RUMFORD — Sub-zero temperatures this week and an ice storm two weeks ago have hampered Black Mountain Ski Resort’s ability to get underway for the season.

But it isn’t stopping the public from getting out and enjoying the slopes.

The local ski hill opened for the season Dec. 21, right in the middle of an ice storm, and announced on its Facebook site that such weather might close it the next day.

“With tomorrow’s weather looking a bit frightful, Black Mountain would like to encourage all skiers and snowboarders to call or check our Facebook or website to ensure the Mountain will be open before making the trip,” according to the resort’s Facebook page.

Sure enough, on Dec. 22, the resort was closed, citing inclement weather. However, on Dec. 23 the mountain was back in business, offering seven hours of skiing and boarding.

This week, a wave of sub-zero temperatures and dangerous windchills approaching 30 below prompted the resort to cancel its night skiing and shut down at 4 p.m. Friday.


But it was back open Saturday, much to the delight of several people who came out to enjoy $15 lift tickets, no wind, a blue sky and no lift lines.

Temperatures ranged in the morning from about minus 10 to a high of 11 degrees Fahrenheit by early afternoon, before plunging back toward zero. By 4:30 p.m., the temperature was 4 above zero and, 30 minutes later as night skiers continued to arrive, it tagged the zero mark again.

“It was a cold day, but it was a lot of fun,” Brian Arsenault of Rumford said at about 4:30 p.m., in the parking lot.

Arsenault celebrated his birthday Saturday by skiing most of the day at Black Mountain.

“We worked with the cold,” he said. “We made it work.”

“It wasn’t that bad, and I just went up,” Jennifer Tripp of Rumford said. “The wind stopped and that’s the biggest deal. With no wind, it’s beautiful. Without the wind, it’s gorgeous.”


Arsenault added, “We’ve had some cold days and it’s been difficult, but it’s Maine — winter in Maine.”

Pointing to approaching Rumford 10-year-olds Levon Mickeriz, Jennifer’s son, and Brady Davis, Arsenault said they helped him celebrate his birthday.

“These guys have been skiing here all day and they’ve enjoyed it,” he said.

Tripp said she didn’t bring her skis. She came to pick up her son, then borrowed her sister’s skis and made one trip down the mountain.

“It’s Brian’s birthday,” Tripp said. “We came out for cake and pizza. We were actually going to go sliding, but our slides don’t work too good here. We need to, like, Crisco them.”

Both Arsenault and Tripp said the skiing was “awesome.”


“The mountain’s in great shape,” Arsenault said.

“It really was nice,” Tripp said. “I’d go again, and I might go again later with these guys” (she pointed to Mickeriz and Davis).

Arsenault said he saw a lot of new faces Saturday.

“It’s good for the mountain,” he said. “We really need it.”

Mickeriz said he skied seven runs down the hill and didn’t mind the chilly temperatures.

“Well, they’re kids,”Jennifer Tripp said. “Their boots are wet, their hands are frozen; they don’t mind it a bit.”


“I don’t think it’s really been all that bad,” said Tripp’s husband, Mark Tripp, an Auburn firefighter and former Rumford firefighter. He, too, had skied most of the day.

“Bluebird skies, $15 lift tickets, no lines. If you weren’t at Black Mountain today, you missed out, period,” Mark Tripp said.

Tickets are $15 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., no matter what time people arrive, Arsenault said.

“You can’t even buy a hamburger for that at some mountains,” Mark Tripp said.

Farther down in the parking lot, Victor Collette of Rumford was loading up a backpack before heading up to night ski. The temperature was 1 above zero.

Collette said the sub-zero temperature “bothers my oil bill,” but it doesn’t prevent him from enjoying winter.


“You do what you’ve got to do,” Collette said. “I’m not going to stay home.”

At Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry, spokeswoman Darcy Morse said they had average crowds for a Saturday in January.

“Morning started off light, but people continued to trickle in throughout the day, and there is a good crowd out there night skiing now,” she said by email at 7:11 p.m.

Maine’s return to sub-zero temperatures, however, is causing concern for highway departments tasked with clearing roads of snow, sleet and ice.

Norman Haggan, regional manager of the Maine Department of Transportation in Dixfield, said traffic — not salt and sand — has helped blow snow off roads.

“It’s so cold that our material doesn’t help,” Haggan said. “So we have to be very cautious or it will backfire on us and the roads will be very slippery.”


He said temperatures warmed enough Friday for his crews to put sand on Western Maine roads.

“It will provide a little traction until it gets blown off,” Haggan said. “The trouble is that when it’s so cold, the sand won’t stick, so we don’t put that out. We try to use salt and liquids when we can.”

For salt to be effective, temperatures must be above 15 degrees F., he said.

“Get below that and it doesn’t work,” Haggan said. “When it’s that cold, melting snow and ice just spreads out and glazes over. Liquids help a little bit at 15 below, but they can glaze over, too.”

He said temperatures are anticipated to warm up enough Sunday to use salt effectively, so he’ll have crews out trying to remove ice and hard-packed snow before freezing rain arrives Monday morning and creates another set of problems.

“We’re hoping to get everything cleared off on Sunday,” Haggan said. “It’s a tough situation. I don’t ever remember it snowing here when it was 10 below.”

Haggan said his department is already running low on sand and has tried to ration it.

“Next week, I’ll probably restock, but you hate to fill up with sand and salt and New Hampshire and Massachusetts not have any, so we’re trying to conserve and not be the glutton,” he said.

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