Receiving news of Chummy Broomhall’s passing brought many memories and sent me to a copy of the program for the first Maine Ski Hall of Fame banquet.

Of that inaugural class, Chummy was the last surviving member. In fact, of the 10 individual skiers who were inducted in 2003, only Chummy, John Bower and Bunny Bass were alive to be honored in person. Doc Des Roches died between his election and the banquet. The rest, Aurele Legere, Amos Winter, Otto Wallingford, Al Merrill, Wes Marco, and Russ Haggett were all deceased.

The stories of these ten skiers would define many of the key elements of Maine skiing history. Bunny Bass led the company that produced ski boots for the 10th Mountain Division and a generation of Maine skiers; Russ Haggett was one of the founders of Pleasant Mountain and managed the area through the installation of the state’s first T-bar and first chairlift; Wes Marco directed the first ski school at that area; Otto Wallingford revolutionized grooming with the Powdermaker he developed at Lost Valley; Amos Winter was the leader of those who founded Sugarloaf; Al Merrrill was the Andover skier who went on to coach skiing at Dartmouth and in the 1956 Olympics; Auburn’s John Bower was the first American to win the prestigious Holmenkollen Nordic Combined Crown; Rumford’s Doc Des Roches did it all in skiing — instructor, area manager and owner, and founder of SIA, the ski industry’s leading trade group. After his retirement he teamed with Tom Reynolds to found the UMF Ski Industries Program.

It would be pretty tough to stand out in that group, but Chummy Broomhall did.

From becoming an outstanding cross country ski racer and representing his country in two Olympics, to advising international leaders in cross country competition, laying out courses and directing competition in two more Olympics and, in his eyes his most important contribution, leading his community in developing facilities and training skiers for his Chisholm Ski Club and Black Mountain, Wendall “Chummy” Broomhall was an unequalled leader.

I first met Chummy in 1976, when Bates College hosted the NCAA Championships with the Alpine events at Sunday River and the cross country and jumping at Black Mountain. I knew Sunday River very well, but needed to learn about Black Mountain. I had skied there when they had only a T-bar that went less than half way up the mountain, but had only a limited knowledge of the cross country facilities. I knew they had hosted championships that had to be moved from Lake Placid to Rumford because the former had no snow and the latter had enough with Chummy and his volunteers dragging it out of the woods.

Even though he was in the middle of planning the event and preparing the trails for the racing, Chummy took the time to explain all the details so I could write about it before the championships. He also called Aurele Legere and arranged for me to meet and interview the area’s greatest jumper. I visited Aurele in the hardware store he and his brother ran in Rumford. I learned how he had grown up jumping in his home town on jumps built and maintained by the Chisholm Ski Club. In the U. S. Army after the war, he had jumped throughout Europe, winning the Army’s European jumping championships.

For the NCAA’s he had built a new 50-meter jump at Black Mountain and he was looking forward to having the best collegiate jumpers flying off his creation. After the Alpine races at Sunday River, the competition moved to Rumford. Bates had a press room at the Madison on Rte. 2 run by Press Relations Manager Joe Gromelski — the same Joe Gromelski who later became the first Sports Editor of Sunday when this edition started in 1983.

Over at Black Mountain, Chummy was everywhere. He had directed the final preparation of the course for the cross country racing, organized his team of volunteers and officials and it all went off without a hitch.

When the competition ended, Kip Sungaard won the jumping and Stan Dunklee was the cross country champion. Colorado and Dartmouth tied for the championship.

Dunklee was the nephew of Sy Dunklee, one of our top cross country racers and long time ski coach. I remember talking with Sy at some event, maybe a carnival. When he learned I was from Maine he told me, “The only American skier I could never beat was Chummy Broomhall.” This was an example of the esteem which his rivals felt for Broomhall.

Under his leadership, Black Mountain for decades was a place that could always be counted on to put on a top quality race or set of races. His reputation was world wide and ski officials at every level knew him either personally or by reputation.

A year ago I visited Chummy at the Veteran’s Home in South Paris before the big 100th Anniversary Celebration at Black Mountain. He was looking forward to returning to the ski area he had done so much to build and lead over the years. When the big weekend arrived, I was at Black Mountain and learned that he had been diagnosed with pneumonia. His doctor told him he should not travel to Rumford.

Chummy replied, “Hey, I’m 97, what difference will it make?” He called his son Scotty and wound up with ski club members lined up to have him sign their books, “A Century of Skiing”, the 100 year history of the Chisholm Ski Club”.

He was the hit of the event.

A celebration of Chummy’s life will take place at Black Mountain on Friday, July 27 at 1 p.m. See you there.

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