The History of Whaleback Mountain
So I first learned of Whaleback Mountain from a podcast Tim from Ski Rex Media did with new to role Executive Director Jon Hunt. After Tim’s interview, I had so many more questions, I won’t go too deep on where the Mountain has been or it’s trials in the past, But this season an amazing story needed to be told, to put this mountain on the map, so lets look at a brief history, while we take a look at it’s bright future.
In 1955 Olympic Nordic Jumper Ernie Dion founded Snowcrest which would later be renamed Whaleback, after changing hands through the years, it opened, it closed, the ski area struggled as a for-profit model, in 2013 a group of Whaleback supporters founded the non-profit Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation, Whaleback was now a non-profit, the mission of the Board of Directors was to ”Sustain Whaleback Mountain as a Community Snow Sports Facility, that Welcomes Everyone to Discover the Joy of Snow Sports, and to Become a Lifelong Snow Enthusiast.” Yep that’s right It would literally take a community to save a mountain, and they did.
Whaleback Hires a new Executive Director, Jon Hunt, and I met up for an interview the old way of course, parking lot party
So I met Jon through Tim of Ski Rex Media, we started going back and forth on twitter and then I offered to meet Jon and interview him and pick his brain on his vision, in the end, I ended up smuggling my philly cheesesteak materials from the surrounding philly area and meeting Jon and his team during my trip to New Hampshire, we talked snow but at that moment mostly cheesesteaks and cheating on diets. I got to meet Mountain ops which consist of a man that does it all, a man who has been a supporter of Whaleback since the 60’s he handles everything from snowmaking, to lift mechanic, to maintenance, to just about anything you can think of. I also met the workers that were so passionate about the mountain they call home. We continued to munch on cheesesteaks, Then it was time for the man and the moment, the interview with Jon, but this wasn’t in a flashy office, it was on snow.
The Interview with Executive Director
So I meet Jon at the chair we load up and travel this old school but fully functional lift, as we converse, Jon was showing me the upgrades, new and future planned, was pointing out the landscape, you don’t realize it until you hit the top the views are 360 degrees, you can see Mt Washington, Killington, and on a really clear day Wildcat.
So Jon, How does one get a job running a ski area that never ran a ski area?
Ahh yes the burning question, how the hell does one get a Job running a ski area, with no experience running a ski area? Jon coached lacrosse for 20 years and made a mid-life change, he applied for the position, never thought he would get it, and had talks with The Board of Directors, and there you are Executive Director of Whaleback Mountain. Jon didn’t know how to run a ski area, but Whaleback had talented people that did, what intrigued the Board was his background in fundraising, community, and a larger vision, and long sustainability of a larger vision of a bigger, better, future for the ski area. Jon, learned every Job on the mountain, from making breakfast sandwiches, to bumping chairs, he had learned to quickly adapt, and speaks highly of the people that work for him. He quotes Geoff Hatheway owner of Magic Mountain in Vermont, “Geoff always says, whatever it takes” quoted several times by Jon. His passion when he speaks of the ski area will strike you of that of a ski cult leader, everywhere Jon took me on the mountain we could be staring at nothing but an electric box, and Jon had a vision with one goal to make the area better for the community it serves, Jon states “we are a non-profit, my biggest worry is making payroll every week, ”the profits return to the ski area, we don’t answer to investors or anybody else” Jon has a big vision, everywhere he looks is opportunity for improvement, and for one main goal, ”The Community it Serves” In speaking with Jon, there is competitions held there, races and leagues all week, and of course Jon speaks of his favorite trail, ”Jonah’s Revenge” I was taken by the talk of his passion and vision, truly an individual committed with the skier experience in mind, and continues to focus on the community link, scholarship programs, community, and relationships with other ski areas, a true visionary Jon is, a true member of the community, and Jon is that link to how the ski area will continue to grow, and improve, he is a true visionary while being completely a realist, bringing dreams of once downed ski area to life. When I asked Jon what is the main mission of the ski area he said ”To provide affordable and accessible opportunities for our community to develop a love of snow sports”
So the mountain is located right off the exit, the mountain looks small, but take that chairlift to the top and we are now steep and deep, the mountain skis a lot bigger then it is, I put this up there with the best of the area, I skied Whaleback twice that week, I snuck in on Jon a few days before the interview to shred some gnar, Jon was running the chairlift that day, if you want the stats, look it up, if you want prices look it up, if you want to know how a community and visionary saved a mountain? You found it………..