Ski Squaw!

Mountain holds popularity, economic hope
as it nears its sixth decade of operation


Squaw Mountain Ski Resort, nestled on what is now called Big Moose Mountain in the unorganized territory near Greenville, has held its own, sometimes precariously, as it nears its sixth decade in operation.

It began with a belief by Louis Oakes in the great recreational possibilities of the Moosehead Lake region. Oakes, an early forestland surveyor for the Hollingsworth & Whitney Company, became a tremendous benefactor of the Town of Greenville. He built the school, town sidewalks, and gave the American Legion its first permanent home.

2009_49_0001  Squaw Mtn. Ski Patrol

The 1970 Squaw Mountain Ski Patrol. Front row: Lou Champagne, Barnie Thomson, Dick Perry, Moe Lorisky, Sandy McFarland. 2nd row: Charlie King, unknown, Patty McFarland. 3rd row: Dick Rulin, Dave Bouchard.

Mr. Oakes, and his grandson, Louis Oakes Hilton, became intimately associated with the start-up business of the ski mountain. Louis Oakes owned the land surrounding Mountain View Pond (Fitzgerald Pond). Of the land encompassing the potential ski area, 100 acres were leased from him in the early 1960s for an initial 10-year period, with an option to renew it for five years at an annual fee of $500. The lease provided that, if Mr. Oakes owned or Louis Hilton inherited the land before the lease expired, it would be sold to the Squaw Mountain Corporation, founded with the idea of building a ski resort. The sale price would be determined by the number of acres purchased, and figured at the price of wild land, before the ski area was built. Thus began the building of a ski area that today continues to hold its popularity and economic hope for an area increasingly turning to outdoor recreation to maintain its vitality.

2002_19_0202 Downhill ski race - Ralph Ryder far left

Kids gather for the 1949 Penquis Winter Sports meet. Greenville’s Ralph Ryder is on far left.                  2002.19.0202

In the winter of 1963, Squaw Mountain skiing opened with two T-bars, a base building, and 32-acres of trails. In 1969, four major landowners, including Great Northern Paper Co., Scott Paper Co., J.M. Huber Corp., and the Louis Oakes Estate, formed a corporation to build a new complex. The complex would be operated by the Squaw Mountain Corp., a group of local businessmen with a vision of seeing it run as a family friendly, affordable ski resort to benefit the entire region. Scott Paper Company eventually became the sole owner. By 1974 Scott asked the State of Maine to take it over, and it did, but by 1980 the state also decided to sell. The state leased the premises to Greenville businessman Duane Lander, who had been associated with Squaw operations from the beginning.

“We dreamt of this day. For us, this was more than a dedication –
it was a milestone in the life of our people in the Moosehead region.”
Louis O. Hilton, 1963

The ski mountain developed, with 100 acres for trails and the addition of a 3,000 foot triple chairlift, 6,000 foot double lift, 2,000 foot T-Bar, and 800 foot pony lift. Squaw offered cross-country skiing, 17 trails, and a 61-unit hotel with an indoor pool, two tennis courts, game rooms, restaurant and conference center.

Throughout time, the ski resort faltered financially but was ever popular with the public, with skiers coming from all over central Maine and parts of Canada to “Ski Squaw!” It was considered to offer one of the most beautiful vistas in Maine.  

2013_0086 Squaw Mtn lodge

The lower lodge, in about 1966

The International Sea- plane Fly-In used to hold its annual banquet there. After several successive financial tumbles and changes in management, including a bankruptcy, in 1995 James Confalone purchased the lease, then the ski area. Mr. Confalone and his investors began a broad renovation of the main lodge, which included a new gym, atrium with heated pool, floor to ceiling large stone fireplace, granite check-in counter, and upgraded hotel rooms. But he, too, ran into financial complications, renovations stopped, and the hotel closed. Despite financial pains, an abiding loyalty continues to the mountain, and its hope for bringing economic vitality to the area.

2009_53_0008 panorama view Squaw

Skiing the view from the Penobscot Trail                              2009.53.0008

In order to keep ski operations running, in 2012 a group of local residents got together and formed the non-profit corporation “Friends of Squaw,” which has been operating the lower ski trails, ski rentals, and restaurant since. In addition, the non-profit Red Eagle Foundation (named after famed Greenville Native American “Chief Henry Red Eagle,” Henry Perley), was incorporated. While Confalone continues to own the mountain and the resort remains closed, both non-profits are committed to the mountain and ran a successful 2019 winter of skiing.

Friends of Squaw is keeping the lower mountain active during winters, with a popular restaurant run by local chef Gary Dethlefsen and a base chalet, both renovated through the efforts of Friends. Rates are some of the best in the state, and the views remain outstanding. Lift tickets for adults ran $35 this season and Squaw remains a popular destination in the greater Bangor area for family skiing.

Today the Red Eagle Foundation continues to run a successful ski program for kids. In addition, retired forester and Greenville resident Rocky Rockwell continues coaching the Greenville High School Ski Team. This year GHS student Jessica Cobb skied to a 14th place state finish for Slalom racing.

Jessica Cobb skiing

GHS Ski Team standout Jessica Cobb, winter 2019                          Photo courtesy of Jonathan Pratt, Moosehead Matters

The deep snow and cold weather of the 2019 winter season kept skiers and snowboarders at Squaw cool and happy customers.

“Maine’s future Number One industry will be tourism. Squaw Mountain
and the Moose- head Lake Region look forward to being the leader
in this field in the state of Maine.”                       
Duane Lander, 1988