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New England Grassroots Funding Raises Money For Maine Ski Area, Boston Start-Up

Lost Valley MaineWith much of the news from mountain resorts lately reporting the battles of large corporations maneuvering for ownership of mega-resorts, on the other end of the spectrum a community grassroots effort is emerging as a way to keep small ski areas thriving in an increasingly challenging economic climate.

Community members are rallying through crowd funding websites as a means to raise capital for skiing and riding projects.

After years of equipment and infrastructure decline and operating in the red, Maine's Lost Valley Ski & Banquet presently lacks the funds to open its doors for business this winter, and without help, will cease operations for the coming ski season.

Faced with the loss of this family ski resort, a group of concerned community stakeholders was formed to find solutions to keep the resort alive. Calling themselves the “Friends of Lost Valley,” the group has created a Crowdrise campaign to raise funds to keep the resort's lifts churning. 

The campaign seeks to meet two fundraising benchmarks for Lost Valley: $50,000 will allow the resort to partially open, getting the much-loved colored chairlift swinging again for 2014/15, and $100,000 will allow for a full opening, with both the colored chair and the silver chair in full operation for the 2014/15 season.

Friends of Lost Valley has raised $9,565, 19 percent of the $50,000 goal as of September 22.

“We are so pleased at the level of community support,” Lost Valley owner and Vice President Connie King told SnoCountry.com.  

“We know that the community realizes the value of a home-town mountain. Kids learn to ski here. Then they get their driver’s licenses and go off to bigger mountains. Then they have families and come back to Lost Valley to teach their kids to ski.”

King added that Lost Valley is also working with Efficiency Maine to address long-term sustainability for the resort. “We’re looking at how we can install more efficient indoor lighting, lighting for night skiing, and upgrades to our snowmaking system.” 

“We’ve organized this Crowdrise campaign to rally immediate community support, group member Karen Bolduc told SnoCountry.com.

“I believe firmly that kids and adults need a place to be outside. Lost Valley is safe and affordable. In an age of electronic devices, I want to know that there is still a place to go out and get rosy cheeks.”

If Friends of Lost Valley do not reach a funding threshold to allow the resort to open, all collected funds will be donated to local 501(c)(3) not for profit organizations that support skiing in the community. Should that happen, all donations would become tax deductible.

On another New England front, The Lab Freestyle, a prospective indoor ski and snowboard offering slated for the greater Boston area is currently seeking support of the winter sports community. Currently fundraising online, The Lab Freestyle aims to raise 10 percent of the start up funds necessary to get the facility off the ground. 

The Lab Freestyle will provide ski and snowboard athletes a safe, fun environment to develop their freestyle riding skills. Utilizing an artificial snow surface. It will operate year round. The Lab features trampolines, rails, jumps, cliffs, and foam landings. Under one roof, riders can move a new trick from concept to realty while mitigating the inherent risk of the sports. The goal of The Lab is to provide New England athletes with a solution to the current gap of safe training options within the region.

“This is a tight-knit, focused group,” Ian Reynolds, one of two founders, told SnoCountry.com.  “We want to translate passion into action with seed funding to get this off the ground.  

“Crowd funding is easier with products than with a service, when donors get something in return.  So we’ve created incentives for donors to see an immediate reward for their investment.”  Rewards include everything from a heartfelt hug for smaller donations to raffle tickets for Line skis to year-long memberships for larger funders.

“The crowd funding model allows us to validate the business concept and interest,” said Reynolds. With 25 days left as of September 22, The Lab Freestyle has raised $4,505, 19 percent of the $25,000 goal.

Unlike the funding site used by Lost Valley, The Lab’s Fundable.com crowd sourcing site only collects funds from donors if the goal is met by the end of the fundraising period.  

“Crowd funding is our first stab at looking to get seed funding,” said Reynolds.  If we don’t meet our goal, we’ll have to look at other funding sources to make this a reality.”

Photo: Maine's Lost Valley Seeks Crowd Funding to Remain Open (Crowdwise.com/savelostvalley)

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