This job has landed me in some pretty peculiar circumstances. They range from holding a pig to eating meat from the same pig months later, listening to a state senator’s soliloquy about firecrackers, and walking in the woods with a Chichester woman who was wearing nothing but shorts and a sports bra in the middle of January.
Then on Friday, I went kayaking down a Franklin ski hill.
Outdoor New England owner and paddler Marty Parichand lent me a boat for a “test-run” before today’s Boat Bash Snow Crash event at Veteran’s Memorial Ski Hill. For 12 hours, people can sled using kayaks provided by Parichand or canoes provided by Blackfly Canoes of New Hampton, listen to music, visit vendors and, starting at 3 p.m., compete in a downhill elimination race.
Parichand, who is holding the event in conjunction with the Franklin Outing Club, said it’s the first of its kind on the east coast. Only people in Colorado and Europe, apparently, have figured out before now that cruising downhill in a boat is actually a great idea.
A fact-check seemed important for this story. As Parichand led me over to a boat and handed me a helmet to squish on my head, I had another peculiar, though not uncommon, experience on the job: one of my best friends from high school pulled up in her car.
Orli Gottlieb, who is an engineer, fellow Bow High School alum and a board member for Parichand’s nonprofit whitewater park project, Mill City Park, agreed to sled with me. (She also became my iPhone videographer).
Snowmobiles and a T-bar will be up and running for the actual event, but we had to walk up the ski hill with our kayaks Friday. After slipping our way over some icy patches, we found a spot with reasonable elevation, and not in the immediate trajectory of anything we could hit.
(There was a big snow pile at the bottom of the hill – insurance, Parichand told me, just in case someone reaches top-end speeds).
Orli and I sat into our short kayaks, though my winter boots made it difficult to get my legs bent enough so they were completely inside. I didn’t have a paddle – I needed my hands to hold my camera.
“With a paddle you’d be able to control which end is going forward,” Parichand told me.
I shrugged like the amateur I was.
Orli expertly managed to balance both paddle and my iPhone, and she scooted her boat forward first. I followed – rocking back and forth with perfect muscle memory from my childhood sledding days – and off we went.
I rode backwards, giggling, for half of the hill. But all’s well that end’s well: I finished my run with grace, sliding in smoothly – and frontwards – next to Orli.
There was more giggling after that.
We did just a small portion of today’s course. Parichand told me there would be two tracks side-by-side for the races, though before those could be made, they needed a whole lot more snow after the past few weeks of warm temperatures.
The Veterans Memorial Recreation Ski Area has never made its own snow. But with donated hoses, compressors and snow gun stands, the retired Franklin Fire Department member and “Goddamned genius” Alan Carignan, and half a dozen volunteers, it was possible.
Getting the hoses connected right, controlling for the best pressure, and stopping the snow guns from tipping over (and spraying my entire pantleg) took a little while. But by 4:30 p.m. Friday, Parichand and his crew were making snow.
They expected to cover the hill in 8 to 12 inches throughout the night, with some time to spare to construct the race course.
Parichand and his crew have been working long hours to make the Snow Bash Boat Crash come to fruition. They only got the snow makers functioning correctly at 1:30 a.m. Friday morning, and they weren’t sure how much sleep they would get, if any, the night before the event.
With proceeds from the event going to both the Mill City Park project and the Franklin Outing Club, plus the general momentum for outdoor sports and downtown development in Franklin, Parichand told me he’s okay pulling all-nighters to make some snow.
“There isn’t anything I’d rather be doing,” he said.
The Boat Bash Snow Crash will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. today. Entry just to watch is $5 per person, $20 to sled, and $25 to sled and race.