Opening Week at Whaleback, Starring the New T-Bar
If there was a book about Whaleback Mountain, it might be called The Little Area That Could. The humble, no frills area off I-89—now under the ownership of the Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation—usually isn’t up and running until after Christmas. This year, however, it is already hosting Upper Valley ski teams for training sessions on its slopes. Usually midweek training at Whaleback doesn’t start until after New Years, but this year, already groups from Cardigan Mountain School and Ford Sayre Ski Club have hustled to the hill after school, to make laps on the newly installed T-Bar before it’s totally dark.
When the chairlift opens (tentatively December 26), the lighted terrain will allow skiing and training well past dark. The early training comes thanks to chilly, snowmaking-friendly temperatures, a nice blanket of natural snow, and a newly installed T-bar that serves the intermediate terrain of “Blubber” and the steep bottom pitch of “The Face.”
It’s also made possible by improvements that visitors don’t see. These are things like the rebuilt pumphouse, the new, efficient snowguns, and the extensive summer trailwork. Gerd Riess, who is entering his third season as Whaleback’s Mountain Manager has a knack for finding and polishing hidden gems, by running a tight ship and tending to the details rarely seen. The snowcat that he bought (from the same source that provided the T-Bar) will allow the Whaleback crew not only to groom more terrain but also to build features into the hill.
The chair at the Whale, resting up for a winter of fun
Details like this make Whaleback a precious community resource, that serves private ski clubs as well as five schools and two rec departments. Community support inspires volunteer efforts and a small but committed tribe of employees. Eric Murphy grew up skiing at Whaleback, as part of the Lebanon High Ski Team. He also worked there on weekends, selling tickets. Many years later, he returned to the Whale to help Riess. On this night he’s loading kids on the T-bar, for a session of slalom training, and chatting with Riess about the snowmaking to be done in the cold night ahead. “We don't just go home at the end of the day,” Murphy explains. “We get the job done and then we go home. For me it's more than just a job. It's a passion.”
When the sun goes down, the lights go up.
For more information about Whaleback, its winter programs, and some pretty sweet pass deals with other local areas, go to Whaleback.com