Bad news for anyone who hates long lift lines at the mountain: Experts say Maine is on track for another strong ski and snowboard season this winter, as pandemic-era converts prepare to return to the slopes.

“Season pass sales are up significantly across the board coming off of a record ski season last year,” said Dirk Gouwens, executive director of the Ski Maine Association. “Things are looking really good right now.”

When COVID concerns limited people’s ability to gather indoors in the summer of 2020, Mainers flooded state parks and took up outdoor activities like mountain biking in record numbers. In the winter, that momentum carried over to the slopes.

“People were pretty cooped up and getting a little bit stir crazy,” Gouwens said. “Skiing became kind of an outpost.”

Ski mountains across the country saw a record 61 million visitors last year, according to the National Ski Areas Association.

Even as the widespread availability of the COVID vaccine has allowed residents to enjoy a more typical winter indoors, many new skiers and snowboarders remain hooked.


James Fullerton, store manager of Arlberg Ski and Surf Shops in Freeport, said equipment sales have been red-hot again, especially among beginners and those returning to the sport after a long hiatus.

“It’s really nice to see a lot of old timers coming back to the sport, people who maybe gave it up for 10, 15 years,” he said. “Après COVID, people have been getting outside.”

The trend has trickled down to the youth level, where a new generation of winter sports enthusiasts filled up ski school programs at mountains like Lost Valley.

A Brunswick Parks & Recreation department learn-to-ski program for children age 7 and up at the Auburn slope sold out just days after registration opened, according to Tad Bettcher, Lost Valley’s snow sports director. He reported steady increases in both general lift ticket sales and ski school signups over the past three years.

A sold-out kids’ ski lease program at Gorham Bike and Ski has drawn similar interest, said Alex Nagy, a ski tech at the chain’s Brunswick location.

Yet while the shop has seen a steady flow of business from customers looking for their annual tune-up, Nagy said sales of expensive adult gear, which can run upward of $2,000, have fallen slightly from their 2021 highs.

He attributed the drop to the relatively modest snowfall the Midcoast has seen so far this winter as well as the effect of inflation on household budgets.

“Energy costs can be prohibitive,” he said. “I think people are going to try to get a little more life out of their skis this year.”

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