|Enchanted Mountain Ski Area
|1 double, 1 T-Bar, surface lift
|Left: Enchanted Mountain Ski Area and Coburn Mountain (2013)
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Last updated: December 5, 2023
Located south of the rural near-border town Jackman, Coburn Mountain is one of the most prominent mountains in all of New England. Towering over timber country, the 3,717 foot tall peak was the site of a massive ski area proposal in the 1960s. Named Enchanted Mountain, the ski area never progressed beyond its first phase. Geographically only a few miles west of Big Squaw ski area and north of Baker Mountain ski area, Enchanted Mountain operated for less than a decade.
Developing Coburn Mountain
The development of Enchanted Mountain ski area dates back to at least February 1963, when a group of Somerset County residents voted to request the region be designated a "depressed area" under the Area Redevelopment Act, which would provide favorable financing for projects. State Senate President Robert Marden helped to spearhead the project, telling the group, "Let's face it. Washington has made money available to help areas which need it." Meanwhile, a group including Edward Comber Jr. worked to establish the Jackman Region Ski Corporation.
An undeveloped Coburn Mountain circa 1963
In April 1963, the Jackman Region Ski Corporation announced that it had obtained permission from Scott Paper Company to develop the area on several hundred acres of land on Coburn Mountain in Jackman. The initial development was planned at $300,000, half of which was hoped to be funded from a Small Business Administration loan. Though preliminary trail clearing was slated to start in the summer of 1963, the planned opening date was the 1964-65 season. Sno-Engineering provided a preliminary study, noting the mountain had "almost unlimited design possibilities" for a medium sized area with a vertical drop of about 1,500 feet and heavy natural snowfall. The area's proximity to the Canadian Pacific Railroad was seen as potential for attracting Canadian skiers.
On March 8, 1964, Edward Comber led a group of 11 on snowmobiles which marked 12 planned trails, 4 planned lifts, and facilities. Meanwhile, Robert Marden led negotiations for a land lease with Scott Paper Company. In addition to the Scott holdings, one third of the land was reportedly owned by Coburn Heirs.
By August 1964, the proposal had expanded to a 2,500 acre four-season resort. That month, the Jackman Area Development Corporation began accepting pledges for $20 shares of stock. Meanwhile, the group worked to obtain a $475,000 Farmers Home Administration Loan for the project. Later that month, planner Everett Lord-Wood presented a feasibility report to the group.
In November 1964, formal plans of the project were revealed as Enchanted Mountain. Three distinct ski pods were planned: "Valley of the Moon" on the eastern slope, "Secret Valley" on the south bowl, and "Mystic Ridge" on the north face. Each complex was to have its own base lodge. The lift network was to be composed of a three-mile aerial tramway and six double chairs. The initial half million dollars of funding was to cover a chairlift and associated trails, a novice slope, and a base lodge.
In January 1965, Edward Comber announced that stock sales had reached $20,000, and that Everett Lord-Wood's E. H. Lord-Wood Associates had such faith in the project that they too became stock participants. In a meeting with Farmers Home Administration officials, Lord-Wood said, "We do not plan Coburn Mountain to be a competitive ski area. Rather we plan it to be a family ski center. Most of the skiers are out for recreation and this is the segment we want to please." Lord-Wood also stated that it "will be the only major ski area in New England which lies on a major highway, making it very accessible to the public."
A Jackman Area Development Corpration meeting in January 1965
As the winter of 1964-65 came to a close, the group was still trying to obtain the Farmers Home Administration financing. A campaign was started to obtain $100 pledges to show interest in the project.
As April 1965 progressed, at least five potential general managers were interviewed as the Jackman Region Ski Corporation continued to wait for a financing decision. Later that month, the group withdrew its loan application when they received indication that their $475,000 request was too large for the government agency's comfort.
Despite the financing issues, planning continued as the group worked to get an access road using a government program which would allow up to 2 miles to be constructed with 75% of the cost to be provided by state and local funds.
On July 14, 1965, the Jackman Region Ski Corporation entered into a lease with the Scott Paper Company for 1,600 acres of land. Enchanted Mountain wasn't the company's first exposure to the ski industry, as Scott had also been involved with Squaw and Sugarloaf. George Blessing, Scott's Northeast Division General Manager, declared, "We are very pleased to have an opportunity to cooperate with the Jackman Region Ski Corporation in encouraging development of a year-round economy through the vacation-travel industry. The people of Jackman should be congratulated for the vision and courage that have brought them to begin a recreational development of major proportions."
After pulling the $475,000 Farmers Home Administration application, the group pivoted to seek a $350,000 Small Business Administration loan. Meanwhile, work was reportedly underway on constructing an access road and cutting the lift line with the hope of still installing a chairlift in time for the winter of 1965-66. John Francis Kennedy of North Haven, Connecticut served as project engineer as North Haven Construction Company handled the construction. Enchanted Mountain Corp. was reportedly established to handle construction and management of the ski resort.
In late September, the area held an open house as construction continued. A Jackman Boy Scout troop provided refreshments as more than 500 visitors checked out the area during the fall foliage season. By this point, the 1965-66 season was to be served by two surface lifts, as chairlift construction was deferred to 1966. Former Okemo manager Daniel Leary was hired as general manager.
In mid-November 1965, Edward Comber told the Bangor Daily News that the group had been "fiddling around with the Small Business Administration for the six months," adding, "we have just been churning up water with them for the past six months." Construction nevertheless continued, as the company had raised $80,000 for the project. The two lifts to be constructed for the debut season were a 1,200 foot T-Bar and 900 foot platter, while the base lodge would be a temporary structure. Including the separate lower mountain novice area, the debut season vertical drop was about 400 feet.
Lower Enchanted Mountain Opens
On February 3, 1966, Senators Edmund Muskie and Margaret Chase Smith received news that the Jackman Region Development Corporation had received a $380,000 Small Business Administration loan. In addition, the company received $45,000 in financing from the Depositors Trust Company of Augusta. A few days later, the resort announced its opening, as well as long term plans to construct two golf courses and three swimming pools.
A ski school lesson in March 1966
A February 12th opening day was promoted but delayed for unknown reasons. Instead, Enchanted Mountain opened to the public on February 19, 1966 with a 14 inch base and both surface lifts operating. General manager Daniel Leary commented, "We want the public to know we are in operation, but we don't want to create the impression that we are anywhere near finished with our development. In fact, we are opening almost by demand of area skiers who have heard about Enchanted and want to see what we are doing."
Fran Sayward wrote about a visit during initial operations in the Portland Press Herald, noting, "the view alone is worth the trip up the side of the mountain. But there's good skiing to be had, too, and more coming for the newly ski-conscious local residents and their skiing-starved neighbors from across the border."
The 1965-66 season likely continued until the start of calendar spring, when road conditions forced its closure.
Chairlift Era Begins
Following the debut season, the state moved forward with a $122,209 project to construct an access road to the ski area. Meanwhile, on May 26, 1966, the Jackman Region Development Corporation entered into a bailment-purchase agreement with the Enchanted Mountain Corporation, turning over the ski area and equipment to the new operating company. The president of the company was Everett Lord-Wood of E. H. Lord-Wood Associates, while the vice president and treasurer was Angelo Pirovane of North Haven Construction Company. Pirovane and his company were owners and developers of Maple Valley in Vermont.
Construction of the base lodge (Fall 1966)
Work began on a new double chairlift as well as an "expansive base lodge of unique architectural design" that included a massive stone fireplace. The chairlift extended skiable terrain by about 600 vertical feet as compared to the initial surface lift operation, providing service to five trails from the top.
Jackman native Walter Roberts was named ski school director for the 1966-67 season. As the season approached, the mountain was covered in snow from an October 20 storm. Visiting the mountain weeks later, Kennebec Journal writer Betty Potter observed, "it is reminiscent of Sugarloaf in the old days. There is a scarcity of motels and restaurants and the air of a town that folds up when the snows come."
Long-term plans encompassing 14,000 acres remained on the table, including the tramway, two additional mountain faces, golf courses, and the Enchanted Lake Lodge hotel on Enchanted Pond.
A private opening reception was held on December 16, 1966 which included Maine Attorney General Richard Dubord and Department of Economic Development Commissioner Standish Bachman. Though the season was supposed to start on the following day, mild weather and a lack of snow did not agree. The 1966-67 season likely kicked off just before New Year's Day, but a lack of snow limited chairlift skiing to just the novice Moosehorn trail, as Dan Leary noted at the end of January, "Before we got this base, those few inches we got every day or two didn't have anything to hold to and we'd lose it." A free day was offered at the end of the month to attract skiers.
The double chair liftline circa early January 1967
Around this time, Everett Lord-Wood, the Pirovanes of North Haven Construction Company, Warren Larson, and Roy Larson acquired and began renovating the Parlin Pines Inn. Constructed in 1840, the facility was located 4 miles from the ski area. The facility reopened as the Parlin Pines Resort Hotel circa February 1967.
The snowpack accumulated after the slow start, providing decent skiing in February and March. The season likely came to a close due to lack of business in early April.
Following the 1966-67 season, Everett Lord-Wood announced plans to install a T-Bar to the summit of Coburn Mountain and build a snack bar and warming hut on top. The expansion would have added 500 vertical feet. The group held onto plans to expand to the north side of the mountain in two or three years.
Enchanted Mountain circa January 1967
Circa the fall of 1967, Joseph Dragone, president of Planning Associates, Inc. of Springfield, Massachusetts, conducted a study of the resort. Dragone had previously been involved with the Mt. Greylock tramway project. In October, Dragone determined that "in excess of $1 million" was needed to stabilize the resort, noting, "No one in the investment business today thinks of just skiing, rather they think of the year-round aspects of an entire region."
The upper mountain expansion did not come to fruition for the 1967-68 season, however an Enchanted Mountain spokesperson claimed "sizeable financial interests" from the west were going to make a major investment. Ski school director Walter Roberts was named acting manager for the 1967-68 season, as Daniel Leary departed to purchase the Fitzwilliam ski area in New Hampshire.
The 1967-68 season kicked off in mid-December, but reportedly suffered from subpar snow conditions heading into Christmas week. A New Year's Eve celebration was held, including a torchlight parade and a ball at the base lodge with Augusta band the Guillotines providing music.
The base lodge circa January 1968
Snow reportedly accumulated in January, resulting in a 2 to 4 foot base in February. It is not known if the season made it out of late March, however, due to a thaw.
As the winter of 1968-69 approached, rumors persisted that Enchanted Mountain would not operate due to the Small Business Administration foreclosing on the troubled area. However, just before Christmas, an announcement was made that Enchanted Mountain would open with Clermont Maheux as manager under the Jackman Region Development Corporation. Walter Roberts remained as ski school and ski patrol director. Operations were reduced to Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and school vacation days. Advertised improvements were new chair pads, a snow packer, and a telephone.
A January 1969 advertisement
Snow quickly accumulated in January, with Enchanted Mountain reporting a 50 to 80 inch base by the second weekend of the month, rivalled only by Saddleback and Sugarloaf.
In March 1969, the Portland Press Herald reported that Enchanted Mountain was "hanging on by its toenails." Though no longer operating the ski area, the Pirovanes and Dragone were still working on plans to rescue the development. Also involved in the Evergreen Valley development, Dragone expected a $1.7 million investment would stabilize the area and turn it into a four-season resort.
Snow continued to accumulate that spring, as Enchanted Mountain reported base depths of 70 to 135 inches during the first weekend of April, which ended up being the conclusion of the season due to access road conditions. The season was reportedly Enchanted Mountain's most successful to date.
Despite the tremendous natural snowfall during the 1968-69 season, Enchanted Mountain faced liquidation. An auction held on October 16, 1969 received no bids, therefore putting the Small Business Association in control of the resort. SBA liquidator Albert O'Shea told the Portland Press Herald that Enchanted Mountain was "certainly one of my toughest projects" in his more than three-decade career. Nevertheless, the SBA chose to keep the property intact, rather than sell it in pieces. As the winter of 1969-70 arrived, Enchanted Mountain was idle.
The area was eventually sold by the Small Business Administration to Terry Tyler (founder of Maple Valley), Willis LeFavour, and Robert LeFavour, possibly operating as Enchanted Mountain Ski Area, Inc. The new ownership reopened the ski area in February of 1970 and had plans to build lodging on site.
An aerial view of Enchanted Mountain circa the late 1960s or early 1970s
Heading into the early 1970s, the area tried to provide unique offerings, such as night time snowshoe tours and free boarding in the lodge for anyone who brought their own sleeping bag. Roger Neault served as General Manager during the winter of 1971-72.
The LeFavours were unable to rescue the remote ski area from financial doom. Enchanted even offered free skiing to season passholders from any other Maine area, but could not attract large crowds.
One of the Enchanted Mountain ski trails (2013)
Though listed in some ski publications for many years after, there is no known record of Enchanted Mountain operating beyond the 1972-73 season. The area was advertised as for sale in industry publication Ski Area Management in 1973. With no buyer found, the Small Business Administration moved to liquidate the area in 1974.
Since then, the lifts and buildings have been taken down. A small communications facility was built near the top of the chairlift, while a larger one sits at the top of Coburn Mountain. All terrain vehicles and snowmobiles still use some of the otherwise overgrown trails.
A large logging project commenced in the early 2010s, further eliminating the remaining traces of the lower portion of the ski area.
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Year by Year History
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|"My father was on the ski patrol and my daughter had her first time skiing "
|Evelyn Ehrenfried, Jan. 19, 2024
|"I was part owner of Enchanted mt from 1970 to 72. Roxy Rockefeller used to call me every morning for the snow report. Morning after morning I’d look out the window and tell him we had another foot of snow. He didn’t believe me until he drove up to see for himself. He said that he had never seen that much snow east of the Rockies. That was the winter of 1970-71. We had to bull doze the snow out from under the chairlift for the first 100 ft. Dick Wallingford pushed back the snow banks on the access rd three times so that we could still plow it."
|Jerry Wright, Nov. 15, 2022
|"A friend I grew up with had a camp at the bottom of the entrance to Enchanted, on Markham Pond. We watch them building the ski area. In the early 70's we went up skiing during winter break. One day the winds were so high that they wouldn't open the chair lift because the chairs were banging against the masts as they went by. The temperature was in the single digits. There were only 3 of us and they finally opened the place up to us 3. It was awesome! We had the place to our-selfs because no one else was stupid enough to be out there skiing. It was a great place to go sking because there was always plenty of snow and you never had to wait to get on a lift."
|Steve Bragg, Jan. 15, 2017
|"A friend and I drove snowmobiles to the top of enchanted ski area about the year of 2001. When stepping off the sleds, I was warned not to step past the packed snow. It was so deep, the 'shrubs' I was standing near we're actually treetops!! Had I stepped too far, I could have been swallowed by the snow! Beautiful up there."
|Michael W, Jan. 30, 2015
Enchanted Mountain - New England Lost Ski Areas Project
Coburn Mountain - FranklinSites.com Hiking Guide