AUBURN — Scott Shanaman skied up to a bamboo pole that was out of place on an icy trail at Lost Valley. He inspected it, radioed to one of his ski patrollers to fix it, and was off again as he made his morning rounds at the ski area he bought last fall.

For a guy who has owned and run his own ski lift maintenance business for 15 years, Shanaman is no stranger to the inner workings of a ski area.

But did he ever plan on owning one?

“I don’t know anyone who grows up wanting to own a ski area,” said Shanaman, 44, the founder and owner of New Hampshire-based Aerial NDT Inspection.

Many skiers on the hill last week during school vacation didn’t know about Lost Valley’s new owner. But some of the regulars noticed the upgrades that have been made since Shanaman and his wife, April, purchased Lost Valley from Lincoln Hayes and Connie King in November.

“They offered sledding during vacation week. That’s nice for everyone. And they have two lifts going at all times. That’s new. The gray lift used to be broken a lot,” said Carolyn Sweet of Bowdoinham, who came with her three children last week.

The Shanamans wouldn’t say how much they paid for the ski area. But in the past three months, Lost Valley spokesman Dave Tyler said the couple has spent $100,000 on capital improvements, including $60,000 on new snowmaking equipment. They have improved the septic system, the chairlifts and put in a new cafeteria floor.

As the famous colored chairs turned at the lift next to the lodge last week, every fourth or fifth chair was colored a brilliant royal blue and fashioned with a natural wooden seat. Other chairs showed rust under chipped paint.

Shanaman said they fixed what they could and will fully refurbish both chairlifts later this year.

Scott and April say they are eager to put in a tubing park and a “magic carpet” to help beginning skiers up the hill. There may be a skating rink.

“And there will be a warming hut with the tubing park. It will all come eventually,” April said.

The ski area employs 85 people, including 40 full-time staff in the winter.

Shanaman envisions glades for tree skiing when there’s natural powder – and the small ski area outside Auburn drawing from Kittery to Augusta.

“I won’t draw a paycheck for several years. This is an investment. It used to be the most important learn-to-ski area in the state. It will be again,” said Shanaman, a former Sugarloaf chairlift mechanic.

While many small ski areas in Maine have survived by becoming nonprofits or having a town own the operation, Shanaman is an outlier in the Maine ski industry by choosing to provide the capital for Lost Valley. And yet he is confident in five years his family will reap the rewards.

He can see owning Lost Valley another 30 years, and then passing it on to one of his boys, now ages 6, 10 and 12.

“He’s got the right attitude: Stay positive, keep moving forward and give the customers what they want, which is good quality snow,” mountain manager Phil Brushwein said of Shanaman.

Some skiers said they see potential in the small, affordable ski area near Maine’s population base.

“I just found out it was sold. I’m home from Arizona for my brother’s wedding. I learned to ski here so I had to come back,” said Brandon Gardner, 30.

“I’m surprised at the amount of snow here, to be honest, with the weather we’ve had. They’ve done a good job (making snow).”

Jeff Pickens came during school vacation to give his two daughters lessons. He didn’t know of the new owner but was glad the ski school will continue.

“This is kind of a starter mountain. It’s a good place to learn to ski. It’s convenient from where we live in Topsham,” Pickens said.

Christian Beetz of Turner, who works in the Lost Valley rental shop, said he believes the upgrades are just the start.

“Scott and April are actually putting a lot of money into the place. It looks much better,” Beetz said.

As Shanaman rode the colored chairlift last week, he confessed that, in between sanding walkways, ordering parts, fixing equipment and even cleaning the bathrooms, there are moments he enjoys this giant project.

“I’m not enjoying the weather we’re having, but the lifts are running and everything is running well. We’re doing pretty well despite the weather,” he said.