In 1963 I purchased the land to build an alpine ski area. I was sixteen at the time and borrowed fifteen thousand dollars from my grandfather. After college and the army (Corps of Engineers), I moved to an old cottage on the land in 1970. In college I studied forestry and was introduced to cross-country ski racing. When I mentioned to my coach that I planned to build an alpine ski facility, he said, "Why don't you build an area without lifts?" It was a concept I dismissed at the time, but embraced in 1970 when I saw small hills going out of business because of insurance costs, snowmaking needs, customer desires, etc. With savings from the Army I paid my grandfather for the land. In two years I built eight miles of trails, an outhouse, a ski shop/garage, a warming hut, and opened for business in December 1972. It cost two dollars to ski and six dollars to rent equipment. Asking people to pay to ski cross-country was a new concept. Enough people came to keep me debt free and allow me to keep building. The next year, however, it did not snow and I lost my home to fire. Insurance money allowed me to rebuild and keep going until the mid-seventies when we had wonderful snow years. A snowmobile was purchased for grooming and rescue work, the trail network expanded, and a new ski shop with indoor plumbing was built. With my forestry background I was able to use wood from the land for the buildings and to provide heat.
In the 1980's I met and married Irene who became my partner in the business. She brought a sense of order, an attention to detail, and a warm friendly spirit to the operation. Along with our first child, Tom, the mid-eighties brought piles of snow, huge crowds, and a snow-cat to help the overworked snowmobiles. After the birth of our second son, Andy, in 1990, we had more time in the winter to raise a family because there were numerous poor snow years. People often ask, "How do you manage to keep going?" We don't spend what we don't have. On good years we invest in machinery, buildings, and trail improvements. On slow years we do the painting and repairing chores which require more "sweat equity." In the past ten years we have purchased two Pisten Bully snow-cats, which do a fabulous job of rejuvenating old snow and setting great tracks. In 1998 I built a base lodge with a first class rental area and a dining area with fireplace, cathedral ceiling, and large windows for watching skiers.
And now the present...
The trail network is established, the lodge is complete, and our grooming needs are set for years to come. Our rentals have been updated and we have added snowshoeing trails. Most of our customers come from the Nashua, Boston, Worcester, and Providence area. People used to come to the Monadnock Region for the weekend, but with lives being more hectic, we usually have people visiting for the day. Since we are not a destination resort our biggest crowds are on weekends and holidays. We are open when there is sufficient snow to ski which is generally December through March.
This is the forty first year I have been involved with running Windblown. Emotionally, it has been a roller coaster - perfect snow one week, rain and bare ground the next. People's energy for the sport has risen and fallen with the depth and quality of snow, the amount of recreation time available, the overall economy, and the perception of fitness as a way of life.
We have met some wonderful people, both customers and staff, while watching our boys become responsible and capable through helping to run the ski area. There is constant work keeping the woods from encroaching on the trails, preventing wet spots, maintaining vehicles and equipment, and repairing buildings, decks, outhouses, shelters, etc. The hardest part of the job for me is waking up at 3 A.M. to find the rain soaked snow firmly frozen and the realization that it will take many hours of difficult grooming to make it skiable, the machinery will not start, and 400 skiers are expected by noon. Our joys come from accepting the challenges, overcoming them, and seeing the happiness it brings to others. We live in a beautiful place in a special corner of the world, living a life close to nature and others. Thank you for supporting us.
Al and Andy Jenks