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Lyndeborough

Reflections on career in counseling

Former owner of Temple Mountain Ski Area retires from substance abuse field

  • Mike Beebe, former order of Temple Mountain Ski Area, is retiring after a long career as a drug and alcohol counselor
  • Mike Beebe, former order of Temple Mountain Ski Area, is retiring after a long career as a drug and alcohol counselor
  • Mike Beebe, former order of Temple Mountain Ski Area, is retiring after a long career as a drug and alcohol counselor
  • Mike Beebe, former order of Temple Mountain Ski Area, is retiring after a long career as a drug and alcohol counselor
  • Mike Beebe, former order of Temple Mountain Ski Area, is retiring after a long career as a drug and alcohol counselor
  • Mike Beebe, former order of Temple Mountain Ski Area, is retiring after a long career as a drug and alcohol counselor
  • Mike Beebe, former order of Temple Mountain Ski Area, is retiring after a long career as a drug and alcohol counselor
  • Mike Beebe, former order of Temple Mountain Ski Area, is retiring after a long career as a drug and alcohol counselor
  • Mike Beebe, former order of Temple Mountain Ski Area, is retiring after a long career as a drug and alcohol counselor

LYNDEBOROUGH — During a long career as an alcohol and drug abuse counselor, including a stint coordinating an innovative assistance program for students in the ConVal School District that was one of the first in the nation, Mike Beebe has seen many success stories and more than his share of frustrations. As Beebe winds down his practice, preparing to retire as of the first of the year, he says while people are well aware of the prevalence of substance abuse, finding ways to help people is even more challenging than when he started 37 years ago.

“Behavioral health is a poor cousin in our medical system and always has been,” Beebe said Tuesday at his Lyndeborough home. “At one point in New Hampshire, there were 15 residential treatment centers scattered around the state. Then managed care came along and now they’re gone. Now we don’t have a place to take people. They are getting sicker much faster, and we’re doing less and less.”

Beebe has spent years of working with students, workers with drug or alcohol problems and most recently veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said support services have been falling away in recent years, leaving him frustrated.

“We’re getting much better at diagnosing and developing treatment plans, but we just don’t have the resources to do much about it,” he said. “It’s a good time for me to transition.”

Beebe, 71, got involved with substance abuse issues through his first career. In 1964, he took over management of the Temple Mountain Ski Area in Peterborough, which had been founded by his parents, Charlie and Lucie Beebe of Hollis, in December 1937.

He said his father chose the location of the ski area after taking a map of New England and drawing a circle with a 60-mile radius from Boston.

“Temple Mountain is actually 63 miles, but it was right on the highway. Access was real important,” Beebe said. “It had been heavily lumbered and he put up an 800-foot rope tow. In those days, every farmer with a hillside pasture and an old truck engine or tractor would build a rope tow. So I grew up in the ski business in Peterborough and on the poultry farm in Hollis.”

Beebe attended the University of New Hampshire, where he captained the ski team, and then became a certified ski instructor and coach. By the time he took charge at Temple Mountain, the area had expanded to have two T-bar lifts and four rope tows on about 250 acres. Beebe and his wife, Sandy, opened the lifts on weekends and employed more than 100 people, some of them children of people who had worked for his father. And while he was running the ski area, Beebe became aware of the problems of substance abuse.

“I had some key people who developed alcohol or drug problems,” he said. “A couple of them died. It was really sad. And two went to treatment programs and got sober.”

Beebe set up an employee assistance program for the company in 1976. He said intervention with workers sometimes required giving them a choice to either seek treatment or be fired.

“That can be a very powerful encouragement, the danger of losing a job,” Beebe said.

While still running the ski area, Beebe went to Antioch University New England in Keene, where he earned a master’s degree in education. He then started an adolescent treatment program based on Outward Bound-type strategies.

“We took employee assistance techniques and adapted it to the schools,” he said. “There wasn’t much going on. We were doing pioneer work.”

Meanwhile, ConVal School District officials were becoming concerned about alcohol and drug issues among students. With encouragement from Bill Page, who was school superintendent at the time, Beebe and a number of ConVal staffers started a student assistance program for the school district in 1977.

“I worked with individual students and with groups. It didn’t take long before we’d have 30 to 50 kids showing up. Lots of kids were in dysfunctional families, and we’d talk about making good decisions. We called ourselves paraprofessionals, but lot of it was learning by doing.”

Beebe became the director of the program, which he ran for seven years.

“This really became Mike’s mission in life,” said Jim Grant of Peterborough, who was principal at Temple Elementary School at the time and was involved with Beebe’s program at ConVal. “He’s always given throughout his life and this was another logical avenue for him. He saved a lot of young people’s lives. He helped get a lot of people into treatment.”

Beebe ran the ConVal program for 12 years, while still managing the ski area. By the mid-1980s, he realized that Temple Mountain needed an upgrade.

“I was going to have to invest a lot of money in the mountain or get out of it,” he said. “It’s a feast or famine business. Owning a ski area can really be just an expensive way to buy a season ticket for your family.”

Beebe had taken down a 24 by 36 foot barn in Hollis and rebuilt it as a family home on the Temple Mountain land. In 1984, he contacted Yankee Magazine, which featured the property as its House of the Month, with the ski area going along with the house.

“Three days after the magazine hit, I got a call. Three guys from Nantucket flew up to Jaffrey, and three days later we had a deal,” Beebe recalled.

He said he urged the new owners to hire Sandy Eneguess of Peterborough to manage the ski area, and new lifts, including the state’s first quad chairlift, were installed. The ski area went through challenging financial times in the 1990s and eventually closed for good after the 2001 season. The land is now owned by the state of New Hampshire.

After selling Temple Mountain, Beebe and his family moved to Hollis. With two partners, he started an out-patient counseling practice in Manchester. He became a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and continued working with high school students at schools in the Manchester area. In 1995, he opened his own private counseling practice in Amherst.

Following a divorce, Beebe moved to Lyndeborough in 1995. He has since remarried and he and his wife, Pauline, live on a back road with their dog and cat, enjoying hiking and snowshoeing on 30 acres lined with trails Beebe has cut.

“I could probably have a snowshoe business here pretty easily,” he said.

Beebe said he still skis about 50 times a year, mostly at Crotched Mountain, where he has a season pass. He races in masters division ski competitions, specializing in the slalom and giant slalom events.

“I love to race, but I don’t worry about winning,” he said. “A big part of the agenda is just being able to walk unaided back to the car.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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