WOLFEBORO -- Sunday's snowstorm brought a welcome foot of snow to the town's Abenaki Ski Area, which opens for its 78th season next week after Christmas.
On Saturday, Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation Director Ethan Hipple met with the grooming team members who were shutting down for the day in advance of the storm. With opening day 11 days away, the slopes were already well-groomed with a 2-foot base thanks to a successful fundraising drive in 2012-2013 by the Friends of Abenaki that garnered more than $259,000 in private donations.
The money paid for the installation of a permanent 13-gun snowmaking season last year, a valuable feature that enabled consistent operation, high quality race conditions and a full terrain park for an expanded Abenaki Ski Team, according to Hipple.
"The thing about Abenaki, because we're small, we can really focus on very good grooming conditions," he said, looking forward to the storm. "It's a good thing. Storms are free snow. We do not refuse any snow," said Hipple with a smile. "It's a nice topping and with a good base; it will blend in even better."
Abenaki includes a small lodge built in 1940, a new rope tow, three trails, the main ski hill and a bunny slope, a terrain park and two cross country trails to the left and right of the main trails. The Pop Whalen Ice Arena, an indoor ice rink open for hockey teams, stick practice and figure skaters alike, is already open for the season.
Located on the same lot off Route 109A at the base of the ski hill, the ice arena was busy Saturday with a youth hockey game and parents watching from the lobby windows where it was warmer, or from the benches on the sidelines. Hipple said the department sold the rink's old Zamboni ice groomer on eBay for $4,600.
The sale got rid of an unused piece of equipment and brought cash to the operating fund.
New this year is the Parks and Recreation maintenance building, which is under construction but expected to be completed within a couple weeks, said Hipple. Once the new structure is ready, equipment stored in three smaller, older sheds at the base of the hill will be moved to the new building and the old sheds will likely be razed.
This year, Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation is working closely with the town and the Friends of Abenaki group to eventually build a new ski lodge. Hipple said the Friends and Parks & Recreation will co-host the Abenaki Ski-A-Thon on Jan. 25, 2014, at 4:30 p.m. at the ski area to raise money for the lodge. The hourlong Ski-A-Thon will be followed by a Christmas Tree bonfire and awards from 5:30 to 7 p.m., with the Kingswood Varsity Hockey team playing Goffstown at the Pop Whalen Arena from 7 to 9 p.m.
Skiers and snowboarders ages 5 or older are encouraged to sign up. Participants can register at wolfeboronh.us/abenaki, and download a form from the Parks and Recreation web site
Prizes will be awarded for most laps and most money raised per lap.
"We couldn't do it without the Friends of Abenaki. We have staff and then we have many volunteers who come out, split wood, clear trails, trim brush off trails. We have Friends of Abenaki out there raising money for our groomer, for the lodge, for the snowmaking," he said, adding the relationship between the town owned ski and recreation area, department staff and pool of volunteers with the Friends is a wonderful public-private partnership.