OXFORD — Four decades ago when the Carters moved into town to start their vegetable stand and David began snapping twigs in the pine forest behind the farmhouse to delineate cross-country ski trails, wife Anne couldn’t have predicted how far or famed those paths would delve.
Or that she’d have to tread them without David.
The Bethel native, whose trails would spread throughout the 110 heavily forested acres in Oxford to reclaim ancestral land in his hometown, passed away last March from cancer. He was 65.
His legacy endures, a mantel carried on as son-in-law Jesse Hill and Anne look to carry on Dave’s dream — and the two Carter’s X-C Ski Center stores — to encourage the next generation of skiers, even when some in the community wondered if they’d reopen.
“It seems obvious we’d continue on and keep going, even without him … being such a centerpiece. We keep going and doing what we love,” Hill said.
An Arizona native, Hill was a snowboarder when he moved to Maine after meeting Anne and David’s daughter, Sarah Carter, in the Virgin Islands about eight years ago.
Dave changed that.
“The first time we went out it was November and there was a small storm in the Grafton Notch. We drove up just to find snow and ski these logging trails. That’s what Dave would do. He’d drive four hours just to find snow,” he said.
“He told me skiing was his zen, and you just have to let go. Then he left me [alone] – for hours. I had a great day,” he said laughing.
Wednesday dawned with the sort of weather ski lovers hope will continue: cold, and snowy. But as outfitters and arena operators, the family has been busy clearing trails or cutting firewood since August. Once the ground freezes Hill, Dave’s understudy for years, will hop onto an ATV or snowmobile and begin the grooming trails.
It’s a labor of love, and it’s a family affair: the purveyor’s 10 seasonal employees are either all family or close friends. The hundreds of acres which the trails crisscross are in Dave and Anne’s name or sons- or brothers-in-law. The Carters have three grown daughters.
“The kids were always involved, working during vacations or when they weren’t racing,” Anne said.
Homage to his legacy isn’t a strict adherence to all of its tenets: regulars can expect the service, the expertise, the after-school programs for children and the equipment, while for the first time they’re opening up some of the trails to “fat tire” snow biking, expanding their off-trail skiing options and offering free season passes for customers who buy an equipment package.
“There are new twists on the things we’ve always been doing,” Hill said.
After the shop was secure, order made, instructions levied, coverage coordinated and the vast plethora of unseen but important logistical minutiae to fulfill, Dave would sometimes slip off on “ski patrol” for the day.
It’s one duty which hasn’t been assigned.
“Someday when we have enough time, Anne and I will be,” Hill said.
A member of the Gould Academy cross-country ski team, Dave Carter grew up skiing and eventually went on to compete on the University of Maine’s cross-country ski team, where he raced with distinction. He was inducted to the Maine Ski Hall of Fame in October.
Throughout a career dedicated to the trails, Carter worked for the Sunday River Ski Tour Center in Newry and was one of four Mainers who helped start the Jackson Ski Touring center in Jackson, N.H.
He co-owned Carter’s X-C Ski Center with wife, Anne, running stores in Oxford and Bethel for over 35 years. Together, they started the Oxford Hills Nordic Ski Club in 1981 with the community helping them build trails at their farm.
Carter was renowned for introducing the recreation to children and operated an after-school ski program.