Whaleback is back: Struggling ski area reopens - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Whaleback is back: Struggling ski area reopens

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The snow guns are fired up and the lifts are spinning; Whaleback is back, a small family ski area with a hometown feel.

"I let my 9-year-old ski the mountain all day yesterday with a friend and I had no concerns about anything because you can't get lost on it and it is just a safe environment," said Elizabeth Ellingson of Plainfield.

"It doesn't take that long to get down and if you are really frustrated on a trail, since the mountain is not that big you can just get right back on the lift and try a different trail," said Trevor Proulx, a snowboarder.

Work inside to fix up the kitchen is music to skiers' ears. And the hustle and bustle on the slopes is a pleasant sight after previous owners shut down abruptly at the end of last season. They couldn't make ends meet. In recent years, several previous owners have met the same fate and the ski area has sat dormant for multiple seasons in a row.

Ellingson has been coming here since she was a kid.

"To think that we might lose that for our children was really upsetting," she said.

Whaleback is now owned by the Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation, a nonprofit created this summer to bring new life to the ailing hill. The 12-member board is made up of business people, local ski families and philanthropists. Keeping outdoor winter recreation in the Upper Valley is the goal. The nonprofit will rely heavily on fundraising and taking advantage of available grants. Mountain officials say they've already been able to bank about half a million dollars.

"Trying to capitalize this going forward so that it can survive. That has been the biggest issue in the past. The owners in the past just didn't have the revenue," said Dick Harris of Whaleback.

And volunteers have been pitching in, too, sprucing up the lodge and helping on the trails. Down the road, a Nordic center and mountain biking could be added to the mix.

"I know a lot of people got behind it," Ellingson said. "There has been a lot of donations. A lot of us bought family passes who haven't before because we really want to support the organization and make sure it is here for the long term."

It's a community hill that skiers and mountain officials say will take a lot of community support to keep the lifts operating for many years to come.

Whaleback was on the auction block this summer but didn't sell. The negotiated purchase price with the bank and new owners was $300,000.

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