Skiers, boarders may take flight at Bethel Airport
Aircraft may not be the only things flying at the Bethel Airport this winter, if a newly-hatched idea for the annual Bethel Winterfest comes to fruition.
In recent years the Winterfest has featured a “rail jam” – a competition among snowboarders and skiers who gain speed on a snow hill/ramp and then jump and spin off off elements at the bottom.
Last year it took place at “Festival Plaza” at Bethel Station. Snow for the hill (which doubled as a “snowcano”) was provided through a combination of the town’s street snow removal and Sunday River Resort snowmaking.
At Monday’s selectmen’s meeting the board learned from Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, that the Sunday River Ski and Snowboard Club would like to have a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association-sanctioned rail jam at the same site on Feb. 15.
Zinchuk said she hoped the town could again truck snow removed from the streets to the site. The BACC could supplement that with snow removed from the airport.
She said no snowcano or other unusual snow construction is planned for this year.
If a snow hill were built for just a railjam, the USASA would provide insurance for the event itself, she said. However, it would have to be leveled the next day, she said.
Zinchuk said she didn’t want that to happen.
“I would love to use the hill for sledding for the local kids,” she said, just as the snowcano hill had been used in previous years.
Zinchuk asked if the town could provide insurance for that activity, as it has before.
Town Manager Jim Doar said he had checked on that, and the insurer said “no,” because the activities are not town-sanctioned and do not take place on town property.
“I don’t know if that’s a fatal obstacle,” Doar said.
“It probably is,” replied Zinchuk.
But then Randy Autrey of the Bethel Airport Authority had an idea.
“How about the airport" he asked. "You wouldn’t have to move the snow.”
He said an open area away from the runway has been used in the past for snowmobile races and other public events, and the rail jam would likely be a permissible activity.
“That changes everything,” said Zinchuk.”It really does. We hadn’t even thought of that.”
Selectmen agreed to have Doar look into the option with the insurance company.