HUDSON -- When Bernard Kinney was a child, he used to sled down one of the many hills of his family’s farm in the town of Hudson. Years later, with 11 kids of his own, Bernard and wife Peggy heard about a tubing operation in Perkinstown and inspiration struck.
“They thought, ‘Hey, that’s something we can do here on our hills,’” daughter Maggie Kinney said.
In 1969 the Kinney family opened Badlands Sno-Park with some old lift equipment, 100 black inner tubes and four slopes.
Maggie Kinney was in eighth grade at the time. Today she sits in the second chalet built on the grounds, overlooking the snow-covered hills of Badlands Sno-Park off Kinney Road.
“I never thought I’d be sitting here 50 years later,” she said.
When they first opened the family enterprise, it was all hands on deck. The 11 kids helped run the park doing everything from shoveling snow to selling hot chocolate. Meanwhile, the family was still running a full-time farm.
“We all worked together and had the common goal of making it work,” Maggie said.
The early days weren’t easy.
The family didn’t have grounds machines, so often they were on the slopes pulling a bed mattress behind to smooth out the runs.
Still, Maggie said they had a lot of fun, and a lot of help.
“It kind of seemed like a big party all winter long,” she said.
The park closed for a few years in the 1980s, when no snow fell and the park didn’t have any snow-making machines.
Then the Halloween blizzard of 1991 hit, and it was a game changer, Maggie said. She remembers talking to Pat while he was milking the cows of the still-functioning farm.
“It’s now or never,” the two decided, and Badlands was up and running again by December.
When the patriarch Bernard died in 1994, Maggie and Pat, and his wife, Jill, kept the family tradition going.
Mom Peggy was there through all of it, usually at her post at the concession stand, serving up treats. She was 82 when she took her last ride down the bunny hill. After her death in 2018, the siblings tried to figure out just how many hot cocoas she must have served.
“She poured well over a million cups of hot chocolate in her life,” Maggie said.
The siblings have since scattered across the country, but Maggie and her brother Pat still run the operation, with help from Greg and visits from all the siblings. They all, of course, still take rides down the hills. Maggie does each of the now seven runs every year, to prove she still can.
The park has seen a lot of changes over the years.
One of the biggest came in 1996, when the park added snow machines.
“We knew we would have a product no matter what Mother Nature dealt us,” Maggie said.
The first night with the snowmakers was one of the most memorable in the park’s 50 years.
“The snow came out of those machines and we were like, ‘Holy cow! We did it!” Maggie said.
Also in 1996 they added snow boarding runs, which lasted for about 10 years. At the time, snowboarding was just getting popular, but ski parks didn’t offer runs, so Badlands filled a gap.
The original chalet built on the other side of the road was replaced in 2004 with the current building.
They still have room to expand.
“You never know,” Maggie said.
Many people came in over the years, not only to tube, but to help run the place.
“We didn’t build this ourselves,” Maggie said. “We had a lot of people help us over the years.”
Maggie said that has been the most interesting part, meeting so many different people. They have visited Badlands from all 50 states and six of the seven continents.
“We can never get anyone from Antartica here,” she joked.
Outside of winter family members still keep busy, renting out the chalet for weddings and parties, opening in October with a pumpkin patch and hosting sheep dog trials over Labor Day weekend.
They’ve tried to keep the experience affordable over the years. With 11 children, Maggie said they knew how difficult it could be to afford to go on outings.
It’s all come a long way in 50 years, and they’re making sure to celebrate. Badlands will host several different vintage and throwback events as well as the 50th anniversary party Feb. 14-17. All the siblings will be back in town, as well as those who have helped over the years to make the park what it is
“I’m sure my mom and my dad, especially my dad, would be overwhelmed by what has developed,” Maggie said.