NewEnglandSkiHistory.com
CT
|
MA
|
ME
|
NH
|
RI
|
VT
SkiNewEngland.net
 
The double chairlift (2014)
Whaleback Mountain
Enfield, New Hampshire
Status: Open
First Season:1956-57
Vertical Drop:700 feet
Standing Lifts:1 double, surface lifts
Past Lifts:Surface lifts
Left: The double chairlift (2014)
Recent NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News:
10/16/2019: Lodge Construction in Progress Across Ne...
8/4/2018: Multi-Year Lift Installations: The New...
1/23/2018: Management Changes Announced at Whalebac...
10/29/2017: Lift Construction Season Enters Final Ph...
SkiNewEngland.net Profile
Located just off Interstate 89 southeast of Lebanon, Whaleback's skiing history dates back to a small operation called Snow Crest.

Snow Crest Ski Area

The base area during the Snow Crest days
The base area during the Snow Crest days

Local ski coach Ernest Dion began development of what would become Whaleback in the 1950s. A Vermont native, Dion won many ski racing and jumping championships across New England in his youth. Dion was set to compete in the 1940 Olympics, however the games were cancelled due to World War II. Though he would continue to compete well into his 50s, his focus shifted to coaching and instructing. In addition to coaching at Dartmouth, Dion helped his sons and nephew to become prominent skiers in the 1950s, being featured in national magazines and television shows. Meanwhile, Dion undertook business ventures in ski equipment and ski area development.

In September 1955, Dion acquired property along the Stony Brook in Enfield from Lyle and Irene Prior. One year later, Dion had developed a small ski area. For its debut season, Snowcrest featured a 1,500 foot long by 350 foot vertical T-Bar. Terminating at the top of the present day Spout and Blow Hole trails, the T-Bar served intermediate and expert terrain. In addition, a 600 foot rope tow for novices was located on the lower Spout slope. A third row may have been in operation as well. Dion led the area's ski school.

The Spout rope tow was replaced with a 1,000 foot T-Bar in 1960 or 1961. Also around this time, Enfield selectmen chose 'Purmont' as the name of the fictional town to be used for a future Interstate 89 exit adjacent to Snow Crest.

The 1961-62 season spanned from Christmas week to April 1 for a total of 45 days of weekend and holiday operations. The area reportedly moved to a six-day-per-week schedule in 1962-63.

First Closure

A group led by Adirondack Timberlock Camps owner Richard Catlin purchased Snow Crest in December of 1967, with Dion holding the mortgage. While Interstate 89 opened in 1968, Snow Crest ski area closed and Dorothy Jean Miles assumed the mortgage. In December of 1968, Catlin sold the ski area to James Griffiths' Whaleback Mt., Inc.

Snow Crest Reopened, Renamed

The Poma lift during the 1980s
The Poma lift during the 1980s

Snow Crest reopened for the 1970-71 season with a new 2,520 foot long Heron Poma double chairlift. Replacing the original T-Bar lift, the new chair served new upper mountain trails. The ski area was formally renamed Whaleback for the 1971-72 season. Meanwhile, Ernest Dion drove the redevelopment of nearby Storrs Hill.

A lower mountain Poma lift was likely installed for the 1979-80 season, serving Blubber and Lower Ivory Run.

As was the case for many ski areas with little to no snowmaking, Whaleback struggled during poor winters in the early 1980s. The 1982-83 season did not get underway until the second half of January.

Citing a 40 year ski jumping career and his development work in the industry, founder Ernest Dion was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1984.

In November 1984, Thomas Kent, David Clark, and Jeffrey Reed's Hephaestus Corporation purchased all outstanding shares of Whaleback Mt., Inc. from James and Martha Griffiths, who issued the group a $700,000 mortgage. Investments were made in snowmaking for the 1984-85 season and in top to bottom night skiing for 1985-86. In addition, a brief experiment with providing a laundromat for busy skiers was started in 1985. The property was transferred to Stoney Brook Trust in December 1985.
In the fall of 1985, the Orca Corporation was formed by David Clark, Thomas Kent, Jeffrey Reed, and Leo Rabinovitz for the purpose of operating the ski area.

In September 1987, Stoney Brook Trust agreed to sell a tract of land (including some of the ski area) to Richard Bueschel and Peter Jordan (later under the name of Methodist Hill Properties) for $730,000. The company's plans included building a hotel or motel at the height of land on Methodist Hill Road. In conjunction with the buyer's plans, the ski area planned to construct a chairlift and from the base of the mountain to the lodging facility, as well as to install snowmaking and lights on Ivory Run.

Second Closure

1990s night skiing at Whaleback
1990s night skiing at Whaleback

While the owners were able to expand Whaleback's operations and skier visits, they found themselves in financial trouble. As the 1980s continued, Whaleback's debts grew. What started as a $500,000 loan from First Twin-State Bank in 1987 escalated to $860,000 by the start of 1989-90. Another note was issued in January 1990, reportedly pushing the debt over $900,000. As a result, the area closed following the 1989-90 season and was placed on the market for $1.3 million. Liens began to add up and foreclosure proceedings commenced.

The winter of 1990-91 started with an auction, as First Twin-State Bank protected its interests by acquiring the property for $575,000 in December. There would be no skiing at Whaleback.

In April of 1993, Jim Griffiths' daughter Sarah and her husband Tim Herbert purchased Whaleback from Green Mountain Bank for a reported $280,000. Instead of trying to compete for the population centers down south, the young couple made a conscious effort to keep advertising local to save money. Apart from mowing the brush on the trails, getting the equipment functional, and replacing the lodge deck, no major changes were made in advance of the 1993-94 reopening season.

The late 1990s did see some changes, however. A half pipe and terrain park were constructed for the 1995-96 season, four glades cut for 1996-97, and snow tubing added for 1997-98. The double chair was converted from diesel to electric for the 1998-99 season, while the base lodge was expanded by 15,000 square feet. The Herberts' Ski Whaleback Ltd. acquired additional land near the base area from Griffiths in 1999.

Founder Ernest Dion passed away near the end of the 1998-99 season at the age of 82.

Third Closure

An idle Whaleback during its third closure (2002)
An idle Whaleback during its third closure (2002)

Despite the changes in the late 1990s, operational costs were outpacing operational income. As a result, the Herberts closed Whaleback following the 2000-2001 season.

In September 2005, a group led by Olympian Evan Dybvig named Whaleback Mountain LLC purchased the idle ski area. Ski Whaleback Ltd. held a mortgage. With a new focus on freestyle sports, the ski area reopened for the 2005-2006 season. Year round activities were subsequently developed, including paintball, summer jibbing, and bike camps.

Back to the Auction Block

In March of 2013, owner Evan Dybvig announced that the ownership was over $1 million in debt and would be forced to liquidate the ski area. An auction occurred on August 1, 2013, at which mortgage holder Randolph National Bank placed the only bid, purchasing the area for $848,000.

Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation Takes Over

The double chairlift at night (2014)
The double chairlift at night (2014)

Meanwhile, John Schiffman created Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation as a New Hampshire Non-Profit Corporation on June 3, 2013. The organization signed a lease and purchase agreement with the bank in mid-September 2013 and took control of Whaleback in November 2013. An initial $100,000 fundraising campaign was executed in two weeks time, generating enough money to get the ski area up and running for the 2013-2014 season. Last minute base area work, such as a new kitchen, septic system, and well, was conducted to get the facility back up to code. Using some equipment purchased from Balsams Wilderness, Whaleback was able to fire up its snowmaking system and reopen in December 2013.

After a successful 2013-14 season, Whaleback struggled to get out of the gate during mild weather at the start of the 2014-15 season. Though it was unable to open until mid January, Whaleback was able to attain its latest closing day in recent memory, wrapping up operations the last weekend of March.

Following a bad 2015-16 season in which Whaleback was only open for 50 days, the UVSSF completed a fundraiser to reconfigure the mountain's novice area. One year later, a refurbished T-Bar was installed between the two beginner lifts, roughly following the lift line of the former Pomalift.

NewEnglandSkiConditions.com Reports
Month Average Percent of Terrain Open
December29%    (5 reports)29 Open
January51%    (6 reports)51 Open
February53%    (5 reports)53 Open
March93%    (6 reports)93 Open
Recent Conditions Reports
Mar. 12, 2019 by rocket21
Packed Powder, Packed Powder
Jan. 22, 2019 by rocket21
Packed Powder, Packed Powder
Jan. 22, 2019 by nordicgal
Packed Powder, Packed Powder
Jan. 4, 2019 by rocket21
Loose Granular, Variable Conditions
Dec. 30, 2018 by newenglandskier13
Frozen Granular, Variable Conditions
Whaleback Mountain on NewEnglandSkiConditions.com

Expansion History
Project
Season
Methodist Hill
Cancelled
1980s
Upper Mountain
Open
1970-71

NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News
Recent Articles
Lodge Construction in Progress Across New England - Oct. 16, 2019
Multi-Year Lift Installations: The New Norm? - Aug. 4, 2018
Management Changes Announced at Whaleback - Jan. 23, 2018
Lift Construction Season Enters Final Phase - Oct. 29, 2017
Whaleback Postpones T-Bar Installation - Dec. 7, 2016
Lift Installation Projects Continue as December Approaches - Nov. 27, 2016
Lift Installation Projects Continue as Ski Season Approaches - Nov. 13, 2016
Ski Lift Installations Gearing Up in New England - Aug. 30, 2016
Whaleback Moving Forward with Surface Lift Project - Jul. 7, 2016
Whaleback Names Gerd Riess New Mountain Manager - Jun. 1, 2015
Whaleback Mountain NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News Page

Image Gallery
1957-58 Eastern Ski MapNovember 26, 1972 Boston Globe
View All Images in Whaleback Mountain Image Gallery

Lifts
Click on lift name for information and photos
Standing Lifts
Installed
The base terminal (February 2012)
Double Chair
Heron-Poma
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1970-71
The base terminal (January 2018)
West Side T-Bar
Hall
T-Bar
2017-18

Past Lifts
Seasons
The Pomalift circa the 1980s
Pomalift
Poma
Platter
1977-78
-
T-Bar

T-Bar
1956-57
-
1969-70
T-Bar

T-Bar
1960s
-

Maps
1957-58 Snow Crest Trail Map1962-63 Snow Crest Trail Map1964-65 Snow Crest Trail Map1979-80 Whaleback Trail Map1985-86 Whaleback Trail Map1996-97 Whaleback Trail Map
View All Whaleback Mountain Trail Maps

Year by Year History
Adult Weekend Full Day Lift Ticket; Adult Full Price Unlimited Season Pass
2010s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2018-19$45.002018-19 Ticket Price Graph$350.002018-19 Season Pass Price Graph7.8 daysDecember 14March 242018-19 Skier Visit Graph
2017-18$45.002017-18 Ticket Price Graph$399.002017-18 Season Pass Price Graph8.9 daysDecember 16April 12017-18 Skier Visit Graph
2016-17$45.002016-17 Ticket Price Graph$420.002016-17 Season Pass Price Graph9.3 daysDecember 17March 1813,0002016-17 Skier Visit Graph
2015-16$43.002015-16 Ticket Price Graph$399.002015-16 Season Pass Price Graph9.3 daysDecember 31February 282015-16 Skier Visit Graph
2014-15$45.002014-15 Ticket Price Graph$399.002014-15 Season Pass Price Graph8.9 daysJanuary 13March 292014-15 Skier Visit Graph
2013-14$40.002013-14 Ticket Price Graph$399.002013-14 Season Pass Price Graph10.0 daysDecember 30March 162013-14 Skier Visit Graph
2012-13$40.002012-13 Ticket Price Graph$399.002012-13 Season Pass Price Graph10.0 daysDecember 28March 172012-13 Skier Visit Graph
2011-12$40.002011-12 Ticket Price Graph$370.002011-12 Season Pass Price Graph9.3 daysDecember 26March 1810,0002011-12 Skier Visit Graph
2010-112010-11 Ticket Price Graph$370.002010-11 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 18March 2012,0002010-11 Skier Visit Graph
2000s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2008-092008-09 Ticket Price Graph$350.002008-09 Season Pass Price Graph2008-09 Skier Visit Graph
2007-08$39.002007-08 Ticket Price Graph$350.002007-08 Season Pass Price Graph9.0 days2007-08 Skier Visit Graph
2006-07$39.002006-07 Ticket Price Graph$399.002006-07 Season Pass Price Graph10.2 days2006-07 Skier Visit Graph
2005-06$35.002005-06 Ticket Price Graph$300.002005-06 Season Pass Price Graph8.6 days15,0002005-06 Skier Visit Graph
2000-01$29.002000-01 Ticket Price Graph$379.002000-01 Season Pass Price Graph13.1 daysDecember 152000-01 Skier Visit Graph
1999-00$29.001999-00 Ticket Price Graph$379.001999-00 Season Pass Price Graph13.1 days1999-00 Skier Visit Graph
1990s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1998-99$27.001998-99 Ticket Price Graph$339.001998-99 Season Pass Price Graph12.6 daysDecember 211998-99 Skier Visit Graph
1997-98$25.001997-98 Ticket Price Graph$339.001997-98 Season Pass Price Graph13.6 days1997-98 Skier Visit Graph
1996-97$22.001996-97 Ticket Price Graph$319.001996-97 Season Pass Price Graph14.5 days1996-97 Skier Visit Graph
1994-95$20.001994-95 Ticket Price Graph1994-95 Season Pass Price Graph1994-95 Skier Visit Graph
1989-90$22.001989-90 Ticket Price Graph1989-90 Season Pass Price Graph1989-90 Skier Visit Graph
1980s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1988-89$20.001988-89 Ticket Price Graph1988-89 Season Pass Price Graph1988-89 Skier Visit Graph
1987-88$18.001987-88 Ticket Price Graph1987-88 Season Pass Price Graph32,0001987-88 Skier Visit Graph
1986-87$16.001986-87 Ticket Price Graph1986-87 Season Pass Price Graph1986-87 Skier Visit Graph
1985-86$15.001985-86 Ticket Price Graph1985-86 Season Pass Price Graph1985-86 Skier Visit Graph
1979-80$8.001979-80 Ticket Price Graph1979-80 Season Pass Price Graph1979-80 Skier Visit Graph
1970s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1976-771976-77 Ticket Price Graph$115.001976-77 Season Pass Price Graph1976-77 Skier Visit Graph
1971-72$6.501971-72 Ticket Price Graph1971-72 Season Pass Price Graph1971-72 Skier Visit Graph
1960s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1964-65$3.501964-65 Ticket Price Graph1964-65 Season Pass Price Graph1964-65 Skier Visit Graph
1963-64$3.501963-64 Ticket Price Graph1963-64 Season Pass Price Graph1963-64 Skier Visit Graph
1962-63$3.501962-63 Ticket Price Graph$45.001962-63 Season Pass Price Graph12.9 days1962-63 Skier Visit Graph
1961-621961-62 Ticket Price Graph1961-62 Season Pass Price GraphApril 11961-62 Skier Visit Graph

Visitor Memories
"I grew up at SnowCrest in the late 50"3 and 60"s. I am presently the Snowsports Director at Cannon Fountain in Franconia NH. I have very fond memories of the ski area."
Irv Fountain, Aug. 15, 2019
Add a memory of Whaleback Mountain
First Name:
Last Name:
E-Mail Address:
Comments:



External Links
  • Whaleback - official site
  • Last updated: August 15, 2019

    Also on NewEnglandSkiHistory.com...
    A monorail served ski area?
    A monorail served ski area?
    The only high speed quad area in New England to close
    The only high speed quad area in New England to close
    A massive ski area once proposed in Southern Vermont...
    A massive ski area once proposed in Southern Vermont...
    Before the resort, there was the Nose Dive
    Before the resort, there was the Nose Dive
    Berkshire Snow Basin, Swift River, and the Ninja Turtles
    Berkshire Snow Basin, Swift River, and the Ninja Turtles
    A 5,000 acre resort with a tram and monorail?  Almost.
    A 5,000 acre resort with a tram and monorail? Almost.
       CCC Trails    Cancelled Ski Areas    Expansions    Lifts    Management    Maps    News    Then and Now    Timelines    Topics    In The Press    Links    Site Map    What's New    Feedback

    Copyright 2002-2019, All Rights Reserved.