Ski jumping is back at Gunstock Mountain Resort

GILFORD — If there's one thing you learn today, Lisa Kling wants it to be this: ski jumping is back at Gunstock.

Ski jumping put Gilford on the map before there was a Gunstock Mountain Resort. As Carol Lee Anderson accounts in "The history of Gunstock: Skiing in the Belknap Mountains," the Eastern Amateur Ski Association, working with local ski clubs, concluded that Mount Rowe, the lesser neighbor to Gunstock Mountain. In 1935, plans for a ski jump at Mount Rowe, as well as an access road, ski trails and a toboggan run were approved for funding by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of the federal Works Progress Administration, designed to help pull the country out of the Great Depression. The Eastern Ski Championships were held at the 60-meter Mount Rowe jump on Feb. 28, 1937. A cross-country event was also held that weekend. At the time, the ski trails, Nordic skiing, toboggan runs and ski jumps were known as the Belknap Mountains Recreation Area.

The 60-meter jump at Mount Rowe became known as among the best in the eastern United States. Since the construction of the large jump, smaller jumps were added – a 40 meter and a 25 meter, all with towers to give skiers a swift head start down the slope. However, age and disrepair has rendered those towers unsafe.

The jumps now fall under the purview of Gunstock Mountain Resort, which has allowed the Gunstock Mountain Historic Preservation Society to oversee their rehabilitation.

"We want to rebuild all of them," said Achim Steinbrueck, president of the society. It's easier said than done, though, as the work required to get all the jumps functional again will cost the better part of $2 million. That estimate includes not only the reconstruction of the towers, but also a re-engineering of the slopes where skiers land, new snow-making equipment and the relocation of camping sites that were installed since the larger of the jumps were last used.

Though there's a want for funds, there's a wealth of passion for the jumps. Through volunteer labor and organization, notably from Kathleen and Matt Doyle of the Andover Outing Club, and Gunstock Nordic Association's Lisa Kling, two smaller jumps are now back in play. For beginners, they have built the "pimple" jump, which will send skiers about 7 meters before landing. Intermediates can also try flying off the 18-meter jump, which doesn't require the use of a tower.

Their labors were rewarded earlier this month, on Jan. 6, when Gunstock hosted a jumping event, and nearly 50 high school athletes showed up to compete. Another meet will be held this weekend featuring local club athletes; watch the Daily Sun's calendar of events for scheduling details.

Kling said the sport of ski jumping is open to any young athlete who has at least a little experience with alpine skiing. Those who would like to learn more about trying out the sport can learn more by visiting gunstocknordic.com.

"We're trying to get exposure for jumping again," said Kling, while she was shoveling snow around the jumps, to prepare the base snow layer in advance of a coming snow storm.

"Hopefully, with the ski jump in operation, we're going to bring it out to the public that we are here, we are jumping again," said Steinbrueck.

"That's what we're trying to do, get [the jumps] rebuilt and not let the tradition die," Kling said.

 

CAPTION for GUNSTOCK SKI JUMP in 01 January:

Lisa Kling, of Gunstock Nordic Association, packs snow around the beginner "pimple" ski jump on Mount Rowe in Gilford, part of the Gunstock Mountain Resort complex. Two of the jumps are now in operation, and will host athletes this weekend. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)

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Winter slow to kick in - While outdoor workers and skiers enjoy the weather, lack of ice may delay or move pond hockey, sled dog races and Rotary Fishing Derby

Winter in laconiaFrigid weather arrived Tuesday along with high winds combined with the warmer than normal temperatures have kept the lake from freezing as seen from Watermark Construction on Paugus Bay. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

• Winter has returned to normal for skiers and snowboarders who flocked to the Gunstock Mountain Resort over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. But it remains far from ideal for snowmobilers, ice fishermen and sled dog drivers, all of whom are looking for more snow and extended cold weather to create better conditions for outdoor recreation.
"Winter has completely turned around for us after a warm December," says Gregg Goddard, Gunstock general manager, who said that all of Gunstock's 37 trails are open and snowmaking is going full tilt.
"Monday was our best day of the season. It was nearly a sellout and our Nordic Center has been really busy," said Goddard.
That's proved to be good news for the Marriott Town Place Suites in Gilford, which has experienced a 95 percent occupancy rate so far this year, according to Tricia Smith, one of the managers at the hotel which is located just off the Laconia Bypass.
At lower elevations, which rely on natural snow and ice, it's a different story. There are no snowmobile trails open in Belknap County and sled dog drivers are unable to get in workout sessions for their teams due to a lack of snow cover.
And in Meredith Bay, which is slated to host the New England Pond Hockey Classic Feb. 5-7 and the Great Rotary Fishing Derby on Feb. 13-14, there is so little ice that event organizers are concerned that, unless things turn around soon, the lack of strong ice will have an impact on the events.
'"We're not seeing many customers these days," says Harold Delucca at A.J.'s Bait and Tackle in Meredith, who says that ice fishermen are setting up on smaller lakes like Waukewan and Winona and the northern part of Lake Winnisquam but there's nothing yet in the Meredith Bay area.
"The wind is not helping. Even with cold nights, the ice is breaking up. I don't think The Broads (the deepest part of the lake east of Rattlesnake Island) will freeze this year. As long as there's wind, the ice won't catch and it won't freeze," said Delucca.
It would mark the second time in recent history that Lake Winnipesaukee hasn't completely frozen over. In 2010, Dave Emerson of Emerson Aviation, the official ice-out observer for Lake Winnipesaukee, reported that The Broads were briefly covered with skim ice one morning but that it broke up by the end of that day.
Organizers of the seventh annual Pond Hockey Classic, which has 260 teams signed up to play this year and draws several thousand spectators, are still hoping there will be a quick turnaround for ice conditions in Meredith Bay. They need about 12 inches of ice to hold the tournament. If the ice doesn't materialize by next week, organizer Scott Crowder said he is looking to move the event to Lake Waukewan, like he did in 2012 when faced with less-than-ideal ice conditions.
Lisa Meeken, manager of HK Powersports on Union Avenue in Laconia, said it hasn't been a strong winter yet for snowmobile sales.
"We're plugging along and doing alright, but we really need the lakes to freeze for people to be able to get out with their snowmobiles" she said.
Jon Bossey of the Belknap Snowmobilers said it's not only a lack of snow which keeps trails from being open, but also a lack of frozen ground.
"December was so warm that there wasn't any frost in the ground," he said. "Unless you have at least a little frost, the trails can get muddy real quick,"
He said the Belknap Snowmobilers are responsible for 60 miles of trail and have two grooming machines to do the work. "Last year we started grooming on Jan. 17, so we're already behind last season. What we need is a good storm with 10 to, 12 inches of snow."
He's pinning his hopes on a possible nor'easter this weekend, which the Weather Channel has already identified as tropical storm Jonas and has the potential for bringing at least 10 inches of snow in cities extending from Philadelphia to Boston.
Jen Lyman of the Lakes Region Sled Dog Club, which is slated to hold the Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby Feb. 12-14, said club members are holding out hopes that the storm system will bring at least a foot of snow to the area so that the derby can be held on schedule.

Woman overcome by smoke at Blueberry Lane dryer fire

LACONIA — A woman was overcome by smoke inhalation and her granddaughter was missing for tense moments when fire swept through their apartment at 103 Blueberry Lane shortly before 9:30 p.m. Friday night.

Capt. Bob Landry said he arrived to find smoke pouring from the rear door of Unit 7, one of a half-dozen two-story apartments in the building, and a woman in respiratory arrest on the front stoop of the apartment. Immediately firefighters began treating the woman, who regained consciousness by the time she placed in the ambulance. At the same time, firefighters stretched a 2-inch hose line into the apartment to quell the fire and began stripping the wallboard to put out fire in the ceilings.

When the woman asked after her 7-year old-granddaughter, some firefighters made a second search of the apartment while others began looking for her among the crowd. Several anxious minutes passed until the girl was found safe and sound in her grandmother's care. The woman, her husband and granddaughter were all transported to Lakes General Hospital.

Landry said the fire was reported as starting with a clothes dryer and that the first floor of the apartment was damaged by heat, smoke and water, while heat from below damaged synthetic furnishings on the second floor of the units as well. Deputy Fire Chief Kirk Beattie, who took command at the scene, estimated the cost of the damage at $50,000. The adjoining apartments escaped damage from the fire and their occupants returned home for the night.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that three people have been injured in fires this month. He noted that recent studies by Underwriters Laboratories indicate that a fire inside a building will burn out of control within four or five minutes and the smoke and gases generated quickly become very toxic because of the amount of plastic and synthetic materials in the home. He stressed that in the event of a fire always call 911 before taking any other action and, if a fire cannot be extinguished in one or two minutes, "get out and stay out."