GREENWOOD – It started with one avid backcountry nut. That’s how the locals tell the story.

But over the last year, the full moon hikes at Mt. Abram have taken on a kind of cult following.

Some Mt. Abram skiers have made every one of these cold, slippery climbs. They raise a bit of revelry at the top of the mountain then ski down for more at the lodge.

“I don’t normally come up before Christmas. But I had to make an exception. They’re such a blast,” said Doner Stearns of Old Orchard Beach during last Saturday’s hike.

Since Matt Hancock and Rob Lally purchased the ski area two years ago, they’ve been on a mission to make it “unpretentious, nonfactory and family-oriented.”

The full moon hikes are part of that, and seem to work. Last April the monthly celebration drew 64 skiers and riders.

The series was a spinoff of something Steve Ochrymonicz does most every day in the winter. The snowboarder from Greenwood simply joined ski area co-owner Hancock on an impromptu friendly hike with friends last year.

And like the huge pile of wood at the bottom of the mountain that is lit up for each trek, the event caught fire.

“We went out on a full moon hike last year, just with friends. That first night we said, ‘This is so much stinkin’ fun, we have to offer this to skiers and riders. There was nothing publicized. We had no master plan. We just started doing it and it’s been awesome,” Hancock said.

Ochrymonicz loves his local mountain and wants to see it grow.

Last Saturday he could barely stand in one place at the top, he was so pleased with the turnout for the winter’s first mass hike.

“It’s catching. It’s good-spirited fun,” said Ochrymonicz, one of 32 hikers who came out.

The hike on a mild, clear-sky night was enjoyed by hikers moving at their own pace. The group spread out, eventually splitting into five packs.

This is the way things are done at Mt. Abram: Low-key and loose. But each group was given a radio for safety’s sake, and they checked in with mountain staff throughout the hike.

“We try to keep it cool, but safe,” said Kevin Rosenberg, Mt. Abram spokesman. “We want to give something that is not out there that is skier- and rider-centric. This is like their own experience, their own special moment.”

The last group at the top of Mt. Abram seemed to feel that way, with hard rock music filling the air around skis and snowboards waiting to be strapped on for the ride down.

Inside the holiday light- bedecked ski patrol hut, hikers passed around drinks and snacks.

It wasn’t cold outside in the mountain air three hours after dusk. Hikers were packed into the small wood cabin for the festive atmosphere.

And last weekend, with the mountain full of lights, wood fires and music from top to bottom, it was like holiday celebrations already had begun.

“Good things start organically,” Hancock said, as he visited with family at the ski area’s new snack hut and ice cave halfway down the mountain.

“It’s evolved. People here, this fits their personality. They’ve been skiing all day, then they do this.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com