Snow. While we thought our kids were super excited about Santa’s impending arrival, the greeting they gave to our first ground covering of white fluff was nothing short of gleeful. It goes without saying that we are generally blanketed by Christmas. Here in northern New Hampshire, we’ve had the mildest winter I can remember. Our kids are still riding their bikes, normally put away weeks ago. But this morning, we woke up to snow– beautiful, glorious white snow–only about three inches but enough to make us all kids again. We were dressed and outside playing and shoveling by 6:20 AM. The young lady UNH interns from last year who lived next door gently trained Carver to shovel them out after each snowstorm by rewarding him with cookies and smiles. He remembered. Despite the UNH girls being gone for months and our friend, Seth, and his family renting there this season, Carver casually and proudly reported to me, “Mom, I shoveled out the girls.” Mind you, he did this as Greta and I cleaned off Geoff’s car and made a snow free path for him to wheel easily on.
And so snow is one of those comfort items we people who live in New England embrace at least early on in the winter. It’s great for the outdoor enthusiasts, restaurants, spas, ski industry, which many of us are married to in more ways than one. It’s necessary for our tourism economy and local mountains like Loon, Cannon, Bretton Woods and Waterville, which employ thousands of people.
There’s another mountain, very near and dear to the local folks’ hearts. It’s the Kanc. Not the scenic byway that takes us to North Conway, but that hidden little rope tow, home to some of the best skiing and community spirit rivaled anywhere in the world when the conditions are just right. If you don’t know where it is already, I can’t tell you. But a NH family season pass is an astounding, jaw-dropping $75.00. This morning was extra awesome because I got to see part of that heart in action. I was dropping off some donated skis from Loon Mountain’s seasonal program families, and there he was, one of the Kanc’s legends: Dave Dovholuk. He was dragging snow hose and firing up the snow guns, because, well, another comfort of growing up here in Lincoln Woodstock is knowing that here at the Kanc Ski Slope, run by our town’s recreation department, Tara Tower, and MANY amazing volunteers, you can always find ski gear, a friend, a warm cup of hot cocoa, and countless smiles– along with some great skiing. He was so excited about the little pairs of skis I was bringing by, because, well, it’s important to get them started young! There is a long list of Kanc legends I could go into, but Dave is one of the most important guys to get the season going and maintaining the trails and giving groomer rides to the little fellows like Carver Krill at age 2.
The Kanc usually opens the day after Christmas, and if Dave Dovholuk could will Mother Nature to cooperate with cold enough weather, he would have that place filled with enough snow to buoy the hopes, hearts and souls of hundreds of local kids and their families. Right now they are trying to be open at some point that week, and the kids cannot wait. We count down the days until the Kanc opens because it’s where they find their friends, practice their 180, 360, 540, etc until it’s down pat; it’s where one spends their vacation weeks. Why wouldn’t you want to spend your entire school break skiing? Our race team, one of the best in New England, practices there and even has a classic night ski race with other area high schools, always a season favorite for the fans who come to watch. The rope tow is certainly not for the faint of heart, but you will be amazed at the littlest of toddlers who cruise up at warp speed, feeling the instinctive drive to continue with Kanc tradition.
One of my students, John Lyons, wrote a poignant essay as a sophomore commemorating the Kanc for Lincoln’s 250th Anniversary; he lost his dad earlier that same year right before the Kanc was slated to open. His dad was another kind of legend, one who cooked for the kids and volunteered almost every weekend in some capacity. But his essay about the Kanc was one I’ll never forget because he wrote about how a place like that, the Kanc Ski Slope, holds people there forever in memory, when he can’t be there himself in person. In John’s words:
“The memories from this season, the only season I had any reason to not want to go to the Kanc, dreading the moment when I would arrive and the memories of him would come rushing in to me; he loved that building, and the people in it, and all the craziness that occurred in it. Memories of him stayed there more than anywhere else because that’s where he loved. Those memories came rushing to me, a month after he was gone, as I walked in the door. And I did my best to embrace those memories, to embrace him, as the memories from all the skiing and the fun he had there with us came to me. That’s why I love the Kanc. Because it holds the things that we can’t; it holds on to those things we never want to lose.”
I still cry when I reread John’s essay as it is much about him and his dad as it is about the Kanc. And whenever he skis there, he knows his dad will be there too in spirit watching. The Kanc is that kind of special place.
I didn’t grow up skiing, but I did spend a ridiculous amount of time building snow forts with my brother and neighbors, sledding in our woods, and constructing thousands of snowballs, igloos, angels, and other woodland creatures. Snow. Whether the ground is covered on Christmas morning remains to be seen, but it was here today and what a difference a few inches made for those of us who live and work here. Even Rob Bevier, Loon Mountain’s Ski School Director, agreed the snow lifted the spirits of everyone working at that mountain today. Kids, including ours, were so happy to ski on some of nature’s goodness, that the fact that snow guns were also blasting in their faces didn’t even really matter. They were so happy to slide on snow again.
Snow. Mother Nature’s fresh slate. Dave Dovholuk’s Sunday morning Kanc ritural. May she come again real soon. Thank you to those of you who help to make the Kanc such an amazing local “Legend” in itself. Not sure if I’ll get another blog written before Christmas, so in the event that doesn’t happen, Merry Christmas to you and yours.