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Aroostook County ski area will receive federal funds for tourism-boosting upgrades

Big Rock Mountain in Mars Hill will receive $2.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to upgrade its ski lift and snow-making capabilities.

The funds come from the U.S. Economic Development Administration's travel, tourism and outdoor recreation program through the American Rescue Plan.

Mike Chasse, who sits on the non-profit board of directors that oversees the mountain, said the funding will be used to replace an aging chair lift, quadruple snow-making capacity and keep admission prices low for families.

"By upgrading the chair lift and snowmaking, we're going to be able to increase the length of the season, market Big Rock as the destination family ski resort, for at least the northern half of the state, and better secure the mountain to compete with some of the larger resorts down south," he said.

Chasse believes the mountain will add 11 new jobs by starting the ski season earlier in the winter and extending it later into April. In the past, the mountain tried to open by Christmas break each year, depending on the weather. New snow-making equipment should make it easier to achieve that goal in the future, Chasse said.

The mountain typically sees about 20,000-to-24,000 annual skiers, mostly from Aroostook County. Chasse said the mountain hopes to attract more, especially now that the Canadian border is open with fewer pandemic restrictions.

"The project's really focusing on better supporting our local community but also building our outreach and our potential market to western New Brunswick, Bangor and farther south," Chasse said.