Windblown ski touring center in New Ipswich, New Hampshire

New England States, NY and anyplace else east of the Mississippi

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LewLasher
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Windblown ski touring center in New Ipswich, New Hampshire

Postby LewLasher » Wed Jan 16, 2008 3:45 am

Yesterday I skied at the Windblown ski touring center in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. Conditions were generally pretty good, but you had to watch out for icy or wet spots - often at the bottom of a hill, unfortunately. They said they groomed about 20 km of their 40 km of trails, but I didn't mind breaking trail on some of the ungroomed trails.

I have to admit that my conditions report is biased by my affection for Windblown and my wish that they stay in business. If I were writing about, say, Waterville Valley (a larger, more "corporate" ski area in New Hampshire), I would have focused on the "half-empty" aspects and whined about the too many water features and ice features.

Windblown is special (and, I think, deserving of a biased conditions report) not only because it is the closest significant ski touring center to Boston (60 miles northwest), not only because it is one of the first places I skied at, and not only because it is one of a handful of ski touring centers in New England that is a successful "Mom and Pop" operation. It also has an interesting trail system: a group of skiers of mixed abilities, from novice to advanced, could all have a great time here, going their separate ways, and meet for lunch at the warming hut; I can't think of another place in New England where you could do that. (Jackson, N.H. has the diversity of trails, but spread out across the whole town of Jackson.)

This may sound like an odd detail to highlight, but the Windblown trail system has more outhouses along the trails then anywhere else I have ever skied. Also some nice little shelters and a large warming hut. The trail system, to me, seems to have been designed and built by a skier.

A lot of what makes Windblown distinctive is the "Mom and Pop" factor. If you have ever dreamed of running your own ski area, then Al Jenks is your hero. He got the idea in his head while still a teenager, scraped together and borrowed the money to buy some land, and then, over the years, built a business - and, more concretely, built the structures and cut the trails himself. It doesn't look easy, and, after reading Al's description of the history of Windblown, it doesn't sound easy:

http://www.windblownxc.com/Pages/History.html

Yesterday, Al himself was selling trail passes, and the food service (homemade soups and muffins) was operating on a self-service honor system basis.

The weather forecast for this coming Friday is an ambiguous mix of snow and rain. For Al's sake, I'm rooting for more snow.

LewLasher
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Sat 23 Feb 2008

Postby LewLasher » Sun Feb 24, 2008 7:41 am

Very good conditions yesterday. All trails open except, for some reason, "back forty." I was skiing with some beginner skiers so I didn't ski on black trails, but the bottom-most "zig" of the Open Slope was in good shape.

LewLasher
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Owner retiring - new organization to take over

Postby LewLasher » Mon Feb 16, 2009 1:29 pm

I just checked the Windblown Web site to see how they were doing at recovering from the severe damage from the ice storm in December. Well, not so well. But, more shockingly, I saw the announcement that the owner, Al Jenks, is selling the ski area. The site gives the names and email addresses of two people to contact to "learn more about the organization that is forming to continue Windblown as a ski area".

That gives the impression of a non-profit organization, such as successfully took over the Camel's Hump cross-country ski area in Huntington, Vermont (another old Mom+Pop kind of place), but I haven't sent email yet to find out more of the details.

In the meantime, Windblown is selling off their rental equipment, and, in fact, everything else in the shop down to ski wax. This also reinforces the concept that the new "organization" will be a barebones operation (like Camel's Hump, which has no lodge, and accepts trail fees on an honor system in a locked box in the parking lot). I wonder what would become of the beautiful "new" lodge, if no one is around to keep the wood stoves going?

LewLasher
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One more season under current ownership

Postby LewLasher » Sat Nov 14, 2009 6:58 pm

I happened to run into Al Jenks tonight (at the annual meeting of the Catamount Trail Association). He said that the new folks are still raising money, but, in the meantime, he will still be running Windblown this coming winter. This is great news for skiers in southern New England (including the Boston area).

LewLasher
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New non-profit organization to buy and revamp Windblown

Postby LewLasher » Sun Nov 29, 2009 9:17 am

The non-profit organization that is planning to take over Windblown, Central New England Nordic Council, now has a Web site:

http://cnencxc.org/

They have set themselves a deadline of March 31, 2011 to raise the needed money, but, as of right now, they are waiting until they are approved as tax-exempt before they start taking money (they do, however, take pledges). I can't find any mention of what their fundraising goal is. Their plans seem rather ambitious, not just buying out the existing touring center, but developing a race course (with "stadium"), adding snowmaking and lighting and perhaps a biathlon range, and other stuff described in their Master Plan:

http://nordicnow.org/images/Windblown_Master_Plan.pdf

This reminds me of some of the recent improvements at the Trapp Family Lodge (a larger operation having a much more solid financial status): adding dedicated racing trails and snowmaking. It will be interesting to see if this model can succeed in sustaining Windblown, which, though well-loved by skiers in southern New England, has been economically marginal.

LewLasher
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Postby LewLasher » Wed Dec 02, 2009 9:13 pm

Correction: the non-profit organization has already gotten tax-exempt status.

As I understand it (after going to an informational meeting tonight), they are taking pledges, and then hope to be able to apply for additional funding (e.g., grants) based on the pledges. Of course, they also want people to come through and pay up on the pledges.

worm-rider
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Postby worm-rider » Fri Jan 15, 2010 3:16 pm

I thought I would pass this on that came from Windblown today:

Windblown Winter Weekly
Volume 10, No. 6
News and Conditions
603-878-2869
Dear Skiers and Snowshoers,

For nearly two weeks now we have enjoyed excellent packed powder conditions and the great skiing will continue this weekend. Just yesterday a skier commented, “I’ve been here half a dozen times and today’s conditions are the best ever! Awesome!” I’ve noticed at least four or five season pass holders who have already skied more days than their passes cost. I imagine those of you south and east of here who have lost most of the snow in your yards may be quite skeptical. There are three big reasons why these great conditions have persisted here that are not likely so where you live: 1) Underneath the great powder that we got in that long weekend storm 12 days ago is a 2 to 4 inch bullet proof solid base left from the big storm we enjoyed for opening weekend in mid-December. 2) The temperatures have stayed well below freezing consistently until yesterday – when it just barely reached 32 degrees here briefly. The cold is what has kept it all powder – which it still is this morning. And 3) Al can be spotted almost everyday skiing with a big shovel in his hands to shovel snow from the woods onto any spot in the trail that threatens to become thin. There will be a shovel brigade out there today to make sure the snow cover holds up well until Sunday night when fresh snow is expected.

Yesterday the Boston Globe sports section had a very nice article about Windblown and our ice storm woes, which you can read online if you’re interested. There is one point in it I would like to clarify – it’s true that our next-door neighbor, Gail, brings over fresh-baked muffins and homemade cookies, but she also brings delicious soups, veggie chili and a lot’s of sandwich fixings. There is definitely no need to pack a lunch on weekends and holidays here.

The folks at CNENC have asked us to pass on the following message:

Many of you have asked what you can do to help keep Windblown open after this winter. In response to Windblown's uncertain future we have created the Central New England Nordic Council (CNENC); a non-profit organization of Nordic skiers from the Greater Boston and Southern New Hampshire area. We've developed an extensive plan to preserve Windblown and create a regional center for ski education, recreation, and racing in our region. As you may know, the Windblown property is now on the market for sale and was recently featured in Yankee Magazine. Without prompt action, we may lose this unique opportunity to develop a first-class facility for ski touring and racing. Please visit www.nordicnow.org to learn more and make a pledge to support the Central New England Nordic Council's effort to keep Windblown open. Your pledge of financial support to the non-profit CNENC in any amount demonstrates to other potential funders the desire of this community to preserve and improve this important facility. We have already received quite a few pledges!
This Saturday at 12:30 pm at Windblown we will be holding an informal informational meeting to discuss the exciting progress of the project--including snowmaking and new John Morton-designed trails, its future directions, and how you can become involved in building a new future for Windblown.

Concern for ice storm woes and the future of Windblown are certainly miniscule in light of the ongoing tragedy in Haiti. We are planning a Night Ski Party on Saturday January 30th to benefit Partners in Health, a group of doctors and six hospitals in Haiti’s central plateau. They were the first doctors on the scene after the earthquake and people needing surgery are being transported to their undamaged hospitals as we speak. All the money collected will go directly to Haiti. We will have a pot-luck dinner in the Lodge starting at 5:30 pm and then skiing by full moon (or headlamps if it’s cloudy). If the snow or weather doesn’t cooperate, we’ll have a dance inside. $25 minimum donation per person. If you need rentals, add $15 (also sent to Haiti). We can accommodate the first 50 people to sign up. Please call to reserve a spot.

It’s time I send this to your inbox before you make other weekend plans. This is the weekend for those you who haven’t come for fear of cold and wind. Perfect for beginners. Hope you can get away.

Irene

LewLasher
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Postby LewLasher » Fri Jan 15, 2010 4:26 pm

worm-rider wrote:Concern for ice storm woes and the future of Windblown are certainly miniscule in light of the ongoing tragedy in Haiti. We are planning a Night Ski Party on Saturday January 30th to benefit Partners in Health


Al and Irene are great folks.

beungood
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I learned to ski here Last year love this place!

Postby beungood » Sat Dec 18, 2010 6:13 pm

I learned to Cross country ski here tLast year to keep in shape for bicycling. It was such a positive experience that I am now hooked on it and love it almost as much as cycling..

LewLasher
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Postby LewLasher » Fri Jan 14, 2011 5:08 pm

I'm in the Boston area for a few days, so I had to make a pilgrimage back to Windblown today.

All trails open, conditions generally good to very good. The nearer trails (up to the center valley) are mostly tracked, but the further trails seem to be mostly packed but not tracked. (The "black" trails are open but not groomed.) The Open Slope got a quick pass with the groomer, so there is a narrow stripe in the middle that is groomed. I decided I'd rather go down the ZigZag trail.

One new trail was added this year, another black trail, an adjunct to the lower half of the Open Slope, but on the opposite side (right side, if you are going downhill) from the ZigZag trail. This is for people for whom the Open Slope is too easy. I did not try it out today.

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Postby the_doctor » Mon Jan 24, 2011 6:10 pm

I was there, yesterday.

I saw the new trail. It looks very wide. I think that it might be better than the 2nd approach to the mountain, which is not great for descending.

I went up the zig zag and went down the Zig zag.

Most of everything has been tracked. Lots of small ice crystals out there

Old Farm trail was fast and fun.

Bill

SunCzarina
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Postby SunCzarina » Fri Feb 25, 2011 12:27 pm

We're headed there tomorrow. Hoping for fresh powder!

Since the subject of ownership came up, Al Jenks has decided to retire end of next year and turn operations over to his son Andy. The Nordic council couldn't get a big sponsor to turn it into an Olympic class training area.

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/newsstat ... o-son.html

LewLasher
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Al Jenks, hero

Postby LewLasher » Sun Feb 27, 2011 8:44 am

SunCzarina wrote:Al Jenks has decided to retire end of next year and turn operations over to his son Andy.

This is tremendous good news!

As long-time readers of XCSkiForum might know, I have a pet tirade about not taking our ski areas for granted. (In particular, because, in the US at least, the economics of running a cross-country ski area is tenuous.)

Al Jenks is a hero to cross-country skiers in New England. He has devoted his life to building his own ski area and constantly improving it. He has somehow survived through the unreliable weather of southern New Hampshire. His latest sacrifice is to give up on the possibility of selling the property to finance his retirement.

Keeping Windblown in operation is great news in particular for the Boston metropolitan area, which will continue to have a first-rate ski area within driving distance for another generation.
Last edited by LewLasher on Fri Mar 18, 2011 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

SunCzarina
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Postby SunCzarina » Mon Feb 28, 2011 8:40 pm

Agreed!

I never skied there much in my younger days. Temple Mountain had all those fabulous hills, you could ride the lift to the top once on your xc trail ticket and the drive wasn't long or tedious. Miss that place, sad what happened there...

So it was wonderful to see Al and Andy Jenks smiling and waving cars into the parking lot on saturday. Great fun place, lol although it's spoiled my children on skiing in the park up the street from home.

worm-rider
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Postby worm-rider » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:36 pm

I made one last trip to Windblown today. The trails were disappearing as I skied, but I had a great time and am looking forward to next year....


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