Valley Voices: Black Mountain hits its stride

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Rounding the corner out of Hannaford’s produce department last Friday was Muriel Arsenault. Big hug. “I was sick, but now I’m OK,” she said.

“Well, Muriel, I’ve been thinking of you this week.”

“You have?”

Yep, because we were up at Black Mountain twice in two days. Visiting Black Mountain always conjures thoughts of Muriel and Blackie Arsenault: the ancient tow rope that served as cornice in their family room. The used ski gear shop they ran that made skiing affordable for kids. Dressed up for the Winter Carnival ball. Muriel’s kitchen.

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Did the Arsenaults envision Black Mountain of Maine in 2012? The big handsome lodge? The chair lifts? The tubing park?

We came up to the mountain first to check out the tubing park and next day to enjoy it. The first day’s route took us to the far end of the parking lot, up an icy slope, beyond the old lodge, to a small work building, where Roger Arsenault, Black Mountain of Maine board chairman, was doing something to an electrical gizmo. “Tubing park? Just keep on walking up there beyond that berm,” Roger said. “You’ll see it.”

That was a hard walk. Better to enter the lodge, climb the stairs, go out on the deck and down the far stairs as we did Day 2. At the park, lots of tubers, mostly kids, were enjoying “awesome” conditions.

The tubing was managed by Jay and his son and several other seasonal workers. During ski season, there are 85 part-time employees on the mountain, many of them young people having their first work experience. The snow tube operation is just one of Jay’s responsibilities: Everybody has to be multi-skilled, Roger said.

Like most everyone who works on the mountain, this crew was cordial and enthusiastic. Samantha, who answered the phone at the lodge, agreed: Black Mountain is a great place to work.

At last week’s races, what seemed to be hundreds and hundreds of high-school competitors — especially if you were going up the stairs as they were coming down. The teams came from all over the state: Madawaska, Falmouth, Lewiston, Fort Kent.

Monday and Tuesday, the Class C championships. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the Class A Nordic and alpine championships. Roger Arsenault said the combination of all those events in one area is almost unheard of and “very good for Black Mountain.”

Do Mountain Valley and Dirigo ski teams compete?

Dirigo’s Nordic teams are building. This year the boys’ team “. . . advanced beyond expectations,” Athletic Director Chris Moreau reported.

And the girls’ team? Coach Ann Speth’s team is small, five members — six is ideal. All are new to skiing this year. One is new to winter. “Pin” is an exchange student from Thailand, had never seen snow, never mind skis.

Mt.Valley’s Athletic Director Jim Aylward points with pride to the big winners in the Mountain Valley Conference of a few weeks ago: seniors Nate Nicols, slalom and grand slalom; Nick Woods, ski master.

Winterfest at Black Mountain begins this Friday evening, March 2, and continues through Sunday, March 4. There’ll be skiing day and night, fireworks and sleigh rides, supper on the summit, and snow tubing, too. Details: call 364-8977.

Linda Farr Macgregor is a freelance writer; contact her: jmacgregor1@roadrunner.com

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