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Friends gather for Wa's 50th.

Byline: Shaun Sutner


Among other distinctions, Wachusett Mountain Ski Area is an incubator for people doing cool and important things in the snow sports business.

That phenomenon was brought home Saturday night at Wachusett's 50th birthday bash for friends of the Princeton ski and snowboard magnet, among whom were members of the Eastern Ski Writers Association, a group I belong to and which also is celebrating its 50th this year.

The spacious Granite Room in the base lodge was packed for the gala with more than 275 guests, including plenty of industry notables, many of them who have close ties to the "Wa," as fans fondly refer to the Central Mass. resort.

Here are some of the Wachusett-bred ski luminaries who were on hand (apologies to anyone I missed):

Dave Ingemie, longtime president of the influential ski manufacturers trade group Snowsports Industries America, started out his career in marketing and public relations at Wachusett in 1969. A Fitchburg native, Ingemie later jumped to the executive directorship of the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce in New Hampshire.

Molly Mahar, vice president of New Hampshire's Loon Mountain Resort. A native Princetonian whose mother worked at the mountain, Mahar grew up skiing at Wachusett.

Tim McGuire, general manager of Burke Mountain Resort, the rapidly expanding northern Vermont destination, started out as an environmental engineer at Wachusett.

There are also plenty of other important players in the ski business with Wachusett roots. Some of them are:

Kerry O'Brien, head snow groomer at Sun Valley, Idaho, one of the world's premier ski resorts. O'Brien is the brother of one of Wachusett's first general managers, Joe O'Brien, under original owner Ralph Crowley Sr. Of course, three of the late Mr. Crowley's five siblings - Jeff, David and Caroline - now run Wachusett.

Jamie O'Brien, Joe's son and Kerry's nephew, a former ski boot fitter at the Wachusett shop and star junior racer. Jamie runs mountain operations at Stowe Mountain Resort, the classic, steep and backcountry lovers' paradise in northern Vermont.

Wachusett general manager David Crowley's son, David Jr., works in lift operations at Wyoming's gnarly Jackson Hole, the prime U.S. resort for steep and deep riding. David's daughter, Trudi, worked in snowmaking at Vermont's Sugarbush resort.

Matt and Kathryn Crowley are former star racers of Sun Valley. They are children of Ralph Crowley Jr., president of Polar Beverages, Wachusett's sister company and the country's largest independent bottler. Ralph's daughter, Sarah, is the newly appointed events director for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, the resort's prestigious racing academy.

Courtney Crowley, daughter of Wachusett president Jeff Crowley, is working in an internship at Stratton Mountain Resort in southern Vermont.

Nick Krause of Northboro is the first and only Wachusett-bred skier to make the U.S. Ski Team. Krause, a 20-year-old grad of the Stratton Mountain School ski racing academy, is competing on the prestigious Nor-Am race tour right now.

Bob Magnoine, an early Wachusett general manager and later ski school director, is now technical ski school director at Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut.

Princeton native D.J. Hart is a ski instructor at Sun Valley.

James Moore, former snowboard technical director at Wachusett, now has the same job at Mount Snow in West Dover, Vt.

Former Wachusett ski instructors now teaching skiing at other areas: Mark Conlon, originally from Fitchburg, now at the upscale Beaver Creek resort in Colorado; Boylston native Craig Spooner, now at Snowbird, the Utah powder mecca; Kevin Beech of West Boylston, at Mount Snow; Massimo Cavalli, at Grand Targhee, Wyo.; Shawna Reilly, at Smugglers Notch, Vt.; Dan Hogan, kids program director at Smugglers Notch; Gordon Flett, Alpine Meadows, Calif.; Andrew Buffard, snowboard freestyle director, Killington, Vt.; Diane Hurvitz, Winter Park, Colo.

At the party, Ralph Crowley, the oldest of the five Crowley siblings (an avid skier based out of Stratton), remarked with his usual blunt wit about the some of the younger generation Crowleys. There are 18 younger Crowley cousins in all, most of them in attendance in the Granite Room.

"We have kids in the ski biz working at dumps like Jackson Hole and Sun Valley," Ralph said, noting as well that while it is Wachusett's 50th anniversary, Polar (controlled by Ralph and the fifth older generation Crowley sibling, Chris, of Southboro) has been in business for 130 years.

By the way, this was the first time anyone could remember seeing all of the Wachusett and Polar Crowley siblings on stage, with speaking roles, at the same time. It continues to be remarkable how well the siblings - who have a history of family discord among the siblings of their father's generation - get along and collectively manage both companies so well.

For the record, this is a big year for 50ths in the snow sports community across the country.

In addition to Wachusett and the Eastern Ski Writers group, others celebrating their 50ths include Vail and Steamboat Springs, the elite Colorado mega-resorts; Telluride, Copper Mountain, Loveland and Eldora, four more great Colorado ski areas, and Pats Peaks ski area in Henniker, N.H.

Tom Meyers, Wachusett's creative marketing director, surmised that something must have been going on in the '60s in the ski world.

"Nineteen sixty-two must have been the baby boom of the ski industry," Meyers said.

Contact Shaun Sutner at Follow him on Twitter @ssutner.

Skiing Calendar

Saturday - Berkshire East Ski Area, Charlemont, scheduled to open for season.

Saturday - Wachusett Mountain Ski Area, Princeton, 50th anniversary celebration and opening of Sun Drop Big Air Bag, freestyle ski, and snowboard training feature that allows safe landings for jumps.

Saturday-Sunday - Stratton Mountain (Vt.) Ski Area, Heavy Metal Boardercross Camp with Vermont Olympians Lindsey Jacobellis and Ross Powers, for riders ages 10-18.

Dec. 28 - Mount Snow, West Dover, Vt., DC Pop Up Jam, snowboard rail jam at Carinthia terrain park.

Dec. 28 - Waterville Valley, N.H., ski demo day.

Dec. 29 - Waterville Valley, meet and greet with Olympic gold medalist freestyle mogul skier Hannah Kearney.

Dec. 28-29 - Crotched Mountain Ski Area, Bennington, N.H., kickoff nights of "Midnight Madness" skiing and riding until midnight.

Jan. 2 - Wachusett Mountain, opening night, Night Race League.
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U1VT
Date:Dec 20, 2012
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