RUMFORD — After more than 50 years of volunteering at her local ski club, Marie Boudreau said what she’ll miss most in retirement is the look of excitement on the faces of children before a race.

“The happiness shows in a child’s eyes,” she said. “Give them that bib and their eyes become saucers. They are so thrilled.”

They don’t have to be great athletes, she says. But put a child on skis and you can see the transformation into a person with self-confidence who embraces the outdoors and nature.

Boudreau, who’s been skiing since she was 2 years old, began by gliding down the hill at a dairy farm down the street. Later, she was toting her wooden skis on foot five miles to the local rope tow. Later, she was riding the chairlift at Black Mountain. Even being pregnant didn’t keep her off skis, she says.

Her love for the sport and the outdoors kept her and her family playing on the snow for generations. And it’s a passion she’s passed along to her three sons, says the daughter of Italian immigrants.

Boudreau captained her high school ski team — Class of 1951 — and worked at local ski races as a volunteer. This year she’s turned over her records as secretary of the Chisholm Ski Club because it was time to move on, she said, although she expects to stay busy in other community activities, including serving on the local library board.

She said she’ll also miss the camaraderie of the other volunteers who make the running of ski races go off without a hitch, even when there’s no snow, as happened recently during a national cross country ski championship race.

“I will miss all the old fogies that I have been with for years and years and years,” she said. “These men and women are the best. They’ll be in my heart forever.”

She hasn’t retired her skis and expects to be back on the trails eventually, but Boudreau said she plans to take an emotional break before going back to the mountain.

“I’ll see too many,” she said, starting to tear up. “There’s guys up there 10 years older than me working out in the cold. They’ve been there longer than I have. It was like a family. Exactly like a family.”

But the memories she retires with will stay with her always.

“I will never ever look back with regret,” she said.

“I don’t think you can find any better people in the world than those who are dedicated out of their hearts. There’s not a penny paid in wages. They’re all volunteers.”

Her fellow volunteers did everything, including timing, gatekeeping, starting and handing out numbered bibs.

But it’s not just the race volunteers who get into the act. Townspeople also bring food up to the mountain to feed those helping out at the races who don’t have time to stop to get something to eat, she said.

“We’re fortunate here to have a close-knit community,” she said. And the tradition of giving has lasted for generations.

Yesterday’s kids whose names she announced as they raced down the hill against her twin sons are today’s coaches, she said.

Best of all, she has instilled in her three sons an enduring love of the mountains.

Last week, Randall, one of her twin boys, called her and told her he’d pick her up the next morning for a day hike on the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains, roughly 6½ miles round trip on snowshoes.

“I like being mentally and physically busy,” she said. “My whole family likes climbing mountains.”

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