Anne Carter and daughter Jess Carter pose in front of one of the mountaintop cabins at Carter’s X-C Ski Center in Bethel on Wednesday. Jess recently joined her mother in running the family business and has plans to expand on its four-season offerings. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

BETHEL — Last year, Jess Carter left a 15-year teaching career to go work in the woods. And on the water. And in the ski shop.

She joined her mom, Anne, in running Carter’s X-C Ski Center. Anne and her husband, David, opened the business in Oxford in 1985 and followed it up with a second, now primary, location in Bethel in 1992.

“My dad was really into skiing and his whole idea behind skiing was he wanted to get everybody on skis,” Jess Carter, 41, said. “Because of that, my sisters and I, we all started skiing after, basically, we could walk — 18 months (old), I think, we were on skis.”

She’s studying to become a registered Maine Guide with the goal next summer of leading hikes and canoe trips, expanding the center’s four-season potential.

“We also have a lot of river frontage on the Androscoggin River and then we also have a bunch of mountain trails and we have rental cabins, so my plan is to create, starting next summer, a little bit of an outdoor retreat,” Carter said.

But before that, there’s 55 km of trail to get ready for winter.

The work involves a lot of planning and clearing. Carter organized two successful trail work parties this summer and has a third scheduled next month. Members of the public come in with clippers and trim back trees and toss branches.

“Even with COVID happening, it’s been really amazing to be able to get outside and work on the trails and still be around people but be socially distanced,” she said. “We put it out there that people can earn their individual season’s pass by helping out for the day, so that’s a motivating factor.”

Planning around COVID-19 also has the center building a new rental building, Carter said, to spread customers out, along with updating signs and adding directions to loop trails so people go in a single direction. They’re also updating their website so customers can buy tickets online and check in at a kiosk to ski, snowshoe and fat bike.

“With what’s going on in the world right now, that’s creating a lot of challenges for any business, but there’s just always challenges related to weather as well,” Carter said. “Sometimes we don’t get the best snow or we get a mix of rain and snow and we have to figure out how to accommodate grooming so snow is ideal. A lot of hurdles around the weather.”

They aim to open around Christmas in a typical winter.

Carter, who lives in the Bethel lodge, said she’s been extremely happy to make the career change. On any day, she might be working outdoors, in marketing, planning, expanding social media reach or taking inventory.

“The rewards are really plentiful,” she said. “The Bethel area is where my dad grew up, so my family is all around us up here. My next-door neighbor is my cousin who owns a farm that has been in our family for seven generations, so there’s a lot of history in this area that feels really pertinent to continuing a tradition like this. My dad passed away six years ago and loved skiing so much, so it’s really an honor to carry on this legacy for my family.”

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