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August 18, 2020

Plans unfold for student-led redevelopment of Eaton Mountain ski area

Courtesy / Eaton Mountain Ski Area & Snowtubing The Eaton Mountain Foundation plans to develop the Eaton Mountain Ski Area & Snowtubing in Skowhegan as a resource supporting the educational development of Skowhegan youth.

The Eaton Mountain Foundation has entered into a long-term lease with the owner of Eaton Mountain Ski Area & Snowtubing in Skowhegan to operate and manage the mountain with a public-private partnership.

The foundation, a nonprofit that is waiting to receive approval of its 501(c3) status, plans to develop the mountain as a resource supporting the educational development of Skowhegan youth, according to a news release.

The mountain, owned by David Beers, is underutilized but valuable for its potential to provide:

• Experience-based learning opportunities

• Affordable recreational activities for youth and their families living in an economically challenged environment

• Economic benefit for the area's small businesses, which can provide mentoring and apprenticeship opportunities along with services and products

The foundation is contracting with a group of students from Community Regional Charter School to transform the mountain into a four-season recreation destination area. 

The school has its central office in Skowhegan and educational facilities in Skowhegan and Cornville.

During the 2020-21 season, the students will develop a business plan, seek grants for a new chairlift and create a four-season recreational plan to be completed in phases. 

“Over the last five years I have been seeking the right partner to develop Eaton Mountain Ski Area,” Beers said. “I am extremely excited to be partnering with the Eaton Mountain Foundation and the Community Regional Charter School to operate and develop the ski area. I can't imagine a more ideal partner to have.”

The mountain has untapped potential, and operating a ski area is an unusual and difficult business, he said.

“This group has the energy, access to resources, community presence, ski industry contacts and relevant ski industry experience that will be necessary to bring Eaton Mountain to its full potential in a solid and realistic manner,” he said.

Students will research and visit local ski mountains and other recreational facilities throughout the year in order to build background knowledge and a deeper understanding of a working ski mountain. They will also assist and participate in developing an advisory council made up of like-minded community members interested in transforming Eaton Mountain. 

Eaton Mountain opened in 1961 with lift serviced skiing.

The facility fell on hard times and closed in 2008, when it was bought by David and Donna Beers, according to

Since then, the couple has worked  to rebuild Eaton Mountain as a convenient and affordable family-friendly ski area, according to its website.

They reopened the mountain in 2010 with a new snowtubing park. 

The 2014-15 season marked the return of down hill skiing with two new ski tows serving beginner and intermediate terrain. Needed improvements for the future include overhaul or replacement of the chairlift in order to reopen skiing off the top of the hill, development of ski and snowboard instruction programs, major improvements to the lodge, restoration of lights and snowmaking to the top of the hill, and additional terrain.

But Beers, who is also the operation’s president, notified users last October, in a post last October on the Eaton Mountain website, that he wouldn’t be operating the mountain for the 2019-20 winter season. 

The pandemic will keep the mountain closed for the 2020-21 winter season. But the plan is to reopen for the winter in 2021-22.

“Over the past few years, I have had to face several personal and business related challenges and it is now necessary to take a year off in order to reposition the business so we can operate from a more solid footing and expand and improve upon what is already in place,” he wrote.

He continued, “I want to stress that Eaton Mountain is not being closed permanently or liquidated. It is my intention to reopen next season and to continue with the ski area and snowtubing park as the primary focus of the business.”

In a December Facebook post, Beers said publicity around that announcement resulted in a large number of inquiries from people offering to help in a variety of ways. 

“Two major priorities are getting our learn-to-ski/snowboard program into high gear and being able to tap into recreation-related grants and funding,” he wrote.

The Eaton Mountain Foundation has secured a seasoned ski mountain manager to run the operation while working with Community Regional Charter School students starting July 2021. 

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