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The Minuteman Express (2006)
Wachusett Mountain Ski Area
Princeton, Massachusetts
Status: Open
First Season:1960s
Vertical Drop:1000 feet
Standing Lifts:3 high speed quads, 1 triple, surface lifts
Past Lifts:2 triples, 3 doubles, surface lifts
Left: The Minuteman Express (2006)
Recent NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News:
11/19/2020: Ski Season Starts Tomorrow
11/10/2017: Ski Areas Open in 4 States This Weekend
11/24/2016: 18 Ski Areas Open in Four States Starting on Friday
4/30/2015: May Skiing Operations Expected in Four States
SkiNewEngland.net Profile
Located on a 2,006 foot tall mountain, Wachusett Mountain Ski Area is one of the most popular ski areas in the Northeastern United States.

Wachusett Mountain Reservation

Coverage of Wachusett Mountain Reservation in a July 1902 Boston Globe
Coverage of Wachusett Mountain Reservation in a July 1902 Boston Globe

The Wachusett Mountain Reservation was created in 1899 with A. G. Bullock, Harold Parker, and Theodore L Harlow serving as the first commissioners with Guy Chase as superintendent. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts appropriated $50,000 for the acquisition of land with Worcester County agreeing to cover the ongoing expenses associated with the property. The features of the reservation included a summit observation tower, a summit hotel, a carriage road, and a "double bowlder" [sic] on the northern slope. Tentative plans were developed for a railroad or "cable road" to the summit.

CCC Days

The origins of skiing on Wachusett Mountain date back to at least the early 1930s, when the Lancaster Outing Club organized ski races on the park's carriage road. In 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corps cut two ski trails, including what would become known as the Balance Rock ski trail. The other trail, Pine Hill, hosted numerous ski races for over a quarter of a century. One year later, a stone lodge was constructed near the base of the Balance Rock ski trail, soon becoming the headquarters for the Worcester Ski Club's annual winter carnival.

In 1939, the WPA built a lodge on top of the mountain, using stone, as well as timber from trees knocked down from the recent hurricane. Designed by Adolph Johnson, the new structure was said to be hurricane-proof.

A rope tow may have been constructed near the base of Wachusett Mountain in 1939, complete with lights for night skiing. A second tow may have been added within a year or two. It is possible that the area was also known as Speedway, and was reportedly developed by six brothers in the Soucy family. This operation may have been abandoned in 1942, as the brothers joined the war effort.

Skiing on Wachusett Mountain continued during World War II, though crowds decreased due to a ban on "pleasure driving." State-wide races were cancelled by the Worcester Ski Club due to the inability of competitors to reach the mountain due to the ban.

As the end of World War II approached, the state legislature proposed constructing lifts on Wachusett Mountain. Meanwhile, there are sporadic references to a rope tow being located at Wachusett in the late 1940s and the mid 1950s.

Development of a Commercial Ski Area

Trail clearing at Wachusett
Trail clearing at Wachusett

In 1958, the Worcester Ski Club, Scandinavian Ski Club, Heald Company Sno-Mads, and Norton Ski and Mountaineering Club organized "Operation Snowball," which consisted of outreach to local legislators to develop Wachusett Mountain as a ski area.

In January 1959, Representative J. Phillip Howard of Westminster filed legislation for a feasibility study of building a ski area and ski jump on Wachusett Mountain. One of the supporters of the effort was Wachusett Mountain Reservation superintendent Earle Vickery, who estimated a $250,000 development could become self-supporting.
In November 1960, Governor Foster Furcolo signed a bill funding a $250,000 ski development on Wachusett Mountain by the Wachusett Mountain State Reservation Commission, with a December 1961 opening announced soon thereafter. At the time, supporters of the bill hoped the outlay would be repaid by either lift ticket sales or a federal grant, and that sales would be strong enough to fund future expansion. Other supporters of the bill advocated for leasing the area to private entities due to concerns over efficient operations and the liability posed to county taxpayers.

Work started in the spring of 1961, as two trails and two lift lines were cleared. Sel Hannah designed the trail layout, which spanned some 550 vertical feet. Commenting on controversy from the clearing, the Fitchburg Sentinel noted that "it is pointed out that sixty years ago the slope where the cutting has just been completed was an open pasture."

Initial plans called for two Hall T-Bars serving eight ski trails geared toward families, rather than experts. Original plans of ski jumps were abandoned, but cross country skiing remained a consideration. The CCC lodge was to be converted into a ski patrol hut, however no new base lodge was planned for 1961. A snowmaking system was also planned, as Vickery noted that there was often inadequate snow until late December. The projected ski season was expected to be twelve to seventeen weeks long.

Unfortunately, as December 1961 arrived, Wachusett was nowhere near ready to open. By February 1962, trail clearing was still the only milestone achieved, with management reportedly blaming bureaucracy and inexperienced contractors for the delays.

Lift Served Skiing

Loading a T-Bar circa the 1960s
Loading a T-Bar circa the 1960s

Despite fresh natural snow, the December 15, 1962 opening date was also missed, as construction was still in progress for the lifts and "approximately a foot and a half of packed snow" was needed to ski the rough trails. In addition, the area's snowmaking system was incomplete (only the pond had been constructed), and there was no base lodge.

Skiing finally got underway after Christmas, as the shorter T-Bar went into operation. The longer West T-Bar was likely completed in January. Ross Amico directed the ski patrol, Normand Letarte operated the ski school, and former Chickley Alp ski school director Strand Mikkelsen operated the ski shop. By March, Vickery announced Wachusett was "in the black." Trouble was brewing, however. As the 1963-64 season approached, funds for the snowmaking system were diverted to a contingency fund for base lodge construction. State Senator Joseph Ward sought an investigation of the ski area, citing numerous complaints from constituents about obstructions on the slopes and unsatisfactory operations. Worcester County residents then sent a twelve-point petition to Senator Ward, claiming false advertising relating to the incomplete lodge and snowmaking equipment, poor trail maintenance, staffing, and no running water in the rest rooms.

A new beginner slope was cut for the 1963-64 season. Later that season, Wachusett made regional headlines when Governor Endicott hit the slopes. A woman approached the gaggle of reporters and photographers covering the Governor and asked, "Why isn't he working?"

Former ski shop operator Strand Mikkelsen passed away in February 1964 at the age of 59. A race was dedicated in his honor in 1967.

The $45,000 base lodge was completed for the 1964-65 season, as Governor Endicott Peabody attended a ceremony in late November. Designed by Caolo Associates, the A-frame building was 70 feet by 48 feet in size. The ceremony also marked the dedication of the Smith-Walton Trail, which was named after Stephen Smith and David Walton. The young locals had died in separate incidents helping fellow climbers in the Grand Teton Mountains in the summer of 1962.

The troubled 1964-65 season got underway in late January, as the snowmaking system finally went into service on the lower half of the west trail. Meanwhile, criticism of the ski area increased with Governor's Councilor Walter Kelley and County Commissioner Edward Bird joining Senator Ward in his efforts. After learning the area had run a deficit despite claims of being in the black, Commissioner Bird stated, "I am convinced we should seek different management," suggesting a long term lease instead. Vickery countered, alleging that Bird was affiliated with an effort by ski school director Normand Letarte to lease the area.

Following the 1964-65 season, Ollie Manninen took over as ski school director. An accomplished marathon runner, Manninen received a Silver Star while serving in the 10th Mountain Division in World War II. Decades later, Senator Bob Dole revealed that Manninen had saved his life, as Manninen had dragged a wounded Dole to safety during an intense battle in northern Italy.

On April 1, 1967, the Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources took control of the Wachusett Mountain Reservation. Surveying and planning quickly got underway with improvement projects soon following, such as repairing a T-Bar, removing boulders on trails, and fixing roads. In addition to the improvements, 1967 also saw the cutting of a new trail, the development of a ski school slope, and the construction of a ski patrol building.

The Crowleys Begin Operating Wachusett

A December 1968 Wachusett advertisement
A December 1968 Wachusett advertisement

Following the 1967-68 season, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sought to lease the ski area for a term of five years. Bidders included Philip Brideau, John Karchelles, Francis Lambert, Robert Anderson, and Wachusett Mountain Associates. Formed as a business entity by Ralph Crowley and Normand Letarte on August 16, 1968, Wachusett Mountain Associates won the five-year lease with a bid of $16,002. As President of Polar Corporation, Crowley had recently acquired the Tater Beverage Company plant and the vending business of the Phoenix Spring Beverage Company. His interest in the ski industry piqued after taking his kids skiing at Mt. Snow one day in 1961.

Robert Mignonie was hired from Otis Ridge as manager of the ski area and Paul George as ski school director, while Ross Amico remained on board as ski patrol director. Normand Letarte operated a Ski Barn ski shop at the area. Investments in the ski area included doubling snowmaking capabilities, acquiring a new grooming machine, and opening a new snack bar (featuring Polar beverages). The season was a success, as Wachusett operated into April for a record of 105 consecutive days. Division of Forest and Parks director Bruce Gullion stated the Crowley operation was "far superior to what the Department of Natural Resources has been able to do."

Toward the end of the 1968-69 season, Senator Ward and Representatives LaFontaine and Wetmore promoted a five-step improvement program at Wachusett, including lighting the West Slope and installing a chairlift to the summit. Portending eventual expansion, management began towing skiers to the summit via snowcat.

Sel Hannah returned in Wachusett during the summer of 1969 to help plan further improvements at the ski area. A new novice slope was developed for the 1969-70 season, complete with snowmaking and an O'Connor rope tow.

The 1971 off season saw the clearing of a new trail off a rebuilt West T-Bar.

Joseph O'Brien took over as general manager for the 1973-74 season, as Normand Letarte assumed that position at Crotched Mountain.

After years of studies, in early 1974, the Wachusett Mountain Advisory Council recommended an expansion plan prepared by Sel Hannah's Sno-Engineering, which included a new base lodge and replacing the T-Bars with double chairlifts, one of which would terminate just below the summit. The source of the $3 million project had not yet been determined, as some state officials were still open to fully funding and operating the ski area. Other state officials supported offering a long term lease for the area, which could enable private funding. Some local officials raised objections to the expansion plan, claiming it would increase property values, cause more traffic, and increase the burden on public safety departments.

Stuck in a quandary of annual lease renewals and an on-going debate about expansion, smaller investment continued on the existing ski area. Lighting was installed on nine acres of slopes for the 1976-77 season, providing night skiing operations for the first time. In addition, the base lodge was expanded and the snowmaking system improved. A liquor license was procured for apres ski for the 1977-78 season.

Major Expansion

Construction of the base lodge (1982)
Construction of the base lodge (1982)

After over a decade of wrangling, upper mountain expansion was finally green-lighted and a long-term lease awarded. A $7 million expansion project kicked off in 1982, initially with the installation of two double chairlifts. Further improvements took place for the 1983-84 season, as the Summit Area was finally opened, served by a double chairlift. In addition, the Nor'Easter double chairlift was upgraded to a triple chairlift, and a 24,000 square foot base lodge was opened, making Wachusett the largest ski area east of the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. The expansion was perhaps a knockout blow to nearby rival Mt. Watatic.

Alford International designed the improved snowmaking system for the dramatic expansion. Ralph Crowley told the Boston Globe at the time, "We make snow every time the temperature is right. You can never have too much of the stuff at an Eastern ski area."

Night skiing was likely expanded to the summit for the 1986-87 season.

The base lodge was expanded again for the 1990-91 season.

Skiing at Wachusett circa the late 1990s or early 2000s
Skiing at Wachusett circa the late 1990s or early 2000s

A new round of lift installations took place in the mid-1990s, starting with the installation of Massachusetts' first high speed detachable chairlift in 1994, the Polar Express. The base lodge was expanded for the 1995-96 season, while the state's second high speed quad was installed at the end of the decade, replacing the Nor'Easter Triple.

Meanwhile, with skier visit counts amongst the highest in all of New England, Wachusett looked to expand its terrain. Unfortunately, Wachusett was forced to abandon plans for new trails off the summit in the mid-1990s due to concerns about old growth forest. Soon thereafter, the Sierra Club used the discovery of bootleg ski trails to demand the termination of the ski area lease.

The Vickery Bowl
The Vickery Bowl

Though a dramatically scaled down terrain expansion was approved by the state in the spring of 1999, more delays were forthcoming. The Sierra Club sued Wachusett, leading to a court injunction to block construction in 2000. Nevertheless, years of red tape and protesting, Wachusett was able to open the Vickery Bowl in 2003, ushering in new terrain and a triple chairlift.

Former manager Earle Vickery passed away on October 16, 2009 at the age of 94.

The state's third detachable quad chairlift, the Monadnock Express, was installed for the 2011-12 season.

Following an amazing winter of natural snowfall, Wachusett surprised skiers by operating the Vickery Bowl chairlift for skiing on May 2, 2015.

A $2 million investment was made in 2016 when Wachusett doubled its snowmaking pumping capacity to 8,000 gallons per minute and installed its first batch of automated snowguns. In addition, RFID passes were introduced. Further technological improvements followed in 2017, when LED lights were installed on night skiing trails.

NewEnglandSkiConditions.com Reports
Month Average Percent of Terrain Open
November14%    (9 reports)14 Open
December54%    (18 reports)54 Open
January93%    (7 reports)93 Open
February95%    (6 reports)95 Open
March93%    (15 reports)93 Open
April85%    (1 report)85 Open
Recent Conditions Reports
Mar. 22, 2021 by amicus
Wet Powder, Spring Snow
Mar. 20, 2021 by rhodeislandskier
Spring Snow, Spring Snow
Mar. 9, 2021 by rhodeislandskier
Spring Snow, Variable Conditions
Mar. 8, 2021 by amicus
Packed Powder, Frozen Granular
Mar. 3, 2021 by rhodeislandskier
Loose Granular, Frozen Granular
Wachusett Mountain Ski Area on NewEnglandSkiConditions.com

NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News
Recent Articles
Ski Season Starts Tomorrow - Nov. 19, 2020
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18 Ski Areas Open in Four States Starting on Friday - Nov. 24, 2016
May Skiing Operations Expected in Four States - Apr. 30, 2015
Massachusetts Ski Areas Shut Down By Travel Ban - Jan. 27, 2015
Wachusett Mountain Ski Area NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News Page

CCC Trails
Trail NameStatus
Balance Rock TrailOpen
Pine Hill TrailOpen

Expansion History
Project
Season
Summit
Open
1983-84
Vickery Bowl
Open
2003-04

Image Gallery
Wachusett Aerial Imagery, 1995 vs. 2008
View All Images in Wachusett Mountain Ski Area Image Gallery

Lifts
Click on lift name for information and photos
Standing Lifts
Installed
Minuteman Express in 2002
Minuteman Express
Doppelmayr
Chairlift - Quad - Detachable
1999-00
Monadnock Easy Rider Express in 2013
Monadnock Express
Doppelmayr
Chairlift - Quad - Detachable
2011-12
Polar Express in 2006
Polar Express
Doppelmayr
Chairlift - Quad - Detachable
1994-95
The bottom terminal (2015)
Vickery Bowl Triple
Doppelmayr
Chairlift - Triple - Fixed
2004-05

Past Lifts
Seasons
Monadnock Double
Doppelmayr
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1982-83
-
1998-99
Monadnock Triple in 2002
Monadnock Triple
Doppelmayr
Chairlift - Triple - Fixed
1999-00
-
2010-11
The Nor'Easter chairlift prior to being upgraded to triple
Nor'easter Double
Doppelmayr
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1982-83
-
1982-83
The Nor'Easter Triple (1984)
Nor'easter Triple
Doppelmayr
Chairlift - Triple - Fixed
1983-84
-
1999-00
Ox Bow Lift
Hall
T-Bar
1962-63
-
1982-83
Summit Double
Doppelmayr
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1983-84
-
1986-87
Summit Triple
Doppelmayr
Chairlift - Triple - Fixed
1987-88
-
1993-94
The West T-Bar circa the 1960s
West Lift
Hall
T-Bar
1962-63
-
1981-82

Maps
2020-21 Wachusett Trail Map
1960s Wachusett Trail Map1962 Wachusett Development Map1962-63 Wachusett Map1964-65 Wachusett Trail Map1974-75 Wachusett Trail Map1982-83 Wachusett Trail Map
View All Wachusett Mountain Ski Area Trail Maps

Year by Year History
Adult Weekend Full Day Lift Ticket; Adult Full Price Unlimited Season Pass
2020s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2020-212020-21 Ticket Price Graph2020-21 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 20April 42020-21 Skier Visit Graph
2019-20$73.002019-20 Ticket Price Graph2019-20 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 15March 152019-20 Skier Visit Graph
2010s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2018-19$71.002018-19 Ticket Price Graph$679.002018-19 Season Pass Price Graph9.6 daysNovember 17April 132018-19 Skier Visit Graph
2017-18$71.002017-18 Ticket Price Graph$669.002017-18 Season Pass Price Graph9.4 daysNovember 12April 142017-18 Skier Visit Graph
2016-17$69.002016-17 Ticket Price Graph$669.002016-17 Season Pass Price Graph9.7 daysNovember 25April 92016-17 Skier Visit Graph
2015-16$65.002015-16 Ticket Price Graph$669.002015-16 Season Pass Price Graph10.3 daysNovember 27March 222015-16 Skier Visit Graph
2014-15$63.002014-15 Ticket Price Graph$649.002014-15 Season Pass Price Graph10.3 daysNovember 21May 22014-15 Skier Visit Graph
2013-14$60.002013-14 Ticket Price Graph$649.002013-14 Season Pass Price Graph10.8 daysNovember 16April 132013-14 Skier Visit Graph
2012-13$58.002012-13 Ticket Price Graph$649.002012-13 Season Pass Price Graph11.2 daysNovember 30April 72012-13 Skier Visit Graph
2011-12$58.002011-12 Ticket Price Graph$649.002011-12 Season Pass Price Graph11.2 daysDecember 12March 182011-12 Skier Visit Graph
2010-11$51.002010-11 Ticket Price Graph$625.002010-11 Season Pass Price Graph12.3 daysNovember 28April 3335,8552010-11 Skier Visit Graph
2009-10$49.002009-10 Ticket Price Graph2009-10 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 8April 3323,3982009-10 Skier Visit Graph
2000s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2008-09$49.002008-09 Ticket Price Graph$599.002008-09 Season Pass Price Graph12.2 daysApril 52008-09 Skier Visit Graph
2007-08$49.002007-08 Ticket Price Graph$629.002007-08 Season Pass Price Graph12.8 daysApril 62007-08 Skier Visit Graph
2006-07$49.002006-07 Ticket Price Graph$629.002006-07 Season Pass Price Graph12.8 daysApril 12006-07 Skier Visit Graph
2005-06$48.002005-06 Ticket Price Graph$629.002005-06 Season Pass Price Graph13.1 daysNovember 25April 22005-06 Skier Visit Graph
2004-05$46.002004-05 Ticket Price Graph$619.002004-05 Season Pass Price Graph13.5 daysApril 102004-05 Skier Visit Graph
2003-04$45.002003-04 Ticket Price Graph$639.002003-04 Season Pass Price Graph14.2 daysDecember 4April 42003-04 Skier Visit Graph
2002-03$44.002002-03 Ticket Price Graph$619.002002-03 Season Pass Price Graph14.1 daysNovember 9April 13403,0002002-03 Skier Visit Graph
2001-02$43.002001-02 Ticket Price Graph$619.002001-02 Season Pass Price Graph14.4 daysDecember 18March 31320,0002001-02 Skier Visit Graph
2000-01$42.002000-01 Ticket Price Graph$619.002000-01 Season Pass Price Graph14.7 daysNovember 24405,0002000-01 Skier Visit Graph
1999-00$39.001999-00 Ticket Price Graph1999-00 Season Pass Price Graph290,0001999-00 Skier Visit Graph
1990s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1998-99$37.001998-99 Ticket Price Graph1998-99 Season Pass Price Graph1998-99 Skier Visit Graph
1997-98$35.001997-98 Ticket Price Graph1997-98 Season Pass Price Graph1997-98 Skier Visit Graph
1996-97$35.001996-97 Ticket Price Graph1996-97 Season Pass Price Graph1996-97 Skier Visit Graph
1994-95$32.001994-95 Ticket Price Graph1994-95 Season Pass Price GraphMarch 261994-95 Skier Visit Graph
1992-93$29.501992-93 Ticket Price Graph1992-93 Season Pass Price Graph375,0001992-93 Skier Visit Graph
1991-92$29.501991-92 Ticket Price Graph1991-92 Season Pass Price Graph1991-92 Skier Visit Graph
1990-91$29.001990-91 Ticket Price Graph1990-91 Season Pass Price Graph1990-91 Skier Visit Graph
1989-90$29.001989-90 Ticket Price Graph1989-90 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 241989-90 Skier Visit Graph
1980s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1988-89$28.001988-89 Ticket Price Graph1988-89 Season Pass Price Graph1988-89 Skier Visit Graph
1987-88$25.001987-88 Ticket Price Graph1987-88 Season Pass Price Graph1987-88 Skier Visit Graph
1986-87$23.001986-87 Ticket Price Graph1986-87 Season Pass Price Graph325,0001986-87 Skier Visit Graph
1985-86$20.001985-86 Ticket Price Graph1985-86 Season Pass Price Graph1985-86 Skier Visit Graph
1983-84$16.001983-84 Ticket Price Graph1983-84 Season Pass Price Graph1983-84 Skier Visit Graph
1982-83$14.001982-83 Ticket Price Graph1982-83 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 181982-83 Skier Visit Graph
1981-82$9.001981-82 Ticket Price Graph1981-82 Season Pass Price Graph1981-82 Skier Visit Graph
1980-81$8.001980-81 Ticket Price Graph1980-81 Season Pass Price Graph1980-81 Skier Visit Graph
1970s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1976-771976-77 Ticket Price Graph$75.001976-77 Season Pass Price Graph1976-77 Skier Visit Graph
1971-72$6.001971-72 Ticket Price Graph1971-72 Season Pass Price Graph1971-72 Skier Visit Graph
1970-71$5.001970-71 Ticket Price Graph1970-71 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 251970-71 Skier Visit Graph
1969-70$5.001969-70 Ticket Price Graph1969-70 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 241969-70 Skier Visit Graph
1960s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1968-691968-69 Ticket Price Graph1968-69 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 15April 61968-69 Skier Visit Graph
1965-661965-66 Ticket Price Graph1965-66 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 10March 2625,0001965-66 Skier Visit Graph
1964-65$4.001964-65 Ticket Price Graph$35.001964-65 Season Pass Price Graph8.8 daysJanuary 22April 48,0001964-65 Skier Visit Graph
1963-64$4.001963-64 Ticket Price Graph1963-64 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 25March 2315,0001963-64 Skier Visit Graph
1962-63$4.001962-63 Ticket Price Graph$35.001962-63 Season Pass Price Graph8.8 daysDecember 281962-63 Skier Visit Graph

Visitor Memories
"I raced in the Mass State Downhill Championships here for two years. We had to hike up a trail to the left (if I remember right).No lift at that time. Near the bottom of the trail was a sharp 90 degree turn to the left that would kill all speed if not skied correctly. The last year they held the race several skiers were hurt and I think the race was cancelled after that . About 1963 or 1964. I finished 5th. It was a great race trail back in those days. "
David Dunham, Dec. 23, 2020
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External Links
  • Wachusett Mountain Ski Area official site
  • Last updated: February 11, 2021

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