Going rate: $20,000 an hour

Abenaki Ski-A-Thon raises more than $20,000 for new lodge

by Joshua Spaulding
Sports Editor - Granite State News, Carroll County Independent, Meredith News, Gilford Steamer, Winnisquam Echo, Plymouth Record-Enterprise and Baysider

IZZY DAYNO (left), Noah Kassels and Tobin Kassels hold signs cheering on their fathers, Matt Dayno and Jeff Kassels, who were participating in the Abenaki Ski-A-Thon on Saturday. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
January 29, 2014
WOLFEBORO — The sum raised from Saturday night's ski-a-thon at Abenaki Ski Area staggered even the organizers of the event.

Friends of Abenaki's Holly Williams and Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation Director Ethan Hipple announced to the crowd assembled around the blazing Christmas tree bonfire at the foot of the Wolfeboro ski area that the event raised more than $20,000 toward construction of a new lodge, a sum that brought gasps from everyone assembled.

"This is how you build a community," Hipple said, looking around at the people gathered around the fire.

"Thank you all for participating," said Friends of Abenaki President Bill Swaffield. "With all your help tonight, we've made a big dent in what we need to raise."

The ski-a-thon was brought to the Friends of Abenaki by Williams, who saw it as a great chance for the ski area to raise money to help fund the new lodge, which is slated to be built for the 2015 season. It will replace the original lodge that still sits at the bottom of the ski area.

"It seemed like a good way to make money," Williams said. "It was 'how can we make a lot of money in a little time and have fun doing it,'" she said.

The event lasted for one hour and the more than 30 participants had the ski area to themselves. They took the rope tow to the summit, where Brewster Academy's Rachel Jeffers and a couple of Brewster students kept count of everyone's laps. The idea was to do as many laps as possible in the one hour allotted.

Skiers (and one snowboarder) collected pledges per lap and when the totals were added up, the pledges amounted to more than $20,000.

Williams said that she and Hipple figured that the average person would do 15 to 20 laps, but those numbers were a little low, as the top three finishers each completed 42 laps up and down the hill.

Swaffield, Matt Found and Kevin French each earned prizes, which were donated by Nordic Skier and Ski Works, for their efforts.

The top three fundraisers also received prizes, with Charlie Arinello bringing in $2,040 for third place, French bringing in $3,745 for second place and Steve Girard bringing in $4,103.60 for first place.

The anticipation of the event was almost too much for the Abenaki rope tow to handle, as just a couple of minutes into the ski-a-thon, the tow stalled out from the weight of too many people at once clamped on.

Ski area employee Alden Garland stepped in to control the flow of people getting on to the tow and for most of the rest of the night it was smooth sailing.

It was a common theme from those taking part that the skiing was the easy part of the night.

"The rope tow was the killer," French said, echoing statements of other competitors who came away with sore muscles in their arms.

Andre deBeer, a coach for the Abenaki Ski Team, was on hand to take pictures and had three kids participating in the event. His wife Aynne was serving chili in front of the lodge.

"It's a big chunk of change towards the lodge," deBeer said. "It's brilliant."

Williams vowed that the Abenaki Ski-A-Thon would return next year. The number of participants is capped at 50 and she noted that next year, the first person to sign up will get to be the first person up the rope tow to start the evening.

It's safe to say there will be plenty of people clamoring for that spot.

Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or sportsgsn@salmonpress.com

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