Nordic race packs local hotels

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RUMFORD – By late Friday afternoon, hotels and inns from Bethel to Wilton were packed with people, most of whom were racers and their entourages participating in this weekend’s big Nordic race at Black Mountain of Maine.

Starting at 11 a.m. today and Sunday, about 400 high school, college and post-college athletes will kick off at timed intervals in the New England Nordic Ski Association’s TD Banknorth Eastern Cup Tour de Rumford.

Ski teams from Maine colleges only are also competing against each other in the first ever Chummy Broomhall Cup Maine Ski Championship, a race within the NENSA race.

The sudden influx of people from all over Maine and New England was great news for the local economy.

“I’m absolutely thrilled!” Lavorne Jackson, a front desk clerk at The Madison Inn on Route 2 in Rumford said early Friday evening.

They were booked from both the Black Mountain event and a Saturday and Sunday ski race at Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry. That one is an Eastern Qualifier Series Freestyle Meet featuring moguls and big-air competitions.

“We’ve been pretty busy, and that’s really good for a change,” she said.

Jackson said there’s been more people than rooms in the Rumford area, so she’s been sending people to The Bearly Inn, a new Dixfield business, and the Whispering Pines Motel in Wilton.

“This is bringing good business into town,” she added.

Whispering Pines owner Tom Whalen said he was surprised but grateful that Jackson was sending people his way.

“For the last couple of weeks, we’ve only had a few people, but tonight, we’re three-quarters full,” he said. “This will have a very positive effect on the local economy, because this puts a lot of people into the area.”

Ninety-five percent of guests who booked all 49 rooms at The Linnell Motel in Rumford for the weekend are in town for the Black Mountain event, a clerk there said Friday night.

The much smaller Blue Iris Motor Inn at Rumford Center was also filled, mostly with parents of athletes.

Norseman Inn owner Dale Cheney in Bethel said Friday night that their 30 rooms were also full.

“We were booked a few weeks ago with the intention that it didn’t get canceled, so, we’re very glad it didn’t get canceled,” she said.

Racers, many of whom haven’t had any snow on which to practice, began arriving in droves late Friday afternoon and quickly tried out the course, which has a 6- to 10-inch base thanks to aggressive snowmaking work, Black Mountain spokesman Craig Zurhorst said Friday.

“All of these frustrated skiers are excited, because they can come here and race,” said Maine Winter Sports Center ski coach Elizabeth Algeo of Raymond while waxing skis for Aroostook County college athletes with fellow coach Mike Yeo of Gorham in Black Mountain’s parking lot.

“There’s not much snow anywhere, so, it’s a miracle they’ve got it here,” Yeo said.

“It’s fast and fun, really good, spectacular and magic!” Algeo said of the 1.6 kilometer course on which skiers will complete from three to six laps depending on age groups.

“They really pulled off a magic trick,” she added.

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