The little ski mountain that taught generations of Mainers to ski and ride will reopen this season after all. After going public with their financial problems, Lost Valley in Auburn has found enough money to operate.
"We're going to open for the season, Yeah!," said co-owner Connie King, flanked by supporters wearing "Friends of Lost Valley" shirts.
Once King and her business partner Lincoln Hayes said they might not be able to open this year, Friends of Lost Valley launched a fund raising campaign. To date, the campaign has raised $22,000.
Two businesses, Emerson Toyota and Sunday River Ski Resort, each kicked in another $5,000, which was enough to get at least one of the mountain's two chairs turning and open two thirds of the trails.
"We're going to open the colored chair lift first, which is normally what we do at the start of the season," Hayes said.
He says they'll need another $50,000 to crank up the silver chair.
Some of that money will come from newfound efficiencies the owners identified through an energy audit. Lost Valley's snow guns which were ahead of their time in the 1970s, are ancient by today's standards. By switching to 10 new tower guns, Hayes says they'll save $55,000 a year in energy costs.
"It was hard for us to ask for help," said King. "The Friends of Lost Valley convinced us we need to. We have no other choice."
They're also putting together a board of directors, made up of business people and other stake holders, to oversee management and operations. They're pledging a renewed commitment to their core customers -- local families who are putting kids on skis for the first time.
"Having the flexibility of being close is critical for those families," said Greg Sweetser, Ski Maine's Executive Director.
To attract families, Lost Valley will cut the price of season passes in half and bring back the popular two-hour lift ticket. They hope to see kids and their families bombing down the trails by the start of December school vacation.