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Badlands is going back to basics at 40 years young

The Kinney family posed for this photo at Badlands in 1992. In the front from the left are Katie (Ahrens), Peggy and Bernard Kinney, Maggie (Hall) and Frances (Damian). In the middle are Bridgette (Preston), Jackie (Roberts) and Ann (Klein). In the back row are Betsy (Ravenello), Greg, Pat, Bob Kinney and Patsy (Bevers). All eleven of the Kinney children worked at Badlands during their youth. The operation is now run by Patrick and Maggie.

Last weekend a local landmark opened for another season. Badlands Sno-Park first opened its hills to the public in December of 1969. Forty years later the Kinney family is still offering fun for the whole family at affordable prices. The 2009-2010 season started on Saturday.

"Bernard always talked about how every neighbor came over to toboggan on this hill when he was young," said Peggy Kinney, of a time before World War II. "It was after Bernard and Gerry Kusilek came back from a National Farmer's Organization meeting, where they watched a group of FFA boys hold a fundraiser by renting tubes to people so they could tube through a forest. He thought we could do something like this on our hills."

According to Peggy, on the way home Bernard and Gerry started talking about the hills on the family farm and about how this might be a way to put them to good use.

Almost in preparation, Patrick recalled how in 1968 they build a 20-foot ramp off the corn crib. The kids would sled off the crib down the driveway.

In December of 1969 Bernard and Peggy Kinney and their 11 children started the adventure. With some minor excavation on four slopes, 100 black inner tubes, four toboggans, four snowmobiles and two rope tows, they opened Badlands Recreation. The original sno-tubing chalet was the farmhouse where Bernard's father was born in 1888.

The grooming amounted to dragging a section of chain link fence behind a Massey Ferguson snowmobile, and shoveling and raking a lot of snow.

"We always tried to make it a family activity," said Peggy. "No smoking and no liquor." From a 78-year-old grandmother to special-needs children Peggy has witnessed fun in the making through the years. "I have met so many wonderful people. It is something that people who enjoyed it are now bringing their own kids and grandkids out."

After a brief break in operations in the late 80s it was the Halloween blizzard of 1991 that caused Patrick and Maggie Hall (Kinney) to decide it was now or never if they were to restart the family business. Since then it has grown each year. Today, Patrick, his wife Jill and Maggie are the principals in Badland Recreation, Inc. which operates as Badlands Sno-Park.

"I still remember the first night we made our own snow," said Maggie. It was in 1998, we decided to survive we needed to add snow making to our operation, since winter precipitation was becoming more and more uncertain." A two million gallon pond had been excavated the summer before.

"People love to come out here," said Patrick. "That tells you that you have a good product. It tells us we are on the right track and it is nice to know that people like what we do. We try to improve it every year."

"One of goals is to keep it affordable so the whole family can have fun and go home with some change in their pocket," said Maggie.

A fourth generation of Kinney children, is following in their dad's footsteps at Badlands. Patrick and Jill's children Molly, Katie and Henry all pitch in to help out.

Today, the 52 acre complex has a slope side chalet built in 2004, 325 covered handle tubes, five redesigned slopes including "turbo-tubing", snowmaking, advanced grooming machines and a change of name to Badlands Sno-Park. Snowboarding was part of the business for 11 years but was eliminated last year in response to the needed expansion of the sno-tubing space.

Badlands is open Wednesday and Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and daily during Christmas vacation. For more information call (715) 386-1856. A fortieth anniversary celebration will take place New Year's Eve.