Shepard Campaigning to Save Black Mountain

Steven McCarthyJune 28, 20131
The lodge at Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine.
The 13,000-square-foot lodge at Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine.

After announcing Wednesday that the Maine Winter Sports Center (MWSC) is closing Black Mountain Ski Resort in Rumford, Maine, six-time host of the U.S. Cross Country Nationals, President/CEO Andy Shepard is hoping a buyer will step forward soon.

“At this point, I am completely focused on finding a way to keep Black Mountain operating next year,” Shepard wrote in an email. “While MWSC won’t be involved, there has been too much progress and the mountain is too close to making money to stop now.”

Maine Winter Sports Center President and CEO Andy Shepard (l) with two-time Olympic nordic skier Chummy Broomhall at Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine. Broomhall designed the mountain's 17-kilometer trail system in the 1960s. (Photo:
Maine Winter Sports Center President and CEO Andy Shepard (l) with two-time Olympic nordic skier Chummy Broomhall at Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine. Broomhall designed the mountain’s 17-kilometer trail system in the 1960s. (Photo:

Shepard told the Lewiston Sun Journal that is has not been decided whether its nordic trails will also be closed.

In the meantime, Shepard has started the Black Mountain of Maine Fund in an effort to find a nonprofit to transition ownership to and a group of individuals or corporations willing to provide economic stability. In its first day, the fundraiser brought in $2,300 dollars and was up to nearly $9,000 dollars on Friday. It has a goal of $100,000 dollars.

A Rumford town vote to eliminate funding to the mountain made Shepard’s decision to close the resort after 10 years of ownership “untenable.” The Portland-based Libra Foundation supports the MWSC, and its partners knew when they purchased the mountain in 2003 that they couldn’t sustain it without a supportive community.

The new owners would inherit a 13,000-square-foot lodge less than 10 years old, an internationally certified nordic venue, a snowmaking system, and Maine’s fourth-highest vertical mountain with a 50-year history. Two-time Olympian Chummy Broomhall (who competed at the ’48 and ’52 Games) designed its 17-kilometer trail system, along with the Olympic nordic trails in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Squaw Valley, Calif.

The volunteer-driven Chisholm Ski Club has hosted nationals at Black Mountain, along with the 1950 World Championships, NCAA Championships (1976, 1999, 2009), 1996 Junior Olympics and 1991 U.S. Biathlon Championships.

The venue is not a primary training site for the MWSC Olympic Development Team. The club’s office is in Caribou, a five-hour drive north of Rumford. Its athletes train on world-class trails at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle and the 10th Mountain Ski Center in Fort Kent.

A longtime host of high-school state championships, Black Mountain also regularly holds Maine’s largest high-school race, the Jon Sassi Memorial Classic, which doubles as the state’s J2 team qualifier. It’s also the home course of the Bates College Nordic team, which hosts a carnival for the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) circuit.

Steven McCarthy

Steven McCarthy discovered a passion for sportswriting in the classrooms of the University of Maine school of journalism. He earned his Bachelor's degree in 2010, while complementing his studies covering two years of UMaine sports and summer college baseball on Cape Cod. He resides in southern Maine and works in a private school for kids with autism. In his spare time he's training for his next marathon (running or skiing) or coaching at a local high school.

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One comment

  • Tim Kelley

    June 28, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Sad news. The US needs more, not less, ski areas that cost $15 a day to ski at.

    If you do the math: The initiative was a request for $51,000. The turnout of Rumford voters was around 1500. And turnout for local voting is rarely greater than 50%. Black Mountain has some of the cheapest lift tickets in the country at $15. So, voters weren’t willing to pay the equivalent of one or two super-cheap lift tickets a piece to keep the mountain open, and provide skiing as a healthy recreation for local kids. That’s not a lot of money.

    So, is there more to this story? Is the town of Rumford on the edge of default and cutting everything they can? Local politics? Societal change in ME?

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