RUMFORD — Unless it can raise $51,000 this summer and fall, Black Mountain of Maine ski area likely will remain closed this coming winter, say Black Mountain and Maine Winter Sports Center officials.
Town meeting voters on June 11 defeated Black Mountain's request for funding.
"As it stands now, we have been instructed by the (Maine Winter Sports Center) to raise the $51,000 however we can or the mountain will remain closed this winter," Roger Arsenault, president of the Black Mountain board of directors, wrote in an email.
He said he fully understood the center's position and had accepted it.
"This is not punishment for the loss of the money, but just a reality that we lost the partnership between this community and (the sports center)," he said. "It is hard for them to continue investing in us if we do not even invest in ourselves."
In the June 11 referendum, the ski area requested $51,700, which the Finance Committee recommended raising and appropriating. Selectmen recommended $51,000.
The money was to help carry the ski area through the summer, get it ready for winter and pay wages for three employees, Arsenault said.
The initiated article was defeated 497-939. Due to a previous charter change, there is no recourse for initiated article requests that are defeated.
The Maine Winter Sports Center, which is backed by grants from the Libra Foundation, bought Black Mountain ski area in 2003 and quickly expanded it.
"This is a very complex arrangement with the (sports center) ownership, but the bottom line is, ski areas are very capital-intensive and we need somebody like them to make it work," Arsenault said.
Last fall, the center invested several thousand dollars into Black Mountain and installed a new snow-making system and high-efficiency snow guns. Lift tickets were reduced to $15, Mother Nature brought plenty of snow and skier visits shot way up.
Arsenault said the sports center "has been quietly supporting us in offsetting our losses every year and we were seeing growth this year, spiraling up toward profitability. Our budgeted loss for this year was heading for profitability, but putting $51,000 loss on our bottom line just moved us back for a major loss."
He said the Black Mountain board is still working out the details but is committed to finding a way to raise the money.
"We just don't have a full plan yet," Arsenault said. "We have come too far and have created a great facility for our area to give up. We have employees' livelihood at stake and that is a responsibility we take very seriously. We are committed to the survival and will do whatever it takes to make it work."