Winter officially is around the corner and preparation for ski and snowboard season has been underway with snowmaking and grooming at the Camden Snow Bowl.

The Snow Bowl and Ragged Mountain have served residents of Camden, and surrounding areas, for more than 80 years.

Richelle Gagne, mountain and operations manager at the Snow Bowl, said the planned opening date for the mountain looks to be Saturday, Dec. 26, which gives skiers and snowboarders a perfect day-after Christmas present to open.

“If a few Nor’Easters hit the Midcoast, and we can get a foothold, we will open the weekend before,” she said.

Watch video and see more photos below.

One of those Nor'Easters hit the area on Thursday, Dec. 17. In fact, nine inches of fresh powder hit the Camden area on Thursday, Dec. 17, so that may change plans and allow the mountain to open earlier than expected.

However, if that is not the case, the day after Christmas will be the earliest the mountain will open.

Despite chilly air, the weather for snowmaking has to be the same as getting a snowstorm — just right.

“Ideal snowmaking conditions call for temperatures to be 28 degrees or lower, combined with low humidity,” said Gagne.

Water is turned into snow by dispersing it into particles small enough to freeze in the cold air. Gagne said that is where the snow guns, water pumps, and air compressors used on the mountain come into play.

“Compressed air is shot up through the nozzle where it meets water, and splits into tiny droplets,” she said.

The water used in the process is pumped from Hosmer Pond, which sits at the base of Ragged Mountain.

Gagne added man-made snow is more durable than natural snow. It holds up to rain better than natural snow, which helps it stay around longer.

Another benefit to man-made snow is it also gives the Snow Bowl, and other ski mountains, the ability to open earlier, and stay open longer. With snowstorms unpredictable, machine snow is crucial.

“However, fresh snow is an added benefit that we groom along with man-made snow,” Gagne said.

This is Gagne’s first year as the mountain and operations manager, but she has been employed at the Snow Bowl for eight years.

She said the mountain has seven snowmakers working in two 12-hour shifts.

The overnight shift, led by Josh Johnson, consists of Alex Whitman, Jason Vallee and the Snow Bowl’s newest member, Sam Richards.

The day shift, led by Owen Dorr, is Zac Peterson and David “Goldie” Goldman.

The lead groomer is Ned Kiley, while Matt Bally assists.

Gagne said each winter season consists of around 550 hours of snowmaking, starting with at least a 3-foot base.

“There’s times we don’t get the temperatures, and are unable to make snow. That can affect when we open,” she said.

The winter season brings long hours to the crews who work to keep the trails open.

Before opening to the public, lift mechanics perform maintenance checks on the lifts, taking care of anything that needs to be fixed, and ensure riders' safety.

Groomers will begin to work on the mountain for the next day once the mountain closes to skiers for the day. If there is a need to make snow, the crew will continue to make the white stuff as long as the temperatures remain favorable.

Currently, while the crew works to get the mountain open for the season, the Snow Bowl’s alpine trails are closed to the public.

This is for the safety of staff, and the public, as hydraulic equipment, and moving vehicles are on the mountain around the clock.

Once the mountain is open for the season, there are guidelines in place to keep people safe.

Masks are required, and everyone is asked to social distance, which means keep 6 feet apart.

The lodge will be closed to the public. There will be seven portable toilets, and three fire pits for warming.

The Big T Snack Shack will also be selling food from their food truck onsite.

The Snow Bowl is asking that for more warming, guests go back to their vehicles.

Rentals, and passes will also need to be purchased, or reserved in advance to limit indoor contact between staff and guests.

The mountain's ski and snowboard area includes 1,070 total vertical and 105 acres of trails (60 acres of trails, 45 acres of glades), according to the Snow Bowl website. The mountain has two chairlifts and one carpet lift.

The names of the ski/board slope and glade areas include: Upper Lookout (*open at night); Lower Lookout; Upper Mussel Ridge; Lower Mussel Ridge; Clipper; Upper Northeaster; Lower Northeaster; Upper Spinnaker; Lower Spinnaker; Topsail Crossing; Mainsail Crossing; Mizzensail Crossing; Coaster; Slipway; T-line; Foxy; Half-Hitch; Windjammer; Upper Chair-line; Lower Chair-line; Topsail; Mainsail; Mizzensail;  The Graves; Scrimshaw; Crow’s Nest; Shipwreck; Connie’s Light; Whale’s Belly; Holy Stone; and Downeast.

The terrain parks at the Snow Bowl have been hailed as some of the best at a small mountain in the East. When the mountain is fully operational the main park has anywhere from 15 to 30 elements, including short boxes; long boxes; waterfall rails; a dance floor; corrugated pipe; bonks; torpedoes; and more. The area also has serious jumps. The Skipjack Park also is good for smaller and newer skiers and riders.

Ragged Mountain also has the Kuller Nordic Loop Trail for cross-country skiers.

Additionally, due to the continued pandemic, the 31st annual U.S. National Toboggan Championships, originally set for Feb. 2021, have been postponed to the same month in 2022.

However, once conditions are favorable, and Hosmer Pond freezes, the wooden, 400-foot Jack Williams Toboggan Chute will be open to the public