Next weekend, Maine’s oldest ski club will celebrate its 100th anniversary with three days of events.
I visited Wendall “Chummy” Broomhall at the Maine Veterans’ Home in South Paris to get a take on the festivities from the club’s oldest member.
A few years ago, Chummy would have been right in the middle of the preparations for the big celebration and at Black Mountain throughout the event, but now, at 97, the club’s first Olympian and 10th Mountain Division veteran’s legs are no longer capable of carrying him around on the snow. He still had hopes of making an appearance at the event when I talked with him, but it depends on how he feels. He may not be there in person, but his presence will be felt by all club members. Everywhere they look, his work for the club will be evident.
Every racer who enters the John Roderick Marathon Cross Country Race on Saturday will be skiing over a trail laid out by Chummy. Broomhall joined the ski club in 1936 and has played a key role in everything from races and events to acquiring land for the Black Mountain ski area and the cross country trails and jumps.
He recalled how in 1950, when he was preparing for the World Cross Country Championships, he called Briger Torrissen in Lake Placid to find out where to go.
Briger said, “Stay right where you are. There’s no snow here, so we’re coming to Rumford.”
And that’s how the Chisholm Ski Club hosted the 1950 World Championships.
During World War II, Broomhall served in the 10th Mountain Division and after the war, returned to cross country competition, representing his country in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics.
His role at the ski club turned to teaching, running races and maintaining race trails.
“I taught cross country and Aurele jumping,” he said, referring to Aurele Legere, a world class jumper out of Rumford who built and maintained jumps at Black Mountain teaching young jumpers until the demand withered away.
In 1960, Chummy went to Squaw Valley to serve as Chief of Course for the Olympic cross country races, a position he also filled at the 1980 games at Lake Placid. Upon his return from Squaw Valley, he acquired the 500 acres where the club’s cross country trails are today, and Black Mountain was first developed as an alpine area.
We shared numerous memories of skiers and events at Black Mountain, how he had prepared the trails and Aurele had built a new 55-meter jump for the 1976 NCAA championships. He remembered the Olympians that came out of the club — Bob Pidacks, Jack Lufkin and Jim Miller — who followed him to the games. Ever since his joining in 1936, Broomhall has played a key role in the history of the Chisholm Ski Club. It’s hard to imagine where the club would be today without him, and next weekend, I’m sure we’re going to hear many stories about the man who has been the face of the club when skiers from Rumford and Mexico gather to celebrate 100 years.
To learn more about the celebration I talked with Danny “Mouse” Warner, a protege of Legere who is heavily involved in organizing the event. Danny grew up jumping at Black Mountain and after his competitive years has become an official at jumping’s highest levels.
The celebration begins Friday with skiing at Black Mountain for $20. Throughout the weekend, an exhibit of Chisholm Ski Club memorabilia will be on display in the museum room in the base lodge. There will also be material from the Ski Museum of Maine and representatives on hand to answer questions about the museum and the Maine Ski Hall of Fame.
Evidence of the club’s prowess at turning out skiers and coaches is found in the list in the Maine Ski Hall of Fame: Chummy Broomhall, Aurele Legere, Doc DesRoches, Bob Pidacks, Ray Broomhall, Jack Lufkin, Jim and Pat Miller, John Roderick, Herb Adams, Erlon Broomhall, Greg Poirier and Dan Warner.
From 4-7 p.m. there will be music by the Gallant Brothers, Jim, Mike and Timmy all former Mexico High skiers. That will be followed by a torchlight parade, fireworks and a performance by the Maine Hysterical Society.
Saturday will be even busier with race registration starting at 8 a.m. for the John Roderick Marathon race at 9. At 10 a.m., the L.L. Bean Bootmobile will be on display with games, prizes, and drawing for a $300 gift card.
At 6:30 p.m., the Winter Carnival Banquet Social Hour takes place followed by the banquet at 7 and the dance at 8. Tickets ($20) for the dinner and dance can be purchased at the Black Mountain ticket office and through [email protected] More details can be found at www.skiblackmountain.com or by calling 207-364-8977. Music for the dance will be provided by the Kahtunes, a Portland Based band that includes Rumford’s Roy Brothers.
The big event Sunday is an alpine race, the return of the Telstar Schuss, a dual giant slalom with pay-per-run tickets purchased at registration at 9 a.m. This event dates back to the installation of the giant antenna in Andover in the early sixties for the first satellite communications by AT&T.
Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate 100 years of turning out skiers by the Chisholm Ski Club.
See you there, and on the slopes.