RUMFORD — Lodging owners are gearing up for an economic boost when hundreds of the nation's best Nordic skiers, their coaches and support staff arrive next month for a weeklong stay.
Not to mention a few hundred spectators and families of athletes who will stay for eight days and seven nights during the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association's Cross Country Ski Championships from Jan. 2-8 at Black Mountain of Maine ski resort.
Five-hundred Nordic skiers will compete Jan. 2, 4, 6 and 8 for berths on the U.S. Olympic team, the World Cup and world junior competitions in Europe. The other days are for training.
The event, hosted by the Chisholm Ski Club in 2011 and 2012, is expected to pour $1 million into businesses from Bethel to Farmington.
On Wednesday, Mountain Spring Farm, which has five rooms and a large multi-bed room, had been booked for the event for two months. It will be home for a week for a college team from Minneapolis, Minn. The Alaskan team booked the Blue Iris six months ago.
Both innkeepers know what to expect, having gone through it in 2003 and 2004 when the Chisholm Ski Club last held “The Nationals,” as the event is known locally.
“It's unbelievable the amount of money that's generated,” Morin said. “I mean, the whole place is rented out for a week. Economically, it's a wonderful thing.”
“It's an extremely huge event for the area, and it does have a big impact on everybody around,” DeSalle said. “It helps everybody.”
“I know some people who say, 'Well, I don't get anything from it, because I'm not directly involved,' but they do. Everything goes around.”
Roger Arsenault, president of the Black Mountain Board of Directors, said Thursday that hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and private homes and camps from Wilton to Bethel and even down to Peru were all booked for the event.
“We've got the U.S. Ski Team staying at The Norseman Inn (in Bethel), so there's a big impact,” Arsenault said.
“Also, past history, these folks eat very healthy," he said. "They'll be frequenting Hannaford, buying up a boatload of water and fruit juices and so forth. They usually get a big run on that.
“And the restaurants, they make their own eating arrangements, so there is quite a residual with businesses like FoodTrend and Sam's (Italian Sandwich Shoppe). Those folks will see a lot of action."
Arsenault said the athletes must pay substantial head taxes and fees to compete, the bulk of which goes to Black Mountain.
“The club will get whatever is left over, so, economically, it's beneficial for the mountain and the community,” he said.
“And for our club, that's payback for all the support that the club and the mountain gets over the years. ”
Linda Walbridge, director of the Western Maine Economic Development Council in South Paris, offered some conservative spending numbers based on 600 people each spending $55 a night for lodging, $24 a day for meals and $25 for incidentals such as gas, soda and snacks.
“We're talking 600 people here for eight days and seven nights, and anytime you've got that many people for eight days and seven nights, you've got some major money coming into the economy and, of course, there is the ripple effect,” Walbridge said.
“So, we're figuring about half-a-million dollars in direct spending in the economy and the ripple — they tend to do ripples at 2 to 1 — that's about a million dollars into the economy.
“Of course, then there are the spectators and families that might stop at a store like Maine Made Furniture and buy something, and then they might go out to lunch, and they might come back to Black Mountain because the first time was a fun experience, and that stuff is huge for our area,” Walbridge said.
“And if anybody could use an economic bounce at this point, where we're running still at close to a 16-percent unemployment rate in pockets, it's the River Valley. That's higher than the rest of the county, and so they could really use this income.”
Longtime Black Mountain and Chisholm Ski Club volunteer Craig Zurhorst said Walbridge's figures didn't include entry fees for athletes or anything at the mountain.
“It's a huge deal for the area,” said Zurhorst, who is community relations director for Western Maine Transportation.
“The amount of prestige alone that it brings to the River Valley, it's epic,” he said.
“What you have here are world-class athletes for an entire week at a location that's highly regarded throughout North America and known throughout the world, and that's very, very exciting,” Zurhorst said.