Big Rock mountain, producing snow before the ski season kicks off. Credit: David DiMinno | The Star-Herald

MARS HILL, Maine – The nonprofit ski area Big Rock Mountain has big plans to increase the number of skiers using its slopes.

Big Rock Mountain is launching a $2.9 million capital campaign to replace the double chairlift on the ski mountain with a quad lift. The goal is to double the capacity of mountain goers, make Big Rock more appealing to a larger market of skiers and shorten the lift ride to the top of the mountain. Big Rock saw a 30 percent increase in pass holders in the last ski season, and anticipates that number to grow.

Big Rock is overseen by a board of directors composed of businesspeople and winter sports enthusiasts from Aroostook County and Western New Brunswick.

“The Big Rock board sees the importance of investing in our community, making outdoor recreation more accessible and keeping a County tradition alive,” said board president Darrell McCrum. “As board president, I could not be more pleased with this project. A new chairlift to the top solidifies our goals for future development and sets up Big Rock for generations to come.”

Big Rock Mountain receives a check for $100,000 Wednesday from Smith Farms. From the left; Mike Chasse, Travis Carney, Emily Smith, and Gene Cronin.(David DiMinno | The Star-Herald)

The new chairlift will be a Doppelmayr Alpenstar Quad lift, a four-seater that will be 3,495 feet long, with a vertical rise of 929.05 feet. The ride to the top of the mountain will take approximately 8 minutes – 4 minutes faster than the 12-minute ride on the double lift.

The double lift was built in 1969, and began its use at Big Rock in 1993. At capacity, the double lift can bring up to 800 people per hour to the top of the mountain. The new quad lift can transport 1,800 people per hour.

The group has been working with Snow Engineering Group on a comprehensive plan to upgrade Big Rock over several decades. With the addition of this lift, Big Rock may not have to invest in such equipment until 2060 or later.

 “We know how long the winters are here,” said Big Rock Board of Directors member Mike Chasse. “It’s time to think about something newer that can get more people up the mountain. This mountain is crucial for winter recreation in northern Maine.”

Now, Big Rock needs the support of families and businesses to donate, in order to make the quad lift a reality. To kick off this campaign, both Smith Farms and McCrum Brand Withholding made donations of $100,000 each toward the new quad chairlift.

“If families could step up at any level, it would greatly help this project,” said Smith Farms President Emily Smith. “To me, this is the single most important donation to make for this generation.”

“Our family business is really excited to support Big Rock during this campaign,” said McCrum Brand Withholding partner Darrell McCrum. “We can maintain the infrastructure for future generations to come.”

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David DiMinno

David grew up in New York, and moved to Maine to study political science at the University of Maine. In his spare time, he loves hiking, playing tennis and skiing.