RUMFORD, Maine, (NEWS CENTER) - Despite hosting a world championship plus three NCAA's and ten national finals, the historic Black Mountain Ski Resort is in jeopardy of being closed down.
The Maine Winter Sports Center, which has owned and operated Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine since 2003, announced its intention to close the alpine mountain, effective immediately.
MWSC president and CEO Andy Shepard spearheaded the decade-long effort to overhaul the venue: from nearly triplling the height of their alpine course (470 feet to 1385 feet), building a brand new lodge, and paved four new parking lots amongst several other upgrades.
The decision to put the ski resort's operations on hold was brought about by a recent vote in which the town of Rumford declined to support Black Mountain as a recreational resource.
Despite that outcome, Shepard said he still feels there's plenty of support in the that community as well as the ski community in the state.
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.
According to Shepard, ticket sales increased by 197%, rentals were up 93% and lessons grew 426%. Despite the progress, 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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