The Star-Herald

Big Rock Ski Area prepares to open ski trails in mid-December

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Though Aroostook County has not yet seen significant snow accumulation, the folks at Big Rock Ski Area in Mars Hill are confident that the early winter weather will allow the trails to open as planned on Saturday, Dec. 19.

Typically, the crew at Big Rock spends this time of year inspecting and preparing their snow-making machines. Once the daytime temperatures consistently stay in the 20s and the evening temperatures dip below freezing, they can begin producing artificial snow that will cover the trails in addition to any natural snow that arrives.

“We always make a minimum of 12 inches of snow, usually around Thanksgiving or early December when the cold temperatures are more consistent,” said Travis Kearney, Big Rock general manager.

Families get ready to hit the Magic Carpet Ride trail at BigRock Ski Area in Mars Hill last winter. The facility plans to reopen for the 2020-21 season on Dec. 19, with COVID-19 safety protocol in place. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star-Herald)

Big Rock found themselves unexpectedly closing during the early spring months this year, after the statewide lockdown to prevent COVID-19 spread became official. Though the nonprofit organization lost revenue from the typical end of the ski season, Kearney has already seen regular passholders purchase season passes, a positive sign that people are excited to hit the trails again.

Those who visit Big Rock this winter will see some changes due to social distancing measures. No more than 50 people, including employees, will be allowed on each floor of the lodge and everyone will be required to wear face coverings inside and outside when near the base of the mountain. Masks won’t be required on the trails as long as individuals and groups maintain social distancing from separate ski parties.

Aaron Damon, assistant general manager and marketing director, said that if Big Rock has to close halfway through the ski season due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, season passholders will receive a 50 percent discount for the 2021-22 season.

At this time Big Rock is unsure of plans for opening the snowtubing hill, another popular attraction at the mountain. But staff members expect that many people in surrounding communities will enjoy skiing as much, if not more, than they have in the past.

“For a lot of people, this winter might be the time for them to try something new, especially after being inside for so long [because of the pandemic],” Damon said. “Skiing is one of those activities where they can really enjoy the Maine winter.”

Kearney also anticipates that once Aroostook County receives its usual abundance of snow, even more people will be heading to the trails again.

“Skiing is one of those activities where you don’t have to worry about social distancing. You can just get outside and take your mind off of everything that’s going on in real life,” Kearney said. “I think many people want an activity that brings back a little bit of normalcy.”

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