Living Memorial Park ski area repairs planned
BRATTLEBORO -- After a dismal 2011-12 season, Living Memorial Park's ski area bounced back this year with a "fantastic" winter that brought thousands of skier visits and much-needed revenue.
But the work is far from over for the all-volunteer crew that keeps the Brattleboro slope running year in and year out.
As they disassembled the lift's T-bars on Saturday, members of Living Memorial Park Snow Sports Inc. talked of an upcoming $10,000-plus repair job and the need for a new storage building at the site.
And they reiterated the need for community support, especially for a May 5 charity "plunge" at The Marina in Brattleboro.
"We're blessed with a community that's willing to give," said Barbara Gilmore, the nonprofit's treasurer.
The ski area opened in 1938 and operates on town land, but the town ceased operating the slope in 1995 due to economic issues. Living Memorial Park Snow Sports stepped in a few years later and has been running the business since.
The nonprofit offers all-day skiing for $5, and season passes go for $200 per family and $75 for individuals.
Living Memorial Park Snow Sports also solicits donations and pursues grant funding. But a mild-weather season can be crippling, and that's what happened in 2011-12 when the slope opened for just 11 days.
In contrast, this past season -- which kicked off Dec. 29 -- consisted of 57 ski days. There were more than 3,200 tickets issued.
"That's a good year," Gilmore said. "It's the second-best year as far as the number of people on the hill."
That generated $13,500 in revenue. Gilmore said the organization this season began rewarding volunteers with free passes for three hours of work.
"That did cut down a little on our proceeds," Gilmore said. "But it increased the number of volunteers that we had."
Volunteers are Living Memorial Park Snow Sports' lifeblood. At least seven people are needed for a three-hour shift.
Organizers are grateful that they received help this past winter from 23 high school students who volunteered for a total of 800 hours. But additional help is always welcomed during the season.
"If we had more volunteers, we could spread them out more," Gilmore said.
Volunteers also operate the ski area's snow-making equipment. And they have some difficult hours: The nonprofit makes snow between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to take advantage of off-peak electricity prices.
"And even when we have people lined up, we still have to wait for the humidity and the temperature to get to the right place," said Glenn Gooley, who serves on the Living Memorial Park Snow Sports board.
Snow-making helped organizers extend the ski season until a "last hurrah" day on March 30.
Work continues, however. On Saturday, volunteers were pulling down the lift's 49 T-bars for maintenance and storage.
They also were looking ahead to a big renovation project: The lift's haul rope must be replaced at an estimated cost of more than $10,000, and that has to happen before the next ski season, Gooley said.
Work will begin sometime after Sept. 15. Other maintenance is planned while the cable is being replaced.
Also, there's a need for a new building that will provide storage space and a spot to park the ski area's groomer, which is more than three decades old and sits exposed to the elements.
"It's not realistic for us to do that this year," Gilmore said.
She added that, ideally, the organization could start a contingency fund in order to fund major repairs.
But that depends on more donations. Information on donating to the organization is available at the Living Memorial Park Snow Sports Facebook page or at www.vtsnowsports.org.
The Marina's May 5 "plunge for charity" also will help: Proceeds from this year's event will benefit Living Memorial Park Snow Sports.
Pledge sheets can be picked up at the restaurant off Putney Road in Brattleboro or downloaded at www.vermontmarina.com. Those who download the form must call the restaurant at 802-257-7563 to get a registration number.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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