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Joyce Endee

Regulations don't dampen spirits

Despite no mattress race, Saturday still a great day at Abenaki

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

CASEY LUSH shows off his snowboarding skills between takes of the mattress race at Abenaki Ski Area on Saturday. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
January 30, 2012
WOLFEBORO — Many of the people who turned out to Abenaki Ski Area on Saturday were originally hoping to see or take part in the first mattress race, sponsored by the Friends of Abenaki.

However, because of insurance regulations, the idea had to be scrapped, so instead, organizers decided to try something a little different to make the day worth it for folks who turned out.

"Due to insurance issues, we had to cancel the mattress race," said Friends of Abenaki's Holly Williams. "Cross your fingers that next year we can make it happen."

Instead, Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation Director Ethan Hipple decided to give the mattress race a go with a "dummy" strapped on the mattress. The hope was to aim the mattress just right to send it over the big air jump on Abenaki's main slope.

The multiple tries, however, were not successful, as the dummy missed the jump and twice hit the light pole to the jump's right.

Members of the Abenaki Ski Team, who were spending their morning training on the town-owned ski area, were also in attendance and there were plenty of high-flying acrobatics to keep folks entertained.

Hipple was quick to praise the Friends of Abenaki for making it possible for the area to even be open this season.

"All this snow was made possible by one group of people, the Friends of Abenaki," Hipple told the crowd. "Abenaki had a couple of rough years and this year would've been the same. We would not be open if not for Friends of Abenaki."

The Friends of Abenaki were the force behind the fundraising drive that got snowmaking installed on the town-owned ski area and President Bill Swaffield explained a bit of the history behind the Friends.

Swaffield noted that in 2005, he was alerted by budget committee member John MacDonald that the committee would be discussing the possibility of canceling the town's insurance policy for the ski area as a cost-saving measure. This came at a time when the area had struggled through a couple of seasons with no snow, which kept it from opening much, if at all.

"We knew it was either time to get an organization going to do something about it or forget about our ski area," Swaffield said. "We wanted to make sure it says open and to make it viable, it has to be open on a regular basis."

In 2006 and 2007, the group raised funds to purchase the new groomer and then the small rope tow for the kiddie hill, which allowed youngsters to learn the rope tow.

Then, after years of negotiations with the town and the state, the Friends received the proper permits to draw water from the pond at the base of the ski area, which would allow for permanent snowmaking.

Over the course of this summer and fall, the piping and pumps were put in place and the guns installed, giving the ski area major snow coverage in a season when there has been precious little natural white stuff.

Swaffield went on to thank a long list of people who made the project happen, including Ian Jarrett and Scott Bartow, who were instrumental in securing good prices on the snowmaking equipment and serving as design engineer, respectively.

He thanked Kevin French, who is one of the groomers and spends countless hours on the hill and Rick Burns, who was the electrician. He also extended thanks to MacDonald for the initial clue as to the possibility of the area being shuttered.

Roger Murray helped the group establish the non-profit status and Sue Glenn, the former director of the parks and recreation department also had a big part in the group's beginnings. He thanked the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen and Chris Dow for the group's Web site and also thanked Friends of Abenaki members Paul Olzerowicz, Tod O'Dowd, Peter Cole, Ted Newman, Chip Maxfield, Fred Stephens, Grant Hatch, Geordy Hutchinson, Judy Breuninger, Ted Bense and Williams for their work.

He also commended the entire parks and recreation staff for their work in keeping the area running efficiently.

"The coordination between the town and the Friends benefited by Ethan running the whole project," Swaffield said.

He also thanked the many donors who contributed between $300,000 and $400,000 since 2005, which was met with a round of applause from the crowd.

Call 569-5639 for information on Abenaki Ski Area. The area is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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

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