Mt. Eustis ski program lets North Country youngsters borrow equipment for freeBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent January 15. 2018 9:47PM
LITTLETON — To promote the sport and to celebrate community-based skiing, a nonprofit group here is letting North Country kids borrow a complete ensemble for the entire season for free.
Members of the Mt. Eustis Ski Hill board of directors outfitted youngsters from ages 5 to 11 with skis, poles, boots, bindings, goggles, leather mittens and a helmet on Jan. 10 at the Boys and Girls Club of the North Country in Lisbon, and will do so again on Jan. 21 at the Colonel Town Recreation Department in Lancaster.
Additionally, the youngsters and their parents who came out to the Boys and Girls Club of the North Country on Jan. 10 received passes for free skiing at Mt. Eustis in Littleton and at the Bretton Woods ski area in the nearby town of Carroll. The only obligation for the equipment is that it must be returned to the Mt. Eustis Ski Hill organization by April 30.
Dave Harkless, who has led the successful, five-year effort to reopen the Mt. Eustis Ski Hill, said the free equipment rental addresses a peculiar situation there.
“We opened with a permanent rope tow and some good conditions,” in the winter of 2016-2017, said Harkless, but he and his fellow directors quickly noticed that the hill was missing the intended demographic: kids.
“We talked about” why the kids weren’t there, he continued, and concluded that “these kids don’t have skis.”
But thanks to an $18,000 grant from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, Mt. Eustis Ski Hill was able to purchase 150 sets of ski equipment, that, after being returned, will be refurbished and lent out again next year.
Although several North County schools have ski programs in partnership with area resorts, those programs begin only in the first grade and the participants get charged to rent equipment and generally get to use it, at the resort, only one day a week, said Sandy Olney.
The executive director of Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country and also a Mt. Eustis board member, Olney said Mt. Eustis is a great place to learn how to ski, adding that she is willing to teach skiers with special needs.
Jessica Riendeau of Lancaster said the Mt. Eustis ski rental program is “going to save us a lot of time” in picking up rental equipment elsewhere, and will let her daughter Zyla, who is in kindergarten, ski with older brother Riley, who is a first-grader.
Skiing for a family of four also “is quite an expensive endeavor,” said Riendeau, who thanked Mt. Eustis Ski Hill for the rental program.
Katie Lopus of the Boys and Girls Club of the North Country agreed and said the program is needed because “a lot of our kids” can’t afford ski equipment. She hopes the availability of the free rental equipment will “get people on Mt. Eustis.”
“If you live in the North Country, you need to enjoy the snow,” said Lopus.
Andrea and Ben Way of Littleton said they both enjoyed skiing while growing up but would have been hard pressed to introduce their children — Connor, 6; Payton, 4; and Morgan, 3 — to skiing without the rental program.
“This is outstanding for our family,” said Andrea Way. “Honestly, without it, we wouldn’t have been able to get out there. With three kids, this definitely makes it affordable for us.”
For more information about the Mt. Eustis Ski Hill, including hours of operation, go to the organization’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MtEustisSkiClub/