BRATTLEBORO -- Some of Brattleboro's most dedicated skiers and snowboarders spent Sunday morning out on the slopes.
There was not a single flake of snow visible at Living Memorial Park, but a group of about 20 met to get the ski tow ready for the upcoming season.
For the past 15 years the Living Memorial Park ski tow has been completely run by volunteers.
And after a dismal winter last year they were back at it Sunday greasing up the cables, attaching the T-bars and getting ready for winter.
"This is a treasure. It's something we have to take care of," said Jake Dixon, one of the volunteers who showed up Sunday to get the facility ready for winter. "The town can't afford to keep it running so we have to keep it going."
Brattleboro residents built the first ski tow at Living Memorial Park in 1937 and it opened to the public the following winter.
It was very modern at the time, with its large electric motor, and could carry 300 skiers up the mountain.
An all day ticket cost 35 cents.
The current T-bar lift was constructed in 1957 and the town ran it until 1997 when economics, and low attendance forced the town to shut it down.
A group of volunteers banded together that year to keep the tow running even though they knew the town would not finance operations.
On Sunday the volunteer crew was busy clearing out the control room, putting the sign up and getting the 55-year-old T-bar ready for one more season.
"When the town said it wanted to close this down the volunteers decided that it would be a shame to not use it," said Milton Gilmore, president of Living Memorial Park Snow Sports, Inc., the group that formed to take care of, and run, the ski tow. "Where else can a family get out in the winter and ski for only $5?"
Ray Blow, vice president of Snow Sport said the mountain is kept in good condition through some very hard work over the course of the winter.
A few years ago the group purchased snow guns from Maple Valley and when the weather cooperates they are able to make snow.
That means finding someone to stay on the mountain overnight to operate the guns.
And all winter they need dozens of volunteers to keep it running.
""It's a lot of work and it's hard to find volunteers," said Blow. "But when the weather's good it's busy, so we know people use it."
Even with the snow guns the group needs the weather to cooperate to make sure there is enough snow.
Last year was dry and warm and the lift was open for less than 12 days all year, which made it that much harder to balance the books.
Even with a volunteer staff, which does everything from running the lift to operating the snow blowers to patrolling the mountain, expenses add up through the winter. There are parts to replace and electric bills to pay, along with an insurance policy which covers the volunteers.
The $5 lift tickets don't come close to paying off the bills, Gilmore said, and the organization relies on grants and donations to get by every year.
They've even introduced free snowboarding and skiing lessons through an arrangement with Mount Snow, which sends instructors over in February for a few days of lessons.
Glenn Gooley, who has three sons, first found out about the ski tow a few years ago and he is now responsible for developing the growing terrain park.
Gooley has big plans this year and says as long as Mother Nature cooperates Living Memorial Park will be ready.
"I didn't even know this was here until I saw the ski tow running one day, and I have been here ever since," he said. "This is a perfect place to learn. Where else can you spend a whole day on the mountain for only $5."
For more information on the ski tow, or to learn how you can get involved, call Milton Gilmore at 257-4074.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.