The cold breath of winter caressed my face as the snow guns filled the air with their tiny crystals of fun. The mountain crew was adding to what little snow Mother Nature has dropped so far, providing us with an excellent surface to cut.
I pulled the zipper on my ski jacket up just a bit, gripped my poles, and shoved off after my partners for the morning, fellow scribe Peter Hines and Andy Gendron, the Director of Marketing and Events at Crotched Mountain.
The boys were in no mood to dawdle. Andy and Peter skied over to the lip, paused for a heart beat, and then tipped into Pluto’s Plunge, the steepest trail on Crotched Mountain. Not to be left behind, I jumped in as well and quickly found myself hurtling down a white play-chute. So much for a warm-up run!
It was the first run of the morning, so I struggled a bit to find my rhythm. Slipping over to the edge of the trail, I concentrated on an imaginary lane about eight feet wide and just executed a whole series of quick slalom-like turns. Reaching out in front of me, I planted my pole hard and skied around it. Again and again. This got my weight forward and my system pumping from the exertion.
Down we dropped, the newly-made snow flying at each cut, my companion gracefully floating over a sea of white. Although the trail was only a drop of 1,000 feet, it was steep enough to really get my attention. We ran on out to the high-speed quad and jumped on for a quick ride back to the top.
Crotched Mountain is a relatively small ski area that prides itself on family skiing. With 1,000 vertical feet, 25 trails, 4 freestyle parks and five ski lifts, everyone can find a run that suits them. With a state-of-the-art snowmaking system that covers all of their trails, skiers are treated to a high-quality surface that is a pleasure to carve. In fact, if you are not completely satisfied with the conditions, simply turn your ticket in to Guest Services within the first hour of purchase and they will give you another one good for another day.
9 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Crotched Mountain has carved a unique niche for itself in a crowded ski area market by offering 18 hours of continuous skiing on weekend nights. This is on 100 % of their trails. When it gets dark, they just light them up and let the fun continue. That’s not a misprint. The lifts on the weekends run from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m.! That’s 36 hours of skiing in 48. Midnight Madness offers live entertainment, slope-side bonfire parties, and an inexpensive cafeteria.
“We get a lot of high school and college kids during the late hours,” said Andy. “However, you would be amazed at how many older skiers come out here after work on both days and get to ski for several hours. You might expect it to be kind of crazy, but the skiers seem to follow the code and make their runs with reason. It’s just fun.”
A weekend at most ski areas involves you driving up on Friday night after work, skiing seven or eight hours on Saturday, and three-quarters of the day on Sunday before heading home. Total skiing hours: about 14. At Crotched Mountain you drive up on Friday after work, ski for eight hours that night, ski for 18 hours on Saturday, and the same three-quarters of the day on Sunday before heading back. Total skiing hours: about 32! If you are a serious skier, that’s a lot of turns.
Like many of the smaller New England ski operations, area school students and their parents are their bread and butter. At 3 pm the school buses start rolling in disgorging kids by the hundreds. They have a modern rental shop, a large ski school, and a very comfortable base lodge geared to family skiing. The food is good and relatively cheap by modern ski area standards. Its a place where you can turn your kids loose and feel safe. For adults there is a nice bar at the end with soft chairs and friendly help.
In a throw-back to old time ski areas, there are old-fashioned wooden cubicles built into the walls that are free but offer no security other than your faith in others. But you can change your clothes right there and store your streets in an ample square. What strikes you as you walk through the main doors for the first time is how the whole building is so well-kept.
They also offer a group overnight lockup. You can ski and ride late into the night, bring your sleeping bag and camp in the main lodge, and have a full breakfast buffet in the morning for a package of only $59 per person.
So, pack up the car and head out to Crotched Mountain this weekend for a mountain of fun!