New Hampshire
Rhode Island
Big Rock Ski Area on Mars Hill
Big Rock Ski Area
Mars Hill, Maine
Status: Open
First Season:1960-61
Vertical Drop:980 feet
Standing Lifts:1 triple, 1 double, surface lifts
Past Lifts:Surface lifts
Left: Big Rock Ski Area on Mars Hill
Recent News:
8/17/2022: Big Rock Secures Federal Funding for New...
12/10/2021: Big Rock Proposes New Quad Chairlift Profile
Located on the west face of 1,748 foot Mars Hill, Big Rock is the northernmost chairlift served ski area in New England.

Mars Hill Ski Trail

USGS topographic map prior to ski development
USGS topographic map prior to ski development

Skiing on Mars Hill dates back to at least early 1937, when a trail was cut from the south peak. The Bangor Daily News announced, "in our own State of Maine there is the real test of a true skier in the Mars Hill Mountain ski trail." The trail was described as being 2.5 miles long, dropping from the headwall of Boynton Basin to Mountain Road.

The first ski race on Mars Hill was held in late February 1937, with Harold Townsend descending the icy trail in five minutes.

It is not known if the trail was used thereafter, but it is possible there was skiing on Mars Hill in the mid-1950s.

Mars Hill Ski Tow

A ski tow was likely constructed for the winter of 1953-54, reportedly located on the slope of the southern part of Mars Hill. Opening in February, the tow quickly ran into controversy, as there was talk of the town banning Sunday operations. The tow remained open on Sundays, operating into April during the inaugural season.

Mars Hill Skiway

An undated photo of Mars Hill
An undated photo of Mars Hill

As the 1960s arrived, development of a ski area on Mars Hill gained traction. The Mars Hill Jaycees, whose president was Wendell Pierce, formed a group called Mars Hill Mountain Development Corporation. State represented Walter Tweedie served as president of the company. To generate publicity for the project, a mountain top flag raising was planned for the morning of July 4, 1960, when the first rays of sun hit Mars Hill and the United States of America.

In June 1960, Elaine Oxnard donated 225 acres of land on Mars Hill to the group in honor of her father, Vinal B. Wilson. Additional land was obtained from the Graves family.

At daybreak on July 4, 1960, Maine Governor John Reed and Congressional Medal of Honor holder Edward Dalgren raised the United States flag atop Mars Hill.

By December 1960, trails had been cut and a 2,500 foot long, 615 vertical foot Pomalift was on order. Pouring of footings for lift towers started in mid-December, but was slowed by icy conditions. A mid-January opening was planned.

In mid-January 1961, the Mars Hill Jaycees announced $2,000 had been raised for the development. Construction of the warming hut was reported to be nearing completion.

The ski area was still not ready to open as January came to an end, as bad weather and a lack of funds had slowed progress.

Dedication of Mars Hill (March 5, 1961)
Dedication of Mars Hill (March 5, 1961)

After many delays, construction was reportedly completed in late February or early March. The area likely opened on March 4, 1961 with the Aroostook Central Institute's winter carnival. Mars Hill's official opening took place the following day, with Walter Tweedie, Vincent Graves, and Donald Graves cutting the ribbon.

The inaugural season likely extended into April. Future plans included a second Pomalift to the top of the mountain and a third Pomalift for an additional complex.

A ski patrol building was constructed for the 1961-62 season. That December, the ski area received publicity from the New York Times when it was noted the hilltop was the first place in the country to receive sunrays from the rising sun for much of the year.

A new beginner slope was constructed for the 1966-67 season.

The Pierce Family Purchases Mars Hill

The North Star Double in 2010
The North Star Double in 2010

Wendell and Marie Pierce's Ski Way of Aroostook, Inc. was registered as a Maine corporation in October of 1967, taking over the ski area that year. Soon thereafter, Mars Hill Skiway likely became known as Big Rock.

The upper mountain of the ski area may have become lift served with the installation of a Poma lift in 1978. Around this time, the Pierce family acquired Burnt Meadow Mountain in western Maine, operating it for a few seasons before it closed.

After decades of surface lift service, Big Rock installed a Mueller double chairlift from Evergreen Valley, ME as its summit lift for the 1993-94 season, making it the northernmost chairlift served ski area in New England. The new chairlift provided service to nearly 1,000 continuous vertical feet.

Maine Winter Sports Center Purchases Big Rock

The base area (2017)
The base area (2017)

After over a quarter of a century of ownership, the Pierces looked to sell Big Rock. In the fall of 2000, Maine Winter Sports Center purchased the 290 acre Big Rock Ski Area, thanks in large part to a $1.5 million grant from the Libra Foundation. Immediate improvements included more parking, a better access road, and a new 1.5 mile trail.

Both snowmaking capabilities and night skiing terrain were expanded for the 2002-03 season.

An additional $1.2 million from the Libra Foundation was invested in Big Rock for the 2004-2005 season, headlined by the installation of a new beginner Doppelmayr triple chairlift and a Magic Carpet surface lift.

A $40,000 tubing park was opened for the 2006-07 season. The 5 acre slope was served by a handle tow. Meanwhile, the $55 million Mars Hill Wind Project constructed on the summit ridge of Mars Hill, beginning operation in 2007.

Big Rock After Maine Winter Sports Center

A North Ridge trail (March 2020)
A North Ridge trail (March 2020)

In June of 2013, Maine Winter Sports Center announced its intentions to close Big Rock and Black Mountain and thus exit the alpine ski business. Black Mountain was subsequently transferred to a local non-profit, thereby avoiding closure. Meanwhile, fundraising efforts began during the summer of 2013 with the hopes of generating enough money to keep Big Rock open. That fall, Maine Winter Sports Center transferred the ski area to a local non-profit organization, which was able to keep the mountain open.

Big Rock has remained in operation since the sale, providing one of the most consistent ski seasons in New England. Reports
Month Average Percent of Terrain Open
February75%    (1 report)75 Open
March95%    (3 reports)95 Open
Recent Conditions Reports
Feb. 18, 2024 by newenglandskier13
Packed Powder, Variable Conditions
Mar. 15, 2020 by brianna
Packed Powder, Loose Granular
Mar. 15, 2020 by rocket21
Packed Powder, Loose Granular
Mar. 11, 2017 by rocket21
Packed Powder, Packed Powder
Big Rock Ski Area on News
Recent Articles
Big Rock Secures Federal Funding for New Chairlift - Aug. 17, 2022
Big Rock Proposes New Quad Chairlift - Dec. 10, 2021
Big Rock Ski Area News Page

Image Gallery
Big Rock Aerial Imagery, 1996 vs. 2011
View All Images in Big Rock Ski Area Image Gallery

Click on lift name for information and photos
Standing Lifts
The base terminal (March 2020)
North Star Double
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
The top terminal (2010)
South Star Triple
Chairlift - Triple - Fixed

Past Lifts
The base terminal (2017)
Big Rock Express

Likely a former footing (2017)
Summit Poma


2023-24 Big Rock Trail Map
1960-61 Mars Hill Trail Map2002 Big Rock Development Map2005-06 Big Rock Trail Map2006-07 Big Rock Trail Map2009-10 Big Rock Trail Map2012-13 Big Rock Trail Map
View All Big Rock Ski Area Trail Maps

Year by Year History
Adult Weekend Full Day Lift Ticket; Adult Full Price Unlimited Season Pass
2020s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2023-24$60.002023-24 Ticket Price Graph$520.002023-24 Season Pass Price Graph8.7 daysDecember 26March 92023-24 Skier Visit Graph
2022-23$55.002022-23 Ticket Price Graph$495.002022-23 Season Pass Price Graph9.0 daysDecember 27April 82022-23 Skier Visit Graph
2021-22$45.002021-22 Ticket Price Graph$435.002021-22 Season Pass Price Graph9.7 daysDecember 26April 32021-22 Skier Visit Graph
2020-21$40.002020-21 Ticket Price Graph$420.002020-21 Season Pass Price Graph10.5 daysJanuary 1March 212020-21 Skier Visit Graph
2019-20$40.002019-20 Ticket Price Graph$420.002019-20 Season Pass Price Graph10.5 daysDecember 7March 152019-20 Skier Visit Graph
2010s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2018-19$40.002018-19 Ticket Price Graph$395.002018-19 Season Pass Price Graph9.9 daysDecember 1April 142018-19 Skier Visit Graph
2017-18$38.002017-18 Ticket Price Graph$385.002017-18 Season Pass Price Graph10.1 daysDecember 16April 222017-18 Skier Visit Graph
2016-17$38.002016-17 Ticket Price Graph$385.002016-17 Season Pass Price Graph10.1 daysDecember 10April 92016-17 Skier Visit Graph
2015-16$38.002015-16 Ticket Price Graph$385.002015-16 Season Pass Price Graph10.1 daysDecember 28April 102015-16 Skier Visit Graph
2014-15$38.002014-15 Ticket Price Graph$385.002014-15 Season Pass Price Graph10.1 daysDecember 13April 122014-15 Skier Visit Graph
2013-14$35.002013-14 Ticket Price Graph$350.002013-14 Season Pass Price Graph10.0 daysDecember 14April 132013-14 Skier Visit Graph
2012-13$15.002012-13 Ticket Price Graph$150.002012-13 Season Pass Price Graph10.0 daysDecember 15April 62012-13 Skier Visit Graph
2011-12$30.002011-12 Ticket Price Graph$300.002011-12 Season Pass Price Graph10.0 daysDecember 23March 242011-12 Skier Visit Graph
2010-11$30.002010-11 Ticket Price Graph$275.002010-11 Season Pass Price Graph9.2 daysDecember 11April 32010-11 Skier Visit Graph
2009-10$30.002009-10 Ticket Price Graph$275.002009-10 Season Pass Price Graph9.2 daysMarch 272009-10 Skier Visit Graph
2000s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2008-09$30.002008-09 Ticket Price Graph$275.002008-09 Season Pass Price Graph9.2 daysDecember 62008-09 Skier Visit Graph
2007-08$28.002007-08 Ticket Price Graph$250.002007-08 Season Pass Price Graph8.9 daysApril 132007-08 Skier Visit Graph
2006-07$25.002006-07 Ticket Price Graph$325.002006-07 Season Pass Price Graph13.0 daysDecember 16April 12006-07 Skier Visit Graph
2005-06$25.002005-06 Ticket Price Graph$325.002005-06 Season Pass Price Graph13.0 daysDecember 102005-06 Skier Visit Graph
2004-05$20.002004-05 Ticket Price Graph$325.002004-05 Season Pass Price Graph16.3 daysDecember 112004-05 Skier Visit Graph
2003-04$20.002003-04 Ticket Price Graph$325.002003-04 Season Pass Price Graph16.3 days16,0002003-04 Skier Visit Graph
2002-032002-03 Ticket Price Graph2002-03 Season Pass Price GraphApril 1322,0002002-03 Skier Visit Graph
2001-022001-02 Ticket Price Graph2001-02 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 26April 715,0002001-02 Skier Visit Graph
2000-012000-01 Ticket Price Graph2000-01 Season Pass Price Graph11,0002000-01 Skier Visit Graph
1980s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1985-86$10.001985-86 Ticket Price Graph1985-86 Season Pass Price Graph1985-86 Skier Visit Graph
1960s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1960-611960-61 Ticket Price Graph1960-61 Season Pass Price GraphMarch 41960-61 Skier Visit Graph

Visitor Memories
"I learned to ski here in the mid 70’s with my buddies Chris Thompson and Marc Putnam of Houlton. I have many fond memories of skiing at Mars Hill and credit it with beginning a life long passion!"
Dean Brown, Apr. 20, 2021
"The area is still very much alive and operating."
Eric Hendrickson, Mar. 13, 2014
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External Links
  • Big Rock Ski Area - official site
  • Last updated: February 20, 2024

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