July 19, 2013

Black Mountain ski area to remain open

More than $125,000 is raised in three weeks, enough to ensure skiing will continue for the coming winter.

By Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

A snowboarder walks up the main access road to Black Mountain in Rumford in this January 11, 2013 file photo. The ski area will remain open after $125,000 was raised in three weeks.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

The resort lost money in all 10 years of Maine Winter Sports Center operation, a total of about $1.5 million that Libra covered. Shepard conservatively projected an operating loss of about $80,000 this winter but profitability the following season.

"I believe that this business model already has the mountain on the path to turning the corner," said Shepard, noting the average daily ticket price for skiing in the United States last winter was $89. "The rate of loss of baby boomers as skiers is not being met in any degree by the introduction of new skiers. That's not a promising business model."

Community ski areas with affordable prices, Shepard said, create a model based on traffic and volume rather than on gross margin per skier visit. Preserving areas such as Black Mountain is critical to the ski industry's sustainability.

"Gross margin doesn't send new skiers on to resorts," he said, "more skiers does."

That consideration may explain why the nearby Sunday River resort made a $5,000 matching donation to Black Mountain's cause, along with $10,000 from Franklin Savings Bank and $25,000 from Bangor Savings Bank. Sunday River will also continue to provide expertise and advice to the new ownership.

"My oldest likes it here, but he has a pass at Sunday River," said Brad Adley, a former Black Mountain board member with three skiing children. "We're building skiers."

Adley is also a Franklin Savings Bank director and a member of the Rumford Board of Selectmen. He helped revise downward a town budget that will come up for vote again on Tuesday.

Included in a finance committee article of that budget is $51,000 for Black Mountain.

"So the voters have a chance at funding this again," Adley said.

He also said the resort's transfer to local control could result in greater taxpayer support.

"Libra was great and we couldn't have done this without them," Adley said. "But I think it was always in the back of people's minds that they had Big Brother down in Portland taking care of us.

"And they did. Don't get me wrong. (Former Libra director) Owen Wells and that team is awesome. But now we're on our own again and we're going to have to do it. It's a good day, a good day for Rumford."

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

gjordan@pressherald.com

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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