Maine Winter Sports Center to Close Black Mountain Alpine Operation

BrainspiralJune 26, 2013
The second men's semifinal gets out on the course.  Photo: James Doucett.
Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine, host of the 2012 U.S. National Championships, announced this week that it plans to close down its alpine operations. Photo: James Doucett.

Maine Winter Sports Center Press Release:

The Maine Winter Sports Center, which has owned and operated Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine since 2003, has announced its intention to close the alpine mountain, effective immediately.

“The timing is unfortunate coming off our best season ever,” said Andy Shepard, President and CEO of the MWSC, “Several years ago we took on the challenge of turning Black Mountain around with an understanding that we needed strong community support to make the economics work.”

“I know the mountain still has a lot of support within some sectors but the electorate told us clearly that there are other priorities and we absolutely respect that,” Shepard added, referring to the recent town vote not to fund Black Mountain as a recreational resource by a nearly 2-1 margin.

Black Mountain had changed its business model radically last year, looking to make skiing more accessible to the region and to also reach profitability. It reduced day tickets to $15 and season passes to $150, adding a new snowmaking system, expanding the Last Run Lounge, adding a retail shop and a new, upgraded website. It also added a new 1.5-mile intermediate trail, Allagash, which quickly became a major new attraction.

“Day Ticket sales last season were up 197%, rentals were up 93% and lessons up 426%,” said Shepard. “Overall revenue was substantially up and the mountain was making progress. That said, the nonprofit community mountain still posted a loss, which required outside sources to cover.”

After a careful review of the financials and discussions with financial backers, Maine Winter Sports Center was contemplating future operations but the town vote to eliminate funding to the mountain made the tenuous decision untenable.

“We invested in the operation of Black Mountain for 10 years because we saw the mountain as an important part of the economy and skiing heritage in the region,” said Craig Denekas, President and CEO of the Libra Foundation. “That partnership has been a success for many seasons and we were pleased to play some role in that. But we also understand that the people have spoken and we simply have to recognize that,” Denekas added.

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