A noteworthy milestone was passed Saturday (Jan. 5) when Pats Peak in southern N.H. celebrated its 50th birthday before some 200 who regaled in the history of the ski and ride area.
Over that time, countless thousands of have learned to arc turns on Pats Peak’s 23 trails, and they’ve all done it under the watch of the Patenaude family. Wayne and Sally Patenaude are the only owners the Henniker resort has ever known, making it the longest continuously operating ski area under the same ownership.
The four Patenaude brothers, including Wayne, combined the ingenuity of their four businesses to fashion a ski area. Avid skiers who spent lots of time on hills and lift lines, the Patenaudes had a clear idea of what a ski area should look and ski like. Paula Tracy wrote on WMUR.com, “The idea came, 'Why not build our own ski area so we don't have to wait in line,'" said Wayne at the gathering.
“They decided to go home and build their own ski area in Henniker,” stated Pats Peak’s Lori Rowell. It started in the spring of 1962 with the building of a lodge using lumber sourced from the mountain owned by the brothers’ father Merle. In the fall of that year, the Peak Chair was installed, and on January 5, 1963, Pats Peak welcomed skiers for the first time.
It became something many resorts today are not: a place that specializes in teaching people to ski and board; a place where everyone is on a first-name basis; a place that emphasizes friends and families; a place that makes it all very personal.
To understand how much Pats Peak is ingrained into the region’s recreational culture, one only needs to see that, according to the Nashua Telegraph, Matt Ball, a Henniker native now living in Georgia, returned just prior to the party with his six-year- old son to teach the youngster to ski.The child had company as Pats Peak annually reaches out to over 100 schools with a potential impact of 8,000 kids.
At the other end of the spectrum, Pats Peak hosts 70 corporate teams that are involved in adult racing. Talk about growing the sport. At its weekend commemorative event, the highlight was the 50-foot birthday cake that occupied much of the base lodge, and forced their famous M and M cookies, also a 50 year tradition, temporarily into the background. There were special 50th contests geared around the oldest season pass and the most seasons passes.
“It was a great day to celebrate with all our guests,” added Wayne. “Lots of people joined us to enjoy a piece of cake to celebrate our 50th birthday. Family is what we have been all about for 50 years and it was great to celebrate with everyone.”
For this season, the Patenaudes invested $500,000 in upgrades, including construction of a new trail and the tweaking of the resort’s arrival area. The family has obviously taken care of the basics for half a century, including the crowning achievement of covering all trails with snowmaking.
Photos: Pats Peak 50th Birthday Celebration; Wayne Patenaude, owner