Tony Clark bought what is now the Blueberry Hill Inn in 1967. 'We're the only business in the town of Goshen," he said.
He turned it into a Nordic Center just a few years later. "I befriended Johannes Von Trapp in 1971 and he planted the seed of opening a Nordic Center right here," Clark said.
Blueberry Hill Inn has a lot of history behind it; Parts of the inn are more than 200 years old. "The original house was 1813 and then they added on in typical Vermont fashion," Clark said.
Clark saw the popularity of nordic skiing explode during the 1970s, a time when the inn would average ten to twelve thousand skiers every winter. Today that number has dropped to under 2,000-- And that's during a snowy winter. Clark attributes some of the decrease to aging baby boomers. "That group of people that came through in the 70s are not skiing as much as they used to," he said.
The sport has also changed -- Nordic equipment has become more expensive, and waxing more complicated. Clark says the sport is increasingly competitive, further contributing to the decrease in nordic skiers. And then of course there's the problem of low snow years.
Local ski inns have had to deal with some unreliable winters in recent years, with varying snow conditions. That means they need to diversify business a little bit and in some cases this means baking some awesome chocolate chip cookies.
Less snow means more cookies. The Blueberry Hill Inn now ships its chocolate chip cookies all over the country to increase revenue and make up for the loss of nordic skiers. Clark says he's worked hard to make the inn a year round business. They offer nordic skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating, hiking, mountain biking, host weddings, host running events and even have themed weekends. "We do a sewing weekend -- it sells out," Clark said.
The work to diversify is keeping the business going -- along with loyal repeat customers. "We're very fortunate that after 42 years in business our repeat customer base comes back, with or without snow," Clark said.
Even with challenges, Clark still managed to make his dreams come true in 2007, with the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area. "My dream was to get it designated by Congress as a National Recreation Area -- and that's done," he said. Another success for the business owner -- keeping nordic skiing going at the Blueberry Hill Inn. "I'm in Vermont, it's such a special place," Clark said.