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Whaleback Mountain Is Making a Comeback

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The Little Mountain That Could, from Origin Outside and L.L.Bean, features the story of Whaleback Mountain, a small community hill in Enfield, New Hampshire, that’s thriving off the good deeds of its volunteers.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] SUBJECT 1: You guys excited? 

SUBJECT 2: Yeah! 

SUBJECT 1: How many of you guys have been on [INAUDIBLE] before? 

CATHY BEAN: There's something that's just different about Whaleback. It's the heart of the community. And there's just something really special about that. 

REBECCA REED: The best part about it is that it's your home mountain and that everybody feels like it's their home mountain. 

SUBJECT 1: You guys ready to drop in? 

SUBJECT 2: Yeah. 

EVAN DYBVIG: A bigger resort just can't do it the same. Back in '05, myself and a couple of business partners bought the mountain, and we ran it for eight years, and we'd lost money for eight years. It was a really hard decision for us to close and let it go. 

JESSICA IRWIN: We were super devastated to lose something that's so meaningful. 

REBECCA REED: There was a lot of sadness that, as a staple in this community, it was going to close and that it wouldn't be here for everybody that had been using it since the 1950s. Over 90% of our customers are families like mine, who can't afford to go to one of the bigger ski areas on a regular basis. 

CATHY BEAN: It was like grief, like what are we going to do? Where are we going to go? This place is so important to so many families. We just couldn't sit back and let our mountain close. 

REBECCA REED: In 2013, a group came together to save the mountain and reopen it to the public. I got involved with Whaleback as a volunteer. I did not know anything about running a ski area. With only a few of us working year round, we rely heavily on volunteers. 

SUBJECT 3: Hey everybody. Thanks for coming. We're to start with just letting you know what the priorities are. 

SUBJECT 4: It remains a struggle. There's another tree down up in this-- 

REBECCA REED: I have experts working around the clock. I mean for the chairlift. We need to talk for a minute. 

JESSICA IRWIN: It's always a little nerve wracking when you're looking ahead to opening day because you know how much the mountain has to accomplish before the lift can turn. 

REBECCA REED: We don't have a lot of money in our back pocket all the time. So without those grassroot efforts, we wouldn't be here. I've always called this the little mountain that could. On opening day there's a lot of excitement and a lot of stress. Can I help you? Things happen, fall apart here and there. Oh, carpets are always a pain in the butt. Everybody has to pull together and dust it off and keep going. It remains a struggle every year but we fight hard to make sure it's going to be here for the kids. 

JESSICA IRWIN: I think people appreciate the experience more because they have been a part of making it a success. That's a feeling of ownership and accomplishment. Sharing a love of skiing and the outdoors is priceless. 

New Hampshire