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Mahler: Three Guys, One Cause; Core Teamers Aid Family Even as Whaleback Goes Silent 

  • Three members of the Whaleback Core Team members — from left: Chanler Miller, 12, of Hanover; Jon Thoms, 13, of Norwich; and Brook Leigh, 13, of Norwich — are raising money to purchase a sit ski for the son of the mountain’s co-owner, an effort that is continuing even in the wake of the ski area’s announced closing. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Three members of the Whaleback Core Team members — from left: Chanler Miller, 12, of Hanover; Jon Thoms, 13, of Norwich; and Brook Leigh, 13, of Norwich — are raising money to purchase a sit ski for the son of the mountain’s co-owner, an effort that is continuing even in the wake of the ski area’s announced closing. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • “Evan has done so much for us and the community, we have to make this happen for him.” -- Whaleback Core Team skier Chanler Miller, left<br/>[with teammates John Thoms and Brook Leigh] (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    “Evan has done so much for us and the community, we have to make this happen for him.” -- Whaleback Core Team skier Chanler Miller, left
    [with teammates John Thoms and Brook Leigh] (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Three members of the Whaleback Core Team members — from left: Chanler Miller, 12, of Hanover; Jon Thoms, 13, of Norwich; and Brook Leigh, 13, of Norwich — are raising money to purchase a sit ski for the son of the mountain’s co-owner, an effort that is continuing even in the wake of the ski area’s announced closing. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • “Evan has done so much for us and the community, we have to make this happen for him.” -- Whaleback Core Team skier Chanler Miller, left<br/>[with teammates John Thoms and Brook Leigh] (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

I met three wise men the other day. Well, actually, three wise young men.

But age really doesn’t matter. Young or old, what matters most is what you do with your life. And these three young guys are already making a difference with theirs.

At an age when selfishness is the norm, these three Richmond School seventh-graders — Brook Leigh, Chanler Miller and Jon Thoms — have, instead, decided that it is better to give than receive. They decided to take their passion for freestyle skiing deeds and turn them into good deeds.

Members of the Whaleback Core Team, the three freestyle skiers had come up with an idea back in January to help raise some money for the Enfield ski area their team calls home. So they came up with the idea of making sweatshirts and turning the money over to their longtime coach, Evan Dybvig, to use at the ski area.

“We wanted to help out in some way to keep it alive and to help Evan,” said 12-year-old Miller. “The ski area means so much to the community, and Evan has done so much for us.”

But before the idea could build momentum, the news of Whaleback’s closing was made public. The boys, and the rest of the devoted Whaleback ski community, were devastated.

Daily practice runs, quality coaching and reasonable rates at a local and convenient family-type ski area were all going to be a thing of the past. The boys also realized that their sweatshirt project would hardly solve the problem of a business awash in debt.

They needed a different focus.

So instead of raising money for the ski area, they would turn their attention to helping Dybvig raise money for a sit ski — a special ski allowing those who are disabled to participate in snow sports — for his 11-year-old son, Owen, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

“We had seen Owen over at the ski area,” said Leigh, 13, noting that the special ski will cost around $4,000. “We really didn’t know him personally, but we wanted to do something to be able to give back to Evan for what he had done for us.”

The act touched Dybvig deeply. “For the kids to take their idea of selling sweatshirts to morph into a fundraiser so that Owen can ski with me the way those boys ski with me is incredible. It is so heartwarming,” said Dybvig, one of the owners of Whaleback and a former Olympic freestyle skier. “To be able to go skiing as a family … there’s really nothing else we can do with Owen like that. It opens a whole new world.”

So the boys had the concept and they had the vehicle. Now they just needed the slogan.

The idea came to them in the most obvious of places — study hall.

“We wanted something that had our own twist to it,” Leigh said. “We thought ‘Eat … Sleep … Ski’ was too boring.”

So they decided on something simpler and more direct, something that fit their mood and lifestyle. Forget the eat and forget the sleep; those words just got X’d out. This was about what the boys live for: Ski … Ski … Ski.

With the help of TK Sports, which worked on the design and then sold the shirts to the boys at cost, the idea took off. And the boys were the moving force behind it.

Whenever they go to competitions, they bring their poster and order forms. At Whaleback, they received support from the local ski community when they showed off their poster. At Waterville Valley recently, Miller gave a presentation. When he was finished, the parents passed the hat and raised more than $1,000.

They have already sold some 50 sweatshirts and raised another $750. Dybvig has also collected more than $1,500 from the bills that patrons had stuck to the ceiling over the bar at Whaleback. “We’re almost there,” said Dybvig happily. “We’re hoping to be able to get in some spring skiing before the end of the year.”

While the idea has brought happiness to the boys for their efforts and Dybvig for the outpouring of support, there is also a tinge of sadness touching all involved. “I don’t know what we’ll do (next winter) if Whaleback is not open,” said the 13-year-old Thoms. “There’s nothing else that’s near to us. We would lose out on training and only be able to ski on weekends. And we would lose our coach, too.”

But even with that issue hanging over their ski lives, the three amigos are keeping their focus and their drive. So close to completing their task, they won’t allow anything to deter them.

The boys will be selling their sweatshirts until the end of the month before turning over the money to Dybvig.

“Evan has done so much for us and the community, we have to make this happen for him,” said Miller. “As for next year, if we have to, we’ll just go over (to Whaleback) and make our own jumps and hike up and ski down. It wouldn’t feel right to leave.”

Pretty wise view of things, don’t you think?

Donald Mahler can be reached at dmahler@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.

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