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February 18. 2013 7:45PM

Sled races highlight unique ski hill in Claremont


After losing most of her “Steam Punk” cardboard sled, Hunter Raymond, 16, of Claremont, with Alex Baker, 12, of Claremont (not seen) stays in the race, eventually winning the Spirit Award at Arrowhead Recreation Area's 6th Annual Cardboard Sled Race in Claremont Saturday afternoon. (MEGHAN PIERCE PHOTO)

CLAREMONT - Cardboard sleds of all shapes, colors and sizes flew, skidded or were pushed down Arrowhead Recreation Area snow tubing hill during the sixth annual Cardboard Sled Race Saturday afternoon.

The cardboard sled races are the pinnacle of the winter season at the all-volunteer Arrowhead, said President Stan Woodman.

The snow sport recreation area was opened as a commercial operation in 1962. Over the past 50 years it changed hands, closed, reopened and at one point was run by the city.

Vice President Chuck Allen said it was his son, Spencer Allen, who by clearing brush on the old cross-country ski trails when he was fresh out of college in 1997 that started the volunteer-led reopening of Arrowhead in 2001.

When it reopened, it had been closed for about dozen years.

Now about 60 volunteers run the recreation area on the weekends and Friday nights.

Spencer Allen is operations manager. His father said the goal now is to get Arrowhead back to its former glory as a ski lodge.

Because there are no employees to pay, prices for skiing, snowboarding or snow tubing are kept low and Arrowhead was able to fund a new commercial kitchen this year, Woodman said.

The volunteers are fueled by a love of winter sports and passing them onto their children and the children in the community.

"It's all volunteer, and our goal is to supply a lost cost winter alternative for a lot of kids that would never be able to go to the larger ski areas and spend $75," Allen said.

Things started to pick up in 2006 when tubing was introduced. That was the first year Arrowhead saw a profit under the volunteers.

"We made $105," Allen said.

There were some rough years in-between, he said. "We've had some slim years because we didn't have any snow. We ran on a lot of donations and spaghettis suppers."

They solved that problem a few years ago by buying a used snow-making machine.

It's a lot of hard work, but it's also a lot of fun, the volunteers said.

"I get to spoil other people's kids and then send them home," Woodman said.

Along with the cardboard sledding fun on Saturday, it was special day for Woodman at Arrowhead for another reason; his 4-year-old granddaughter had her first skiing lesson.

Woodman said his volunteer motto is simple: find something that you like to do and share it.

"My family all skis and I thought this is my opportunity to give back. Find something you like and give back," Woodman said.

The Claremont Savings Bank Mobile Banking Sled, made and ridden by Shana Sullivan and Cat Davis of Claremont, won for best adult time at 20.22 seconds.

Race veteran TJ Daignault won the children's fastest time on his Duct Tape Mobile at 18.6 seconds. Race officials said it was the sixth year in a row he had won.

The Patriots Fan Bus - manned by Stephen Page his children John and Katelyn Page of Claremont and Chris Bailey of Sunapee won the adult spirit award.

Sunapee's Central Elementary School's Magic School Bus - ridden by first-graders Morgan Summerton, Julia Koumrian, Lucien Osborne, Ben Gross and Amelia Slack - won the children's spirit award as well as the overall cardboard trophy award for the best combination of speed and creativity.

In the adult category the Barber Girls - Savannah Darrell of Springfield, Vermont, and Athena Brehio of Charlestown - in their sled "A Hairy Ride" won in the adult category for the overall cardboard trophy award.

The creativity awards were won by Hunter Raymond, 16 and Alex Baker, 12, of Claremont for their sled "Steam Punk" and the Barber Girls in the adult category for "A Hairy Ride."

mpierce@newstote.com


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