RUMFORD — Black Mountain Ski Resort was bustling with activity Saturday during the 2014 New England Nordic Ski Association’s Eastern Cup.

The Rumford ski hill’s expanded parking lot was so full that people were parking along one side of Glover Road toward Isthmus Road. Saturday’s races attracted 252 athletes from Maine and across the nation.

It was also blue-sky sunshine and no wind at about 35 degrees F. at noon, which is atypical for Black Mountain.

“January can be that way,” said Roger Arsenault, president of the Black Mountain board of directors. He was waiting to hand out awards to the top three finishers in four races.

The resort has received 33 inches of snow this winter, which is unusually low, he said.

But, despite the weather, things are going well for the board of directors during its first year of owning Black Mountain Ski Resort.

“Jim Carter has done a phenomenal job in keeping costs under control,” Arsenault said of Black Mountain’s manager.

“We’ve been fortunate to bring a lot of the same old staff back, which is nice,” Arsenault said. “They quietly got everything prepared for the season, despite the uncertainty this past summer, which again slowed us down. We had to wait until the last minute.”

That uncertainty began June 11 at Rumford’s annual town meeting when voters turned down a request to raise $51,000 through taxation for the mountain.

Black Mountain’s owner, the Maine Winter Sports Center, said it would be forced to close the Alpine trails without taxpayer funding. That money was intended to carry the ski area through the summer, get it ready for winter and pay wages for three employees.

The Libra Foundation-financed center closed the Alpine area on June 26. That, in turn, ignited waves of fundraising efforts from supporters in Maine and across the country. It influenced the center into transferring ownership of Black Mountain in mid-September to the ski hill’s board of directors.

Arsenault said the directors applied for and received a rural development grant for trail work. Savage Construction of Bethel won the bid and did the cross-country trails to meet international standards.

“They were very, very generous and contributed a great deal more than what they were paid for,” he said. “And the Chisholm Ski Club had to come up with 800 hours of matching, in-kind labor, and it was all spearheaded by Paul Jones and Fred Bailey, and a lot of that work contributed to water draining out of the course and making today successful.”

Arsenault, who is also the Chisholm Ski Club’s race director, said Black Mountain is being marketed similar to last year.

“We kept the prices the same because it was very important to build skier visits, and when the weather’s good, the skiers are here and the numbers are good,” he said. “People continue to have a really great experience.”

Arsenault said conditions on the mountain “are absolutely fabulous” despite several ice storms.

Carter and the resort’s groomer, Jeff Knight, have done great work, Arsenault said.

“So, basically, just because the weather’s terrible downtown and icy, the conditions (on the mountain) are phenomenal,” he said. “They manage the snow. They’re masters at it —  excellent coverage, excellent condition, no ice.”

Arsenault and Carter said it’s too early to tell how the board of directors’ first year of working solo as a nonprofit group running Black Mountain is going.

“It’s all weather-related,” Arsenault said. “If the weather’s good, the people come. If the weather’s bad, the people don’t come. We’re a little bit behind last year in numbers, but we’re optimistic. All it takes is a turn in the weather.”

Black Mountain started the season by opening a week ahead of schedule, albeit just as a three-day ice storm hit, followed by sub-zero temperatures, and more ice storms.

Despite that, Arsenault said directors have nothing but positive feelings about the year.

“But the bottom line is, this is a community ski area and we need community support,” he said.

“We’re probably one of the few places in New England right now with snow left. Conditions today, I would say it’s 95 percent perfect.

“The athletes are extremely pleased, and again, this is a big bonus for the community — the economic side of it,” Arsenault said. “You know, Black Mountain’s a venue, but it’s also a payback to the community for their support.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.