Meet the “Angry Beavers” Committed to Rumford’s Scrappy Ski Mountain
They're cutting down trees and lifting up a town.
By Josh Christie
Photographed by Gabe Souza
[cs_drop_cap letter=”O” color=”#000000″ size=”5em” ]ver in Rumford, the Angry Beavers have been busy. This summer, the all-volunteer corps of glade-cutters at Black Mountain of Maine ski resort has been focused on developing what they call The Royal, a glade nearly 800 feet long in the mountain’s East Bowl. It’s just one of nearly 30 glades — off-trail wooded areas, lightly thinned, for those who love tree skiing — that the group has planned, developed, and maintained over the last half-dozen years.
When the Angry Beavers started their work in 2010, they were basically two guys: Jeff Marcoux, a Dixfield native and mechanical engineer at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and his father, Gerald Marcoux, who snuck into the woods together here and there to clear brush for some off-piste skiing. “Me and my father ventured into the forbidden land with handsaws, in stealth mode,” confesses the younger Marcoux. But after the mountain manager caught wind of their exploits, the duo came clean and was invited to work in tandem with Black Mountain’s management. Ever since, an expanding crew of Beavers has worked with the blessing of the mountain’s board of directors, submitting proposals for new areas to develop, cutting glades with enough access and spacing to be navigable by ski patrol.
The glades at Black Mountain are “a resource we wouldn’t be able to have without their work,” Black Mountain marketing director Deanna Kersey says. And their development is attracting more and more sidecountry-seeking skiers to a nonprofit mountain that’s traditionally been a low-key family affair. “We’re seeing people we haven’t seen before,” Kersey says.
And so are the Marcouxes. The Angry Beavers’ Facebook page today boasts more than 500 members, although Jeff Marcoux pegs the active on-mountain corps at a few dozen. Since 2013, those volunteers have put in a staggering 2,600 hours of trail work, paid only, he says, in “celebratory beers in the Last Run Pub and high-fives in the lift line on powder days.”
“Volunteering is contagious once you see other people giving it their all,” Marcoux says, “You see a lot more people stepping up.”
The impact on the mountain has been massive. Black Mountain now boasts one of New England’s largest expanses of gladed skiing: 29 zones spread across nearly 50 acres of rolling terrain, mini cliff bands, and ice flow areas, spanned by some 5 miles of trails, almost all accessible by chairlift. “It takes a minimum of 13 runs to ski all of the glades accessible from the summit triple-chair,” Marcoux says.
The volunteers’ mountain-transforming efforts came at a time when help was sorely needed. Both Black Mountain and its host town of Rumford have weathered economic hard times. A prosperous mill town at the turn of the 20th century, Rumford has struggled with the decline of industry, shedding population. Black Mountain, which has operated as an alpine area since 1962 and a Nordic ski center for longer, expanded dramatically in the early 2000s, under the ownership of the Maine Winter Sports Center, but it nearly closed in 2013, when that organization pulled its support following a town vote denying the mountain funding.
The work of the Angry Beavers is attracting new winter visitors — and their dollars — to Rumford. Over the past five years, Kersey says, the mountain has seen a more than 60 percent increase in skier visits. It’s also emblematic of the many ways that Black Mountain is a community labor of love. Volunteers “do everything from parking cars to guest services,” Kersey says. “Having them expands what we can do with our limited resources. They are like gold.”