Page 53 - WCM 2021 Winter
P. 53

 THE MOUNTAIN THAT SHAPED A GENERATION It All Started with Hometown Skiing by Shellie Leger
 Dan Warner
Black Mountain of Maine: coordinates 44.5769oN, 70.6133oW, vertical drop of 1,380 feet. Nestled in the western foothills of the Appalachians, 79 miles from Canada, it sits in the tiny hamlet of Woodrowville within the borders of Rumford. Black Mountain was all of our mountain. Millworkers, doctors, teachers and lawyers - the great equalizer - every boy and girl who wanted to ski had the opportunity to shine as they barreled down its face. If a parent couldn’t afford to outfit their child with all the accoutrements of the sport, Blackie’s or Hammane’s ski shop would make sure it happened, along with the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Chisolm Ski Club.
My father, Aurele Leger, for whom the ski jump was named for his tireless ser- vice, strapped skis on me and gently nudged me off at the fourth pole. Unlike Aurele, I was no natural. Every Wednesday after school, dark, frigid, I was in ski lessons with Blackie Arsenault. I missed Batman trying to become a down- hill skier. I even broke my fibula and tibia one icy Saturday. But the death knell was discovering I just wasn’t very good. But The Mountain ... a place is more than its coordinates, more than lines drawn on the map. This place offers its dwellers the possibility of love. Sitting in the lodge, eating a buttery red hot- dog, I could turn to any adult and they would face me and listen.
I called several people who grew up on “The Hill,” and had forged careers in the industry. I started with Peter Hale, who said, “That hill formed my life. I’m 66. In 1960, I was five. I tried to ski Scotty’s, but I couldn’t hold on to the rope tow. Then Black Mountain opened, and it was everything ... all our friends were there in the frigid cold, didn’t matter.
“In third grade I joined the junior ski-team. We competed in cross-country, jumping, alpine and slalom. Every weekend we were in a Chisolm event, with
Blackie Arsenault and Aurele Leger upon returning to Black Mountain of Maine from judging the ‘84 Olympic games in Lake Placid, New York.
“It is not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves.”
~ Sir Edmund Hillary

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