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Showing Love 5: Big Rock Maine
Words by Alex Kaufman l STE Online Editor
Photos courtesy of Big Rock Ski Area
Editor's Note: While there's a tendency to focus on where the snow falls, the parks are massive or the backcountry lines are slayed, there's vast areas of the East where the mountains are a little smaller or the climate a little warmer, but skiers flock to their local slopes with the same level of dedication. From the midwest to the deep south to the coast, the East is home to ski areas large and small that deserve their props. Throughout the off-season we're going to "show some love." Do you rip a lesser hyped spot that deserves a moment in the sun? Hit us up. – AK
More than farms up here. Also inviting skiing and a serious windfarm..
Early on in this small ski area effort, I got an email from a Ski The East reader who had love for a certain out of the way locale. Anyone who has ever driven the stretch of I-95 from anywhere to the heart of Aroostook County in Maine, knows it’s a long ways out. Here’s what Paul Lovett had to say (without provocation) and what led to digging for more from Mars, Mars Hill that is.
“After my local mountain shut down I started going to Big Rock every chance I got. It's now owned by a nonprofit company and is quite the small mountain to shred. It has a backcountry part that is unspoiled, nice groomed trails, a family area, and tons of unsigned tree skiing. It's not a big mountain by any means, but it was a place that allowed me to grow and really enjoy the slopes. It also had the largest snow pack in the state of Maine this year (11/12) for ski areas because of its northern location.”
In case you've never been north of Portland.
As Paul noted, Big Rock operates as a non-profit. It also serves a very international clientele. Its nearest Canadian city of size is Fredricton, NB (about 55,000 residents) and is just over 2 hours from Bangor, Maine with Houlton, Presque Ilse and Caribou being the local feeders.
Located on Mars Hill Mountain (yes it's both) with a summit elevation of 1,748, laps are just under 1000 vertical feet. The ski area first opened in 1960 and was purchased by the Maine Winter Sports Foundation in 2000. It’s also the poster child for locating ski area operations alongside wind power. In an unrelated venture, 28 windmills 262 feet tall were installed along the ridgeline in 2006 by a company named First Wind.
According to Maine's NRC, the windmills on Mars Hill power the equivalet of 24,000 homes..
On a clear day, views extend well into Canada and south to Mt. Katahdin. With its far eastern location and extra elevation, the top of Big Rock gets the first sunrise in America from late March through mid September. Average snowfall sits at 160" annually with about 80 days of operation. Just last season, a 5 acre terrain park was added.
The nation's first sunrise happens in this spot. If you're 1748 feet up. You see it first.
According to Mark Shea, Big Rock’s Marketing Manager, the ski area plans this year to institute a $15 any day lift ticket price, with season passes at $150. “If someone wants to hang a “home of the $15 lift ticket” tag on us, we’re feeling it,” noted Shea.
Three lifts, 35 trails and a terrain park might not compare sizewise to the behemoths on Maine’s western front, but if you find yourself at the top of America’s nub, bring your gear and see if you can find a liftline to wait in. You won’t.
Lean back dude...