CAMDEN — The new trails at the Camden Snow Bowl are really taking shape as the nights get colder, which is good because skiers and snowboarders are already beginning to think about winter recreation activities on Ragged Mountain.
The trails are getting wider, including the head wall and lower Mussel Ridge, to allow for sanctioned ski races. The new beginner trail is going to be called Coaster, which regular Snow Bowl skiers will recognize, but this is a new and improved beginner and Coaster trail.
"The new beginner trail is located to the south of the old Coaster, and then it crosses over and intersects with Foxy," said Bill "Fitzy" Fitzcharles, the Snow Bowl’s facilities manager, during a tour of the mountain via ATV last week.
"It is wide, with a 15 percent grade at the top for beginners to get their ski legs under them, and to practice turns and stops," said Fitzcharles. "By widening and increasing the curve, it ends up being a longer run as well."
Fitzcharles also said that parents sitting below the mountain, in what will be the new lodge, next year, will be able to watch their kids coming down the beginner trail. And that goes for the friends and family of adult beginning skiers and those brushing up on their skills, too.
Getting up Coaster will now be even easier for beginners as it will feature both an amazing Wonder Carpet conveyor system (see photo) and double chairlift.
"You will now be able to ride a chair as a beginner skier, and we'll be able to make snow on the beginner trail, so we won't have to move snow somewhere else anymore," said Fitzcharles. "The beginner slope won't be waiting for us to bring snow over, before we can groom it."
The Snow Bowl is undergoing a $6.5 million redevelopment project on the 231-acre Ragged Mountain parcel. Funding to pay for the project is comprised of a $2 million bond, approved by voters last fall, and $4.5 million in private donations. The project had been in the planning and fundraising phases since 2008, and then work got underway on the last day of the 2014 ski season – March 24.
Skiers and snowboarders this season can expect to see a reconfiguring and addition of trails, now numbering 20 trails and glades, plus a terrain park.
This year, the Snow Bowl will have spent money on trails, lifts, lighting and snowmaking, as well as engineering, design and associated costs of planning and fundraising for the project.
According to Camden Parks and Recreation Director and Snow Bowl Manager Landon Fake, $200,000 has been spent on snowmaking pipe from the Midwest and about $100,000 on outside engineering, but most of the money raised has and will be spent locally.
"Our two biggest contractors, Royal Trail Works and Ski Lifts Unlimited, are from out of state, but they and their crews are renting local houses, eating locally and significantly increasing the local rate of consumption of beer," said Fake. "They have also bought thousands of gallons of fuel, as well as heavy equipment, tools, and construction supplies locally and have hired local contractors."
It's not big surprised that ski areas and skiers love natural snow whenever possible, and with the new snow-making equipment, Fake said they will now be able to cover 85 percent of the trail terrain with snow-making equipment. If the temperature is below 28 degrees Fahrenheit, the Camden Snow Bowl can now make snow all day and all night.
The project has "vastly improved" the view at the top of the mountain, and Fitzcharles said that utility poles still running down the middle of trails will eventually be moved to the new tree line edge, making the view even better than what we saw last week.
New lighting in the project plan will double the mountain's previous night-skiing terrain and more people can get to the top (which means quicker chairlift line) with the mountain's "new" refurbished triple chairlift.
He said that for those who remember using the old chairlift, one direction off the chair was known locally as "the hard way."
"We won't have that anymore, there is no more hard way to get off," said Fitzcharles.
And for those wondering why the old chair towers are still up, Fitzcharles said it's because the work to bring up the crane that does that work is a major chore.
"It's such an ordeal to get the crane up to the top, taking more than a couple of hours to be towed up with a skidder and bulldozer, that the crane is up and working from the top down," said Fitzcharles. "It's not like old towers are hindering the current work, so there is no need to waste the time and energy bringing the crane up and down the mountain."
When the Snow Bowl opens for this season, Fake said Hosmer Brook Trail will open for Nordic skiiers, snowshow enthusiasts can take advantage of Kuller Trail and when the ice is right on Hosmer Pond, skating and pond hockey are two popular activities at the base of the mountain.
If things continue to move forward as planned, opening day will be Dec. 20, which is the facility's usual open date.
"I have no doubt it will happen," said Fitzcharles.
• Camden to contract with South Portland firm to manage Snow Bowl lodge and base area
Editorial Director Holly S. Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-6655.
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