Black Mountain readying for ski races

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RUMFORD – Get ready for a population swell and a lack of parking spaces.

More than 500 Nordic skiing racers from high school to college and beyond – and their entourages – will be arriving to ski competitively this weekend in a three-day race-within-a-race at Black Mountain of Maine.

The event is called the New England Nordic Ski Association’s TD Banknorth Eastern Cup Tour de Rumford and the Chummy Broomhall Cup Maine Ski Championship.

“It’s going to be an amazing visual to see this many skiers out. It’s going to be crowded out there,” Black Mountain spokesman Craig Zurhorst said by phone late Wednesday evening from the ski area.

The NENSA race is also the Junior Olympics qualifier for New England high school students, who must compete in both classic and freestyle or skating techniques. Those races begin Saturday and Sunday about 11 a.m., but the technique for each day wasn’t finalized Wednesday evening. Collegiate and post-college competitors race after the high school athletes.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 350 racers had registered, Zurhorst said.

“It’s more than just sports,” he said. “Just in heads and beds alone, at $50 per person per night, if we have 500 competitors, that’s about $30,000. I hope that is seen as a valuable contribution to the River Valley area.”

He expects it to also expose the area to people who probably haven’t been here yet.

“This is especially important for the development of the region. Basically, in a winter that’s not yet happening, we’re happy to be creating a cash flow for the region,” Zurhorst said.

Black Mountain was chosen for the race because of its facility and amount of snow on the course. Since Thanksgiving, Black Mountain has only had 7 inches of natural snowfall, but it made snow when temperatures allowed, building up a base ranging from 6 to 10 inches, Zurhorst said.

There’s an added challenge on the race course with the man-made snow, which, due to temperatures, has yet to set structurally one one hill.

“We’ve got one really mean hill now. I’ve been told that when you get into it, it’s like quicksand. It’s like skiing in deep BBs. It’s really trying stuff, but other course conditions are excellent,” Zurhorst said.

Event schedules are being finalized, but Friday appears to have a team sprint taking place starting around 2 p.m.

That will be followed by a 6 p.m. sold-out dinner in the ski lodge and a 7 p.m. multimedia presentation by Bill Yeo, half of a two-man Maine-based team to Mount Everest last year. Yeo’s partner, John Bagnulo of New Vineyard, reached the summit; Yeo, facing a possible health problem, turned back after reaching about 27,000 feet.

“We’re looking forward to providing skiers, spectators and the town what will be a wonderful event in all aspects,” Zurhorst said.

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