Quarry Road Trails offers three Ski Free days

Quarry Road Trails had its last Ski Free Day of the winter season Feb. 22, a program it puts on to  increase attendance.

In the winter, Quarry Road offers cross country skiing, snowshoeing, fat tire biking, sledding, and dog walking. On Ski Free Days, certain costs are waived to make these activities available to everyone.

Caroline Mathes, co-chair of Quarry Road’s events and marketing committee, told the Echo that there are three Ski Free Days a season. The first is in December, during which ski rentals and day passes are free and a complementary ski clinic is offered.

In January, the focus is on mountain biking, fat tire biking, and snowshoeing. February sees Winter Fun Day, which includes free day passes, fat tire bike demos, and  free snowshoes.

Mathes said that the program began three years ago as an alternative to the Winter Carnival program they used to have, which “got really big, too big  to handle.”

Through the three smaller events, Quarry Road is trying to expand their reach in Waterville and beyond. Mathes said that “we try to get exposure not only to skiing, but what else happens at Quarry Road.”

About a third of attendees at Ski Free Days are newcomers, Mathes estimated. She wants people to return after this first time, however: “I hope that percentage decreases every time, so that people have [already] been,”  she said.

Sarah Rockford `15, Program Coordinator at the Center for Small Town Jewish Life, was motivated to go to Quarry Road because of the last Ski  Free Day. 

“The last Ski Free Day I attended at Quarry Road reminded me why I do actually love winter in Maine,” she told the Echo.

Quarry Road publicizes Ski Free Days through flyers and through social media, which has become increasingly important, Mathes said. They also use ColbyNow because “that seems to be a pretty effective way to contact the Colby population.”

They are focusing on finding the best ways to promote their events by asking “how did you hear about this?” on the registration form at ski free day.

Mathes said that while Quarry Road has many events throughout the year, they are “not quite the same as the winter ones,” as these are the only events that are made free. 

Mathes also said that she is working on a mountain bike, music, and beer festival for this upcoming August. The event will not be free. 

Another priced event is a triathlon planned for April 4. It will be a five kilometer ski, five kilometer run, and 1 mile paddle on Messalonskee stream.

The difference between these and the winter events? “Ski Free Days are for more exposure to the area, whereas these other ones I’m talking about are money-making events.”

Looking at the winter season overall, Mathes thought that attendance at the ski trails has increased this year. In particular, she saw more students renting equipment this year:.

“Usually a roommate will come who has skis and they give lessons to their friends and they’re renting.”

Rockford’s ski buddies were a group of mixed-experience skiers like Mathes described.

“A group of us meandered (flopped) through the woods on wobbly cross-country skis while graceful, experienced skiers glided past. Our clumsy form did nothing to dampen the experience of getting out in the snowy woods, and the Ski Free day made it possible for us to try a classic New England winter pastime.”

One way that Mathes and the rest of the Quarry Road staff tries to get attendance up is through raffles, which she said “give someone incentive to come or get involved.” She said that it is “pretty typical” that they will do a raffle at events like Ski Free days or fall festival.

Mathes wants students to invest even more in their outdoor recreation. 

“I’m trying to encourage students to get their season pass in the fall, because we have a discount in November,” she said. “So it’s really reasonable, it’s $31 for the season. That’s [season pass purchases] increased also; I have more and more people participating in that.”

Mathes said that there are students involved in Quarry Road through their Civic Engagement requirement for the Alfond Commons.

“I think there’s [a] pretty good connection with Colby as far as community volunteers out of the downtown dorm,” she shared.

Rockford summed up her experience at ski free day: “It’s hard to believe we have such a gorgeous natural resource literally in our backyard!”