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January 25. 2013 10:43PM

John Habib's City Sports: Good times return to McIntyre


Two-year-old Ava Steiniger, of Litchfield, with assistance from her dad John Steiniger, tries skiing for the first time while at McIntyre Ski Area in Manchester last month. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)
From Thanksgiving through the middle of March, Ross Boisvert has a daily ritual.

"I wish for snow each and every day," he said.

If you were vice president and general manager of a ski area, you'd probably do the same.

That's the position Boisvert holds at Manchester's McIntyre Ski Area, where Boisvert's wish has been fulfilled far more frequently this winter than in the barren season of 2011-12.

"We took a hit," Boisvert said. "In terms of attendance, I'd say we were down about 25 percent last year compared to the previous season. We just had no snow in our backyard, and when that happens, our industry doesn't do well."

So you can imagine how grateful Boisvert was when more than a foot of snow fell on the Manchester area during the Christmas vacation week. And while the snow fell, vital numbers at McIntyre rose.

"For the first time, we have 800 season-pass holders, and our attendance in December ran 13 percent higher than the previous year," Boisvert said. "We're averaging 500 to 600 school kids a day, and we're averaging between 400 and 800 people on weekends. So things have picked up, and the good news is, we're still in the middle of winter."

McIntyre Ski Area's president is Don Sarette, the former three-sport standout at Manchester High Central who went on to quarterback Syracuse to the 1959 national championship with Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis in the backfield. When Sarette graduated from Syracuse, he returned to Manchester and opened a sporting goods store called Don's Sport Center on South Willow Street.

"Don's Sport Center specialized in all sporting goods, especially skiing," said Boisvert. "In 1978, Manchester Parks and Recreation approached Don to operate the rental shop and ski school at McIntyre. Don took on the challenge and stocked the area with rental equipment, and staffed the area with a ski school."

Boisvert, also a Central High graduate, started teaching skiing at McIntyre in 1984, when he was still in high school. He also worked for Sarette at Don's. Before the start of the 1989-90 ski season, Boisvert said, Sarette offered him the position of ski school director at McIntyre.

Boisvert accepted the position.

"I started marketing to elementary schools and creating after-school programs for local schools," said Boisvert. "I continued to grow the school by adding more after-school programs every year. In 1996, the ski school grew to the level where a new rental shop building needed to be built. Don approached the city and worked out a deal to build a new building. Once the new shop opened in 1997, the ski school continued to grow."

In 2009, Boisvert said, he and Sarette presented a plan to the city to take over total operations from Manchester Parks and Recreation. In September 2009, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the plan.

"The 25-year management agreement included many improvements of the area, including a brand new lodge that is available for weddings and functions, three new conveyor lifts and improved snow-making," Boisvert said.

McIntyre also offers up to eight lanes of tubing.

Boisvert said the entire operation has almost 300 employees in the wintertime and six full-time employees year-round.

Currently, Boisvert said, all nine ski trails are open. Season passes are $220 for juniors (ages 17 and under), $250 for adults. Senior passes for 65-and-over are free.



"City Sports" is published every Saturday in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter John Habib at jhabib@unionleader.com.

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