During my first drives to Saddleback, I would gaze west from Route 17 in Mexico and contemplate Black Mountain of Maine. I originally mistook it for a lost area, making a mental note to research the area for possible turn earning.
But the lifts have been spinning steadily at Black since 1935. More well known for hosting numerous high profile nordic championship events, the alpine portion of Black focuses on affordable family friendly skiing for local area residents.
The reason that the lifts still turn at Black Mountain is Maine Winter Sports Center’s financial support from the Libra Foundation. Without the financial support of the Libra Foundation, Black Mountain would not be able to offer its record low lift ticket price of $15.00 and sustain operations.
Black Mountain Ski “Resort” of Maine (not to be confused with Black Mountain of New Hampshire) reminds me of a scaled down version of lost Tenney Mountain in New Hampshire. Black’s modest 1150′ vertical skis even smaller than the statistic would suggest. Black is protractorly challenged featuring mostly lower intermediate pitch and only a few hundred vertical feet worth of modest upper intermediate pitch. Indeed, its token double diamond trail could be mistaken for a steep blue square left ungroomed at many other resorts.
The Trail Report listed Black Mountain at 100% open with thirty trails. However, Snocountry reported Black Mountain had 30 out of 35 trails open. The variance can be accounted for by a few new trails that seem to be listed on Snocountry but not on Black Mountain’s official report. It is truly a shame that I couldn’t sample these trails as Black’s existing offerings are surprisingly limited.
From the summit, there are essentially four routes top to bottom, though you have a few options due to trail mergers and double backing. Despite the various trail ratings, all of the trails ski at a lower intermediate level making Black Mountain ideal for a developing skier and a family with younger kids or skiers that are still learning. A few glades have been cut but they are all rather short and don’t add too much to the mix.
The base lodge is gorgeous. The lodge was recently built and has three floors: services and sales on the first, food and tables on the second, and a bar on the third. The vertically spacious second and third floors feature visually appealing post and beam timber and brand new furniture all around. Rumor has it that the lodge is not large enough to accommodate both alpine skiers and nordic racers on nordic race days. For my visit, there were only 100 cars in the lot during a Presidents Holiday weekend, so I suspect space is ample excepting for nordic race days.
Visiting lesser known mid-sized ski areas was a specific component of The List. And I can usually find some interesting skiing at even the smallest of areas. Despite being far from the smallest, I found that Black Mountain had the least to offer me out of all the other areas on The List. But that says more about me than it does about Black Mountain.
The area is truly a gem as an inexpensive family and learning area. A community area in the purest sense of the words, this might be the largest “feeder area” in New England at 1150′ vertical. You won’t find much challenge here but most skiers just want uncrowded cruising any ways, especially those learning and developing. Give it a shot if you are in the area but don’t expect the challenge of other nearby areas of similar vertical.