Whaleback 100% open after early-season ski lift challenges

Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 4:55 PM EST
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ENFIELD, N.H. (WCAX) - The Whaleback Mountain ski area in the Upper Valley opened its only top-to-bottom lift Friday. It’s been a tough year for the small ski area trying to compete with the big mountains.

When you only have one lift to the top, it’s crucial the wheels are turning, but that hasn’t been the case this year for the double chair at Whaleback.

“When it is open 100% the terrain is awesome,” said David Isom of Enfield, who was the first skier up the lift this year.

If you have ever been on it, you’re already familiar with the sweeping views of Interstate 89 and beyond. But a broken bearing near the summit at the end of the 2020 season put the 1970-era ski lift out of commission, and there are only a handful of experts with the skills to fix it. “They were tied up with other projects and it just took a lot longer than we thought it would,” said the ski area’s Gerd Riess.

Whaleback has changed ownership several times since it first opened in the 1950s. When the lift was originally put in, Interstate 89 was only in its beginning stages. The mountain is currently owned by the Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation. “It takes a lot of volunteers and a lot of long hours and hopefully a little luck,” Riess said.

The T-bar and lower mountain have been open this season and the mountain prides itself on giving kids and beginners a convenient and cheap way to hit the slopes. “It is a matter of commitment to the small learning area where people can get to know how to ski and how to snowboard,” said Tiffani Price, a ski patrol member.

“This is a skiing community,” said Norm Berman, who sits on Whaleback’s board of directors. He proudly shows off his custom skis. “Those of us who go up the mountain without the chairlift, it has been pretty amazing.”

And now that the lift is running, everybody once again has access to those spectacular Upper Valley views from the top. “I’m usually pretty heavy into it by now, so I’m not right now, but looking to get my money’s worth out of this year still,” Isom said.

One of the silver linings to this year is that the untouched snow here continues to pile up and more is in the forecast.

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