|KING OF THE HILL- Gary George (left) is a constant presence at the Blackwater ski area, home to the Andover (NH) Outing Club and Proctor Academy ski team. Gary is standing with Mike Henriques, the Proctor Head of School.|
Andover Outing Club
Sutton Mills, N.H.
The Blackwater Man- GARY GEORGE
Every jumping facility has one. The person who makes things go at the hill. They can be very much a behind the scenes person or team, but without them you aren’t going to jump very much. Some of the ones I know are, Jay Hudson and John Farnham at Lebanon. Hanover’s, Harry Roberts and Tom Dodds, the Howe family at Gunstock, Jay Rand, Larry Stone and Mouse at Lake Placid. Lots more I’m missing, but this is a tribute to them all, especially the main man at the Andover Outing Club, Gary George .
It’s a Monday in January, 3:45 PM and you have just pulled into the Blackwater parking lot. A cold afternoon, but perfect for jumping. You’re really ready to have a good day. All the jumps are covered and tracked out. The ski hill is busy with racers practicing, XC skiers are headed in every direction, and both lifts are turning, taking skiers of all varieties to their respective practice areas. Do you ever think to ask yourself,” How does this all happen?” It’s a pretty simple answer in Andover when you break it all down. Gary George. His hand and efforts are behind everything you see at the Blackwater, and even more that you don’t see. He makes the snow, grooms it, hauls material to build or repair the jumps, grades the hill, cuts the brush and grass, services the lifts, and gets them inspected. He maintains the snow machines, and cleans the lodge; he’ll even cook you a hot dog and sell you an Snapple. No facet of the operation doesn’t have Gary involved at some level. It’s possible though you might not be sure who Gary is. He probably knows who you are though. He knows most every Proctor, local high school, USSA, or AOC kid who uses the facility, and how well they are skiing. In his quiet way he moves about the Blackwater doing varied job after job all day long, taking time to engage in small conversations with the young skiers, coaches, and parents waiting in the lodge. He gathers information and dispenses it. Want to know what the weather coming up is? Ask Gary. Want to know who’s really skiing well in N.H.? Ask Gary. Want to know who’s practicing on Thursday 4-6? Ask Gary. He has his finger on the pulse of all things skiing; particularly at the Blackwater ski area.
Skiing in Gary’s family was a part of the natural progression of growing up. In addition to being the grounds and buildings superintendent at Proctor Academy, his father Howard, owned the Blackwater ski shop. He was also an accomplished ski coach for Proctor’s women’s ski team. Gary’s mother Ellie ran the Blackwater shop, and was a ski instructor at Ragged Mt., and then King Ridge. Gary began his skiing career initially at Ragged Mountain, (the first one) learning to ski there. He of course gravitated to racing at an early age and by 10 years old was a very active participant in the N.H. division of the Buddy Werner league. Gary enrolled at Proctor when it was time for high school,l and ski raced all 4 years there, graduating in 1978. His coach while at Proctor was present day A.O.C. legend Bert Hinkley. While skiing for Proctor Gary won both New England Prep School Championships (N.E.P.S.A.C.) in slalom and Giant slalom. When I asked Howard if Gary ever jumped or participated in X-C for Proctor he said, “No, I don’t believe he ever crossed over to that side.” After graduation Gary spent another year polishing his racing skills at the then Pat’s Peak Academy. This was a local ski academy which served many area and N.H. advanced racers. During this year Gary raced all over the U.S., and even in the remote nation of Iceland. Among his notable feats during this period was a win in a Giant Slalom race at Attitash over Franz Webber; who at that time held the world’s speed skiing record of over 100 MPH. Franz apparently couldn’t turn them as well as Gary could, but Gary obviously could go fast. For the next year Gary worked on the construction of Interstate 393 in Manchester N.H., and then returned to Proctor to become the Grounds Superintendent and ski team coach.
In 1982 Gary was appointed the Manager of the Blackwater ski area. It has been during his tenure as manager that all the improvements which we take for granted today at the Blackwater have occurred. Through Gary’s efforts it was decided that snowmaking should be put in at the area. He was able to sell this critical improvement by utilizing the system during the summer as an irrigation system for the Athletic fields at Proctor. That is why Carr field on Rt.11 always looks in such magnificent shape. The handle tow to the top of coaches knoll was another great Gary idea. Ask Nick Fairall what practice used to be like before the tow was put in. 4 rides off the 38 was a good practice session. The Base Lodge? It’s hard to describe how much of an upgrade the present Yarrows Lodge is over the hut we used to have. With the new ski lift, improved illumination, widening, and lengthening of the ski trails, it’s impossible to identify any aspect of the Blackwater facility that hasn’t greatly improved since Gary was named Blackwater Manager. So the next time you have a good day at the Blackwater as either a regular or a guest at one of the meets, tell Gary thanks; you appreciate all he’s doing to keep the skiing great. He’ll probably tell you he thought you looked real good on that 28 meter ride you took in practice.
|The lodge at the Blackwater ski area has the best cheeseburgers in NH and has seen many improvements under Gary’s tenure. Note the iconic railing made up of old skis.|