By David Schissler
(August 2013) When I was a kid growing up in central Connecticut, skiing smaller local areas was a common and often necessity. They were the perfect place for me to hone my skills and expose me to the mountain experience without breaking the bank. Sure, the hills were usually small, had only one or two lifts, lacked much snowmaking and grooming was nonexistent, but they kept me skiing.
Today, we refer to these small local areas as “feeder mountains”. They provide the entry level skiing experience so essential in creating new and steady customers for the lager, more sophisticated resorts.
Two more of these areas are disappearing.
The Maine Winter Sports Center (MWSC) will close the Black Mountain ski area in Rumford, ME www.skiblackmountain.org. The town voted to not fund the resort as a recreational resource. Andy Shepard, president and CEO of the MWSC, said in a press release that sales were up at Black Mountain last year after the group made improvements and lowered prices. The changes led to increases of 197 percent in ticket sales and a 93 percent increase in rentals, he said. But, the nonprofit and its funders decided to shut down after Rumford voters nixed a $51,000 allocation to keep the ski area operating in a June 11 referendum. MWSC said that no final decisions have been made about the mountain’s Nordic program, but that could also close.
As is the case with all feeder mountains, dozens of area schools, colleges and universities, rely heavily on the facility, which has hosted national, collegiate and Junior Olympic events regularly since the early 1990s. News of the area’s closure could spur fundraising efforts among these groups and organizations.
Mt. Sima in Whitehorse, Yukon, www.mountsima.com ,finds itself in a similar situation. The Great Northern Ski Society is ending its attempt to keep the hill open. It closed July 2, following a vote by the City Council of Whitehorse to reject the Society’s business plan and its request for $400,000 in funding. The hill may yet find life though. The GNSS has accepted the city of Whitehorse’s counter-offer to buy the resort’s chairlift and approved nearly $200,000 to make the final payment on the $3 million lift. Council members are urging citizens to think of ways to rescue the facility. Negotiations to determine the area’s ultimate fate have already begun.