Houlton Rotarians hear Bigrock update

9 years ago

The Houlton Rotary Club returned to its regular meeting schedule Sept. 14, after a break on Labor Day. The meeting was well attended.
Kelly Ashley was inducted as a new member by Leigh Cummings, President Jane Torres and Mike Clark. Nancy Ketch reminded members that the auction cards are due and can now be dropped off at her home as soon as possible.

Paul Adams introduced his guest speaker from the Bigrock Ski Area in Mars Hill, General Manager Bill Getman. Bill’s wife Sylvia spoke to Rotary a month ago about her work at TAMC. Bill and his wife moved to the area from Nantucket, Massachusetts five years ago. Bill volunteered at the World Cup Biathlon in 2011 and became interested in Bigrock.
When Travis Kearney resigned, Getman took over so he has been with Mars Hill ski area for three years. He explained how Maine Winter Sports through Libra Foundation bought the ski area from the Pearce family in 2000. Maine Winter Sports ran the mountain, updating ski lifts and buildings and offering inexpensive ski passes and memberships. They took a loss of one quarter million dollars and returned the area to the community in 2013.
Funds were raised during the fall of 2013 (around $250,000) to keep the place in operation. Basically there is a free lease from Maine Winter Sports. Lift prices had to increase. The first year the area lost $50,000 and the second year the loss was around $12,000. He realized that no money would be incoming after April 15th when the winter skiing would end so efforts have been taken to organize summer and fall fund raising events.
On Aug. 15, the Top Mountain Challenge took place and at $60 per entrance and 200 participants funds were raised to help pay for the new snow groomer. An emergency purchase was made at the end of the season last year to keep grooming for the state meet and other events and to basically keep the mountain open. Skiers can testify to the improved conditions. The state meet brings a lot of folks to the mountain and at Aroostook County. Over 2,000 students from 40 schools are able to ski at Bigrock throughout the season through ski programs at the mountain and school programs from as far away as Danforth and Southern Aroostook middle schools and high schools.
Weekly ski schools are offered at the mountain for younger children as well as on mountain races and instruction for any beginning skier or snowboarder. Getman sees the Top Mountain Challenge as a growing event and hopes to see 500 entries next year. Meanwhile this fall the Aroostook County Brew Fest should draw a huge crowd. Fifteen brewers will be present offerings from 45 taps. This event will take place on Saturday, Oct. 17, from noon to 5 p.m.
He encouraged the club to support the ski area through these fund raising events, by purchasing season passes, to support a $5 ski night at $1,000 per sponsor, or to advertise on a chair lift or lift tower promoting local business. McCains and MMG have grants to fight child obesity with the objective to involve children in winter sports by underwriting ski programs and paying for ski instructors.
Bigrock is the most northern family ski area on the East Coast and does attract skiers from as far away as Florida. Ski and stay packages are offered at the Hampton Inn in Presque Isle. As a local skier, I can attest to what Bigrock has to offer. Rarely a long lift line exists though you hope to see more skiers supporting the mountain. The ski conditions are usually perfect depending of course on the weather and the trails offered vary from easy to challenging. The five dollar night attracts a group of skiers very familiar to me from as far away as Bradford, Maine.
For skiers who count how many runs they can take during a visit they will see that you can really get your money’s worth. I often remember a quote from a fellow skier who did this kind of counting “well, I’ve paid off my pass today and now I can ski for free.” This is a life-long sport and a great way to enjoy the out of doors in the winter, spectacular views and incredible sunsets.