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The Black Cat slope circa 1950
Black Cat Mountain
T1R8 WELS, Maine
Status: Lost/Defunct
First Season:1947-48
Last Season:1960s
Vertical Drop:250 feet
Standing Lifts:
Past Lifts:Surface lift
Left: The Black Cat slope circa 1950
Recent NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News:
Located northwest of Millinocket in Township 1 Range 8 WELS, Black Cat Mountain was the site of alpine skiing activities for four decades.

Katahdin Millinocket Outing Club

Siting the ski area (1937)
Siting the ski area (1937)

The origin of Black Cat Mountain ski area dates back to the spring of 1937, when a group of Millinocket businessmen decided form organization develop Millinocket Lake into a sports area. Fred Gates was elected President of the Katahdin Millinocket Outing Club. Since the lake was already seeing summer use, the group focused on developing winter activities.

The group's ambitious plan was publicized in May, centered on a lodge that would overlook the lake and Mt. Katahdin. The lodge would initially be 40 by 26 feet, designed with the potential for two expansion wings. Activities would include ski trails for all abilities (including a rope tow), snowshoe trails, a ski jump, a toboggan chute, a skating rink, and of course fishing. Five lots, totaling 500 feet of lake frontage, were leased from Great Northern Paper Company for a nominal price with the ability to cut ski trails on the mountain.

Clearing (spring 1937)
Clearing (spring 1937)

Later that month, groups of volunteers began spending their weekends dropping trees with axes and saws. Some of the timber for the lodge was dropped on an island and towed to the site. A group of women prepared meals for the crews at Fred Gates' camp on the lake.

Work continued into the fall, as the group pleaded to get younger people involved with the project. The Bangor Daily News noted that "most of the volunteers are the older citizens of the town, most of whom will not use the sporting area when fully completed."

The toboggan chute (December 1937)
The toboggan chute (December 1937)

Construction of the lodge and toboggan slide were completed by the beginning of December, as the focus shifted to cutting trails and building the ski jump.

Though the lodge technically opened in December, it is not known if the ski trails were used during the winter of 1937-38. With meager snowfall and multiple significant rain storms, Black Cat Mountain lacked adequate snow for skiing through at least early February.

The 1938-39 season had more seasonable weather, as groups flocked to the complex over the Christmas vacation period. By February, the area featured an open slope and three trails, plus the popular toboggan chute.

Wanting to provide a closer skiing experience, the Millinocket Outing Club cut the 1,380 foot Anderson Trail on the west side of the town for the 1939-40 season.

The base lodge (December 1937)
The base lodge (December 1937)

In mid-March 1940, the Katahdin Outing Club held an open meet at Black Cat, including downhill, slalom, and jumping events. Trails were said to be "in better shape than ever" with snowpack of one to three feet. Membership was said to have eclipsed 400 before World War II interjected.

Lift Service

George Johnson and George Smart at the rope tow (circa 1950)
George Johnson and George Smart at the rope tow (circa 1950)

Following World War II, the Katahdin Outing Club pushed forward with Black Cat with the goal of making it one of the best developments in the state. With George Johnson now serving as president, a new, longer slope was cleared for the 1946-47 season while fundraising took place for the installation of a rope tow.

The rope tow was installed for the 1947-48 season for a reported cost of $7,000. In addition to the 1,200 foot tow, Black Cat now featured electricity in the lodge, a juke box, loud speakers, and lights on the slope. The area even had three planes lined up for sight-seeing trips.

The lodge burned to the ground, possibly in the late 1940s, resulting in the club using the nearby Woodworth's Sporting Camp.

Plans for snow trains were developed for the 1949-50 season to bring skiers from Bangor each Sunday. The Underwood rope tow was now listed as 1,500 feet long and powered by a V-8 Mercury motor. The lift operated Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

The rope tow (circa 1950)
The rope tow (circa 1950)

A new ski area was developed near Millinocket (possibly at the Hillcrest Golf Club) for the 1951-52 season, featuring two slopes, a toboggan chute, and a 500 foot rope tow. By this point, Black Cat was advertising a 2,400 foot slope, served by a tow reputed to be "among the best in New England." A major snow train event was held in February, bringing an estimated 1,000 people to town for ski races, a concert, and the crowning of "Miss Katahdin" by "Miss Maine" Beverly Emery Driscoll.

Skiing continued at Black Cat into the 1960s, as the Maine Eastern Class B ski meet was held there in February 1961. A rejuvenated Katahdin Outing Club held a gala later that month at the facility, which reportedly included inaugurating a new toboggan slope.

Skiers at the base of the mountain (1963)
Skiers at the base of the mountain (1963)

Improvements for the 1961-62 season included a new lodge, a wider slope, a new intermediate trail, and a toboggan trail. The projects were once again accomplished with volunteer labor with Ted Jones serving as president and Earl York Jr. playing a large role in the lodge project. The new lodge debuted in March.

Closure

It is not known how long Black Cat operated after the 1962-63 season, but the area was likely defunct before the end of the decade. Larger operations began to develop in the region around Bangor in the 1960s, including the T-Bar served Squaw Mountain in Greenville in 1963 (expanded to the summit with a chairlift in 1967), the T-Bar served Mt. Jefferson in Lee in 1964, and chairlift service at Bald Mountain in Dedham in 1967.

1997 aerial imagery of Black Cat Mountain
1997 aerial imagery of Black Cat Mountain

Though there were attempts to develop resorts on and around Black Cat Mountain in subsequent years, vegetation overtook the ski trails. The New England Outdoor Center is now located just past the former Black Cat base area. The center's nordic ski network includes the Black Cat Peak trail, which approaches the former ski area.

Maps
1937 Black Cat Mountain Development Map
1937 Black Cat Mountain Development Map
View All Black Cat Mountain Trail Maps

Visitor Memories
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External Links
  • Black Cat - New England Lost Ski Areas
  • Last updated: May 3, 2022

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