NEWRY — With a powerful storm expected to bring a foot or more of snow to Western Maine starting Thursday, Mike Cooper and Duane Bond are excited.
Cooper is one of six board members of Outdoor Center Inc. It’s a fledgling nonprofit that hired eight people and opened The Outdoor Center behind the Sunday River Inn on Saturday for the season.
“We will open up a whole bunch of terrain tomorrow,” Cooper said Wednesday afternoon. “This storm is coming at the perfect time in terms of school vacation week.”
Prior to the storm, The Outdoor Center offered 4.5 kilometers of groomed Nordic skiing trails on a 30-kilometer trail system behind the inn at 23 Skiway Road off Sunday River Road.
Bond manages the inn for owners Steve and Peggy Wight. The inn will be available for warming up, socializing, eating lunch, and waxing skis, as well as lodging.
Cooper is also one of three area people who manage the Bethel Nordic Ski Center at the Bethel Inn Resort. The other two are attorney Kirk Siegel and Sarah Weafer.
The Bethel center also runs Outdoor Center Inc., while the Bethel Outing Club is acting as the corporation’s fiscal agent “until we get our feet under us,” Cooper said.
Cooper and Weafer will also manage The Outdoor Center.
Outdoor Center Inc. board members include Cooper, Weafer, Leslie Kritcho, an ex-Olympian and former U.S. Ski Team member, Carlie Casey, Steve Wight and Wade Kavanaugh.
Cooper said they all share the same vision — to bring every Nordic ski touring center in Bethel under one nonprofit roof to share resources and costs.
“This nonprofit model is really where all of us want to go in Bethel,” Cooper said. “We’re all trying to sing the same song.”
“I know I wanted to move our operation (the Bethel Nordic Ski Center) into the nonprofit world this fall, and I know that David Carter is very interested in doing the same,” he said.
Carter owns and operates Carter’s Cross-Country Ski Centers in Bethel and Oxford.
“I have advocated for this move, as well as donating funds, time and equipment, to see that this succeeds,” Cooper said.
“Time, energy and funds being limited, all of us decided that we should try to get The Outdoor Center off the ground this fall and stall the bigger plan for next year.
“So, the goal is to run this as a nonprofit and we’re going to try to do programs — both educational and community oriented,” Cooper said.
“Obviously, we will be running it as a ski touring center, because it always has been. It will be focusing on activities that increase the community benefit.”
According to its Facebook site, The Outdoor Center will provide opportunities for outdoor pursuits, focusing especially on Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, trail running, nature study and other activities best suited for the area’s spectacular setting.
Essentially, Cooper said the goal is to provide educational programming, events, services and facilities that support meaningful and healthy lifestyles.
Trail passes purchased at The Outdoor Center, the Bethel Nordic Ski Center, or Carter’s in Bethel are good to use at the other ski centers on the same day, Cooper said.
Cooper said Sunday River Ski Resort ran The Outdoor Center for the past two years, then opted out of it this winter. However, the adjacent resort wanted someone to run it, so the Outdoor Center Inc. took it on.
In the summer, Cooper said the corporation will continue to promote healthy lifestyles by holding running races and hikes and orienteering activities.
For more information, call 824-0348 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
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