A volunteer helps create a skiing glade between Rumford Whitecap and Black mountains in Rumford in October. Submitted photo

RUMFORD — As another season of winter recreation gets underway, this community has a new attraction for those who seek the backcountry ski scene.

An eight-mile traverse has been created between Rumford Whitecap and Black mountains. Named Black & White Glades, it caters to those who enjoy alpine skiing through trees or on a defined woods trail.

Glades are variously sought for their solitude, beauty, or caches of ungroomed powder. Woods also tend to hold better snow longer, thanks to the shade and shelter of trees.

The project is the result of volunteers cutting trees and hauling brush on both mountains Oct. 19 and 20.

Tyler Ray, who heads the Granite Backcountry Alliance of New Hampshire, partnered with the Mahoosuc Land Trust and Black Mountain of Maine to create gladed ski runs connecting the mountains.

“We had an awesome weekend,” Ray said. “Over 100 people for the two days.” More than half the volunteers were local. Others were from as far away as Newport, Rhode Island.

“This is our third year of doing these kinds of projects,” Ray said. “Not only are they cutting ski trails for our future benefit, but we’re also providing food, beverages, entertainment and social networking, so everyone just naturally has a good time because everyone there is like-minded. And that is a key piece.”

In the middle of summer, Ray said Granite Backcountry Alliance set out their glade schedule for the fall so people can pick which ones will fit in their schedule or the ones they’ll probably be skiing at.

“We tell people if you want to be backcountry skiing, this is all done by crafted blading,” he said.
“Everyone’s coming in and doing it by hand. For you to come here and ski it, that’s not necessarily fair to everyone else, so you really need to contribute your time.”

They track their glade projects to understand what vertical feet needs to be cut and other details.

“We understand what our productivity is, based on the project at hand,” he said. “It’s not like we throw everyone in the woods. It’s tightly organized.”

There are online maps, GPS orientation, color codes for different groups and where they need to cut.

Signs for the new Black and White Glades from Rumford Whitecap Mountain to Black Mountain are being prepared for installation in early 2020. Maps will be introduced as well. Submitted photo

Black & White Glades

The project started by talking with Mahoosuc Land Trust, the 35-member Angry Beavers of Black Mountain and Black Mountain of Maine.

Black Mountain of Maine Manager Jim Carter said Angry Beavers is a volunteer group created by father and son, Jeff and Gerry Marcoux. It’s been key in helping to expand Black Mountain’s territory by cutting glades since 2010, he said.

Angry Beavers has logged over 3,000 volunteer hours and helped create over 500 acres of woods to explore.

“Black Mountain now has more varied terrain than ever before, with 50 trails and gladed zones, 90 percent of which are accessible by chairlift,” he said.

For Black and White Glades, Ray said they cut two glades and a skim track on the west side of the traverse.

“Both those glades have a real nice entrance from the ridgeline of Rumford Whitecap, and essentially blow back down onto the Andover side,” he said.

To go a little farther, continue up to the ridgeline and drop into the southeast snowfields.

“We created two separate gladed exits so that you can continue skiing right down to the Black and White Trail, which already exists,” Ray said. “Then, there’s a little valley in between Rumford Whitecap and Black Mountain. So we utilized the Black and White Trail to go up. Once you’re at the top of Black Mountain, we cut a glade that you can ski down.”

Starting from the Andover side, a skier can get all the way over to the Black side and ski out. If starting from Black, there’s a new uphill line that’s designated specifically for backcountry skiing.

Signs for the Black and White Trail is being prepared for installation in early 202o. Maps will be introduced as well, with additional information online at GraniteBackcountryAlliance.org, and on the Black Mountain of Maine website.

“We’re also exploring the idea of a skimo race, a point to point, starting at one end of the Black and White Trail,” Ray said. “It’s really backcountry skiing, but in a race format.”

They’re more social events where skiers do the course at their pace, he said.

Economic impact

Ray said the economic impact of backcountry skiers has always gone under the radar because there’s no way to really track them.

“How do you know if a group of four get in a car from Boston?” he asked. “They leave at three in the morning, drive up to Rumford Whitecap, ski all day, maybe spend a night and go home the next morning.
But meanwhile, they got gas, they had lunch and dinner, stay at a hotel — contributed significant dollars to that community. How do you know if they were even there?”

Granite Backcountry Alliance has worked hard at cultivating a following of such skiing enthusiasts, he said.

“It’s really coordinating the backcountry skiers into one unified group,” Ray said.

Karen Wilson, who volunteered with Angry Beavers, said many volunteers had never been to Black Mountain before or even heard of it, but were excited by the terrain options available, especially on Whitecap because if its unique granite summit and ledges. They all indicated they would be back this winter to try Black Mountain and the new terrain out.

“The ability to ride the lift to the top of Black and ski the glades down the back of the mountain and then hike up Whitecap was appealing, as well as a tour from the East Andover Road, finishing at Black Mountain,” she said.

Black Mountain Manager Carter said, “Connecting our glades to Mahoosuc’s land will further enhance the expansion efforts that Black Mountain and the Angry Beavers have achieved over the last several years. As the word gets out, we’re likely to see even more new faces during the ski season.”

For Ray, the project has been especially rewarding personally.

“I’m a native of Bridgton, Maine,” he said. “I’ve been skiing around this area for quite a long time. It’s personally gratifying to introduce this project into the state. It’s really the first public glades that’s been cut. We want to encourage folks to get out and use it and provide their feedback because we’d like to offer more opportunities like this in the future with other glade zones around Western Maine.”

More than 100 volunteers from all over New England worked over two days to create an eight-mile traverse between the Rumford Whitecap Mountain and Black Mountain, both in Rumford. It’s named Black & White Glades. Submitted photo

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