By Tom Eastman
HOPE YOU NEW Year has gotten off to a good start — and with the 44 inches of snow so far this snow season, let alone the crowds who were here for the all-important Christmas holiday vacation week, we're definitely on the right track!
From one end of the valley to the next, reports were that despite it being a shorter vacation week, it was one of the strongest in years.
It was great to see North Conway looking like something out of a postcard from the '30s, the way North Conway is supposed to look for the holidays. I took a walk down Main Street to do some banking last Friday, and marveled at the incoming traffic as I walked along the snow-banked sidewalk. In the distance, you could hear the clanging of the Conway Scenic Railroad's engine bell, which might as well as been the sound of "ka-ching, ka-ching," representing the economic boost the strong holiday week gave everyone.
After a strong, dry summer and a gloriously colorful fall foliage, it is welcome news, especially given the dismal snow winter of 2015-'16.
SPEAKING OF WHICH, we received a weather summary for the year from local weather observer (and avid skier) Ed Bergeron.
He said total snowfall from October to April, 2016 was just 41 inches, a new record, compared to the 42-year average of 83.6 inches. The most snowfall during that 42-year period was 147 inches set in 2008.
So, onward, fellow snowsports and snow lovers — perhaps we can break that record, what do you say?
DID YOU CATCH THE FIREWORKS? Hope you got to catch the fireworks on New Year's eve at Cranmore at 6:30 p.m. (preceded by a talented fire dancer, Ember Flynne); King Pine (preceded by a torchlight parade) at 9:30 p.m., and in North Conway's Schouler Park, which were lighted from Hog Coliseum at 9:30 p.m. and which lasted until 9:48 p.m.
The Sun's Jamie Gemmiti covered the fireworks at both Cranmore and in Schouler Park. I caught the fireworks in North Conway, parking at the Gibson Center after taking the North-South Road into town. As we watched the fireworks and felt the light snow, you could almost feel the ghosts of North Conway benefactor Harvey D. Gibson (1882-1950) and skimeister Hannes Schneider (1890-1955) as we stood there on the lawn of Gibson's old house, now the Gibson Center, which is just a stone's throw from the Schneiders' home on Grove Street.
All that was lacking was seeing ghostly skiers from the snow trains of old carrying their skis as they made their way across the park like in those Dick Smith vintage photos.
SKI MUSEUM FUNDRAISING: I took a photo Tuesday morning out in front of the old 1950-built North Conway Community Center, which is to become the home of the Franconia-based New England Ski Museum's North Conway branch, pending successful fundraising.
On hand for the photo were members of the NESM's Social Committee. The group plans to hold fundraising events at local ski areas and restaurants over the winter, including "Supp to Support" dinners.
They are planned for the Black Cap Bar and Grill Jan. 10 at 5 p.m.; a silent auction at the Shannon Door Pub on Ground Hog Day Feb. 2 at 4 p.m.; and a 50-50 raffle and silent auction at the Flatbread Co. on Feb. 21.
"We're working on a top raffle prize of a St. Anton trip, consisting of one week of lodging for four to six people for the 2017-'18 season," Betty told us as we took the group's photo as snowflakes began to come down.
In case you haven't noticed, the New England Ski Museum banner is now up on the front of the museum.
Stay tuned for more details, or call Betty at (603) 387-5283 or the museum at (603) 823-7177.
JEN'S FRIENDS GALA: Be sure to stop by Horsefeathers on Jan. 12 to help Jen's Friends kick off their 20th year with a gala auction.
The gala auction is Jen's Friends way of thanking their supporters and to bring patients, supporters and families together to celebrate 20 years of service. There will be 20 unique auction items available for bid and live music by Al Shafner and The Rev Tones. There is no cost to attend and be prepared for surprise announcements.
The event starts at 5 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m. and will be held on the upper level. To RSVP, call 603-356-5083 or visit www.jensfriends.org.
One hundred percent of the funds raised by Jen's Friends goes directly to patients. Heather Phillips tells us that Jen's Friends over the past 19 years has given out $1,971,850 on behalf of its clients and has helped over 400 families. "On average we service 65 to 70 families per month," she said.
THE FIRST WEEK of the Attitash Race League, Great Glen Trails Nordic Meisters and Cranmore Mountain Meisters is now in the books, and despite some messy weather Tuesday and warm temperatures Wednesday, they drew good turnouts.
"I think we're in for a great year," said Capt. Ray Gilmore Jr. when we called him Thursday. Ever the skier, he was out at Attitash when we called his cellphone, teaching with the Eastern Slope Ski Club's Junior program. "Let people know they can still register for the season at the ticket house," he added.
Looking ahead, Bretton Woods is to begin its Friday Night Fireball Series Jan. 6, and its Ted Gilbert Saloon Series is held Mondays beginning Jan. 9. King Pine also starts its Monday afternoon Pioneer Race Series Jan. 9.
Race mania has arrived!
IN SAD NEWS, we send our condolences to the friends and family of Dr. Michael Cline, 65, executive director since 1998 of the Tin Mountain Conservation Center. He lost his battle with pancreatic cancer Jan. 3.
Cline was a wealth of knowledge and always a pleasure to work with. On countless stories, ranging from solar power to forestry issues, he would provide a valued voice which added to the depth of any subject matter I was covering.
Best of all, he did it with that characteristic wit for which we all loved him. He knew about nature and was good-natured sharing that knowledge.
With that well-trimmed grey beard of his and his classic good looks, I always could picture him as being a captain on the Titanic or some other early 1900s steamship.
Like my naturalist oldest brother Dave Eastman of "Country Ecology" radio and column fame, he helped us all be more aware of the natural world around us and the issues that we face protecting it.
We will miss him.
WE ALSO salute our late friend Karen Coffey, a 19-year heart transplant patient and former Tin Mountain employee who passed at her home in California Oct. 25. A celebration of life for Karen will be held 2 p.m. on Jan. 14 in Reading, Calif. I played a lot of music with Karen at Hoot Night and Tin Mountain. Her heart was full of love for this planet, singing and for her many friends.
IN BIRTHDAY GREETINGS, we salute friend Missy Hall Wentworth, irrepressible and iconoclastic former WBNC/WWV DJ Danny "DD" Del Rossi, Sun press manager Frank Haddy and Terrence Case (Jan. 6); spirited Bruins fan and beer rep Stephen Lavoie, White Mountains Attractions' Jayne O'Connor, the Shannon Door's always cheerful Mary Jollotta and ski racing great Nancy Grant (1-7); golf pro Sal Martignetti, quilt maker extraordinaire Starr Jordan Moore and Julia King (Jan. 8); running columnist Donna Cormier, artist Carol Cyr Hanson, preservationist Scott Hanson and Hannes A. Schneider (all Jan. 10); North Conway Fire Department's Tim Anderson, Jane Morrison Davidson, Karen Stone and Paul Ansaldi (Jan. 11); and Carol "Mom2" Westervelt, Stone Mountain fan Michael Moulton, and fast skating barkeep Jim Fagone (Jan. 13). Kudos also to Bev and Art McAllef, who celebrated 50 years of marriage Dec. 26.
HAVE A GREAT SKIING and riding weekend. Winter's here, and we're all for it.