Maine – and the United States – lost a skiing icon.

Wendall “Chummy” Broomhall, an Olympian, one of the most decorated skiers in Maine history, one of the driving forces behind the development of Black Mountain of Maine ski area in Rumford, and one of the most revered of Androscoggin River Valley natives, died Saturday at the Maine Veterans’ Home in South Paris. He was 98.

Broomhall’s impact was as broad as the shoulders that helped shape a region – and, nationally, a sport.

From his service to the country during World War II, to the donation of hundreds of acres of land on which Black Mountain sits today, to the innovations he brought to Nordic ski trails at the Olympic level, Broomhall made an impact across the globe.

One of 15 children, Broomhall graduated from high school in 1937. He worked as a logger until problems with his legs forced him to stop.

When World War II broke out, Broomhall tried to join the Air Corps but didn’t pass the physical because of his eyesight.

Instead, he joined the Army and fought in the Pacific Theater, and also spent time in Brazil, West Africa and Sicily.

BACK TO SKIING

Everyone skied when he was younger, Broomhall recalled.

“We only did cross-country skiing,” he said last year. “I take that back. We jumped, too.”

There were plenty of small jumps around Rumford from which he could launch. And, of course, there was Black Mountain with plenty of trails for skiing and training.

So what did he like most about skiing?

“The competition, of course,” Broomhall said. “Before the war, I was probably the top cross-country skier there,” Broomhall said. “I won a lot of races.”

Broomhall competed in the 1948 Winter Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and in the 1952 Games in Oslo, Norway.

In 1960, the United States was hosting the Winter Olympics, and Broomhall was, by default, the country’s expert.

“In 1960, there wasn’t anybody around there that did anything about cross-country (skiing), so they made me the American representative to Federation of International Ski – the world governing body,” he said.

Broomhall designed the trails for the Olympics in 1960, and again at Lake Placid in 1980, and was chief of competition for both events. In 1960, Broomhall became the first to use mechanized equipment to groom trails, a job previously performed by feet and hand-held rakes.

CARVING A LEGACY

While Broomhall was always happy to lend a hand to his country and the greater good of the sport, his heart was always with his hometown and his family. Over the years, he donated about 300 acres and helped lay out the trail system enjoyed by thousands – both for fun and in competition – at Black Mountain of Maine.

Today, Black Mountain’s Nordic trails offer 17 kilometers of terrain, which feed into the aptly named Broomhall Stadium. The venue has hosted the U.S. cross-country skiing championships four times since 2003 and is the site for the Chummy Broomhall Cup for Maine colleges, the Sassi Memorial Invitational for high schools across Maine, and has hosted numerous state, regional and national high school and youth races.

Broomhall was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1981, and was an inaugural member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame in 2003.

Broomhall’s family is planning a life celebration this summer. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to: The Chummy Broomhall Maine Nordic Ski Fund, c/o The Maine Community Foundation, 245 Main Street, Ellsworth, ME 04605.

Sun Journal writers Erin Place and Liz Marquis contributed to this report.

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