MONTPELIER, Vt. — Governors from the three northern New England states are out to prove their skiing prowess again — and to highlight one of their states’ primary recreation industries while they’re at it.
Gov. Howard Dean, who got the tradition started last year with a challenge to then-New Hampshire Gov. Judd Gregg, has invited his colleagues from Maine and New Hampshire to a rematch of last year’s slalom race.
Maine’s Gov. John McKernan, who was put out last year when he wasn’t invited, will participate this year along with Dean and Gregg’s successor, Gov. Steve Merrill.
“We’ve relented to allowing Maine to join in the fun,” said Tom Meyers, marketing director of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, which is organizing the New England Governors’ Ski Challenge.
The first of three races will be held Feb. 15 at the Killington resort. Two weeks later New Hampshire will host another at its Mount Sunapee ski area. And Maine’s Sunday River tentatively has been tapped for a third race on March 8, although that had not been confirmed by Monday.
Leaders of the ski industries in Vermont and New Hampshire got into a high-profile feud about which state had better skiing last year after Dean recorded a radio ad for Vermont resorts.
The ad aired in Boston, which New Hampshire viewed as a play for its traditional market.
Eventually, both sides realized that the wide media attention the spat produced benefitted skiing throughout northern New England, so Dean challenged Gregg and his staff to a pair of races. The governors split the victories, although the New Hampshire gubernatorial staff won both times.
The real winners, according to the ski industries, were the resorts. “Certainly, the volume of coverage was very considerable,” Meyers said. “We got literally hundreds of newspaper clippings. … Anytime you see that kind of exposure for skiing and for Vermont, it has to have a far-reaching impact.”
Preliminary plans this year call for a three-way race among the governors along a slalom course. Then their staffs will compete, probably in a traditional dual slalom format, for lowest overall time.