PORTLAND, Maine — This week's weather may not feel like the winter season is approaching, but ski shop employees have already seen an increase in customers coming in to gear up for the slopes.
“A lot of people have gotten to it a lot faster than years past," Adam Medeiros, who works at Arlberg Ski Shop in Portland said Tuesday. “The earlier you come in the more selection you’ll have and the better fit you’ll get.”
In between fitting folks for ski boots, Medeiros said he's seen a lot of people interested in starting their ski or snowboard career come by the store. He said because of the COVID-19 pandemic, folks are looking for new ways to explore the outdoors.
David Palese is the general manager of Gorham Bike and Ski located in downtown Portland. He said he's seen an increase in cross-country ski sales in the past two years.
"That uptick in cross-country ski sales was surprising. We never thought cross-country skiing would be so popular in the United States," he added.
He also recommends people place their new boot or board order sooner rather than later. He said manufacturers will be backed up this year so once certain products run out of stock it will be tough to find them again this season.
“So really once it’s gone, it’s gone," Palese added.
The Maine Tourism Association is also expecting the busy summer and fall to roll over into this winter.
“I don’t think we anticipate any type of slowdown whatsoever," CEO Tony Cameron said. “Anything that anybody wants to do for the winter, definitely plan ahead.”
Cameron said there is more to do in Maine this winter than ski, snowboard, snowshoe, or snowmobile. Cities like Portland attract food and drink lovers all year round, and more light shows and similar events will always draw attention.
While the state and the country continue to suffer a workforce issue, he said to be patient with local restaurants or venues during your vacation or visit.
“The tourism industry has been one of the top industries in the state of Maine for the last 100 years because of the people working in it," he added.
Sunday River Resort isn't expecting a staff shortage this season according to Abby Borron the Communications Manager.
“People always hope to see their favorite [lift attendant] coming back so I don’t think it’s a huge concern of ours," she said Tuesday.
The mountain got its first natural snow of the season this week and Borron said it won't be long now until the first trails open. The resort also expanded its snowmaking operation this offseason.
“There are 125 more [snowguns] across the mountain which has upped our snowmaking capabilities quite a bit which is exciting," she said. “We’ll be able to expand terrain more quickly than we could last year and make it a skiable mountain for people of all abilities.”
Her final advice for Mainers looking to hit the slopes in a few weeks, book ski trips during the middle of the week to avoid long lift lines and expensive weekend lift tickets.