Whaleback seeking $50,000 for base lodge repair

  • Rain clouds close in on the base lodge at Whaleback Mountain, which needs $50,000 worth of repairs due to heavy rains, according to the trustees of the Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation which manages the ski area, in Enfield, N.H., on Thursday, Aug.8, 2019. (Rick Russell photograph) Rick Russell photographs

  • A flock of pigeons which have taken up residence at a shed near the base lodge sit on a chairlift cable overlooking Whaleback Mountian in Enfield, N.H., on Aug.8, 2019. (Rick Russell photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 8/12/2019 9:29:25 PM
Modified: 8/12/2019 9:29:21 PM

ENFIELD — Last winter was kind to Whaleback Mountain, but then spring wreaked havoc on its infrastructure.

The Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation, the nonprofit owner of the ski and ride area, responded by launching a $50,000 fundraising goal, posted to Facebook on July 26.

“The base ski lodge is aging, and roofing, windows and doors have reached the end of their useful life,” the post reads. “Heavy wind and rain this spring caused windows to break and water to get into the ski lodge. When attempting repairs, rot in the building framing was discovered and must be corrected before the 2019-2020 season.”

Whaleback has relied on fundraising, grants and community support since the UVSSF was founded in 2013, with the purpose of occupying a site that had been shut down by foreclosure.

But now, “reliance on community support is going to be heavier this year than it has been in the past because of this additional cost,” UVSSF board member Sam House said during a recent phone interview. “There are several ways to look at it. There’s some level of repair that needs to be taken care of, for sure, to get everything fully operational for the winter. We’re also looking ahead.

“This is a building that’s weathered a lot and is obviously very central to the operation of the mountain. And our long-term goal really has the mountain being used year-round. We’re doing some of that now. But to be able to support other community events and evening things through the summer and just be a nice gathering place for the community, and obviously to be successful in that, we’re going to need a very functional building.”

Whaleback, which opened in 1956 as Snow Crest Ski Area, was closed due to financial hardship from 1990-1992 and then again from 2001-2005. The winter of 2018-19, however, was a banner year, according to an annual fundraising appeal letter from the UVSSF board that cited “a record number of ticket sales.”

“Last season was probably the best season that Whaleback’s ever had,” said longtime patron and volunteer Holly West, who learned how to ski on the Enfield slope as a youngster. “They had increased revenues as well as decreased expenses. … This year will probably be as good of a year if not better with the improvements that they’re trying to make.”

West, who sent her own children to learn to ski at Whaleback, spoke to the hurdle that raising $50,000 represents.

“It’s definitely a large one,” she said. “I’m not sure it is the largest (one the mountain’s ever had to raise). There’s a lot of things that are completely uncontrollable like, I think it was two winters ago, where they had awesome snow between what was man-made and the natural snow and then in February it was like 70 degrees in the middle of school vacation. And so they lost, I think, 12 to 16 inches in different places. They lost a lot and that impacted them that year. There’s a combination of infrastructure hurdles that they sometimes have to jump through as well as environmental.”

Tuesday night’s foundation board meeting will include a presentation by MTD Building Contractors, of Canaan, that will outline next steps for the base lodge’s repairs.

Notes: Whaleback’s school programs included 589 children last winter, and 36 scholarships were provided to young skiers and riders, according to the appeal letter. … Last season ran from Dec. 14 to March 24. … In January, SmarterTravel.com named Whaleback one of America’s 10 best small ski resorts. Vermont’s Bolton Valley and Magic Mountain were also on the list. … The foundation’s mission is to support and enhance an affordable, healthy, and sustainable snow sports experience in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont. … Donation information can be found on Whaleback’s web and Facebook pages.




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