their families.
"It's really important for the bigger ski areas to have these small, community feeder ski areas, for beginners to learn and kids to get exposed to the joy of skiing.," said Christie. "They have done a really great job making a premier beginner slope over at the new Coaster, and I know so many people have been intimidated by what was the old beginner slope, that sheer drop that ended at the lodge. This will be much better to get them up and going."
With a half day of work left Monday, and now another day of work ahead Tuesday to finish the tower work, Fake's parting comment was focused on the task at hand.
"I never realized how close the power lines around the parking lot were to the towers we have laid out in the parking lot, and that the helicopter has to maneuver around," he said.
• Homage to Camden’s Big T (March 15, 2014)
• By wide margin, Camden voters approve Snow Bowl improvement bond (Nov. 5, 2013)
• Camden committee selects new parks and recreation director (Sept. 6, 2013)
• Camden considers $2 million Snow Bowl bond, ordinance amendments Nov. 5 (Sept. 4, 2014)
• Camden ready to put $2 million bond before voters (Aug. 21, 2013)
• Camden pursues federal money to help with Snow Bowl upgrade (July 10, 2013)
• Camden learns about refurbished chairlifts, woven grips and haul ropes (April 10, 2013)
• Last run for Jeff (Jan. 21, 2013)
• Stellar start to season at Camden Snow Bowl (Jan. 9, 2013)
• Camden’s Ragged Mountain loses a good friend (Nov. 7, 2012)
Editorial Director Holly S. Edwards can be reached at email@example.com or 706-6655.