Whenever I’m within site of Mount Washington in winter, it seems the wind blows hard and temperature drops. That’s OK, I don’t mind it.
Last weekend was no exception. It was brisk: near zero each morning, with winds steady in the 20s and gusting to 40 out of the north, windchill values around 25 below. Perfect weather for skiing Black Mountain (800-475-4669) in Jackson, N.H., one of my favorite hills in all of New England. You see, Black faces south, so it gets full sun on cold winter days, and it’s sheltered from the north and northwest winds that usually bring in that cold air.
Actually, I’d have skied Black even if it had been warm and calm. They were celebrating their 75th birthday. It’s not often that you get to party with a ski hill that’s been in continuous operation that long . . . Besides great skiing on uncrowded slopes all day long (this despite a warm storm that had dumped two inches of rain on the slopes just four days before!), they had a wonderful Big-Band Birthday Bash with food and dancing on Saturday night. Can’t wait for their 80th!
Why do I like Black Mountain so much? Well, the first time I ever skied there, they had fresh powder that ranged from knee-to waist-deep and hardly another skier in sight to chop it up.
Then there are the many days when Black offers the sunshine and no wind. I also really enjoy the twisting, old-fashioned trails that were cut for skiers, not grooming machines. Yes, they have a couple of the obligatory open slopes, but the heart and soul of the area is the network of winding narrow trails that snake down the hill. On your first few runs at Black, you may be surprised at where you finally pop out of the woods—it’s sometimes not where you expected. Lots of resorts these days claim to have “old fashioned ski trails.” Black really does.
The other attraction at Black is the old, slow lifts, both the summit double and an triple chair. I can hear some of you groaning now, but old, slow, fixed-grip lifts definitely have their place in the world. At Black there are NEVER any crowds, so you don’t need all that lift capacity. We never waited for anyone all weekend. In fact, I can’t ever remember seeing a lift line at Black.
Old lifts don’t come with high price tags and Black’s ticket prices can reflect that. The most expensive ticket you can buy at Black for the 2009/10 season is $39. That’s for an adult on a weekend or holiday! The most expensive kid ticket is $25.
When Black says they are family oriented, they aren’t kidding–the whole area slopes to a single base lodge, so you don’t have to worry about the kids ending up three mountains away, And a family of four can ski all day at Black for $99 on their weekend/Holiday special package. On weekdays, it’s $79 for a family of four . . . You don’t find prices like that at any area with detachable lifts.
Then there’s the “Quality of Life” factor from their classic double and triple chairlifts. You actually have time to relax and talk on the way up—which means your legs are ready for a real pounding when you get to the top and head down. And the snow is almost always better—especially later in the day—at areas with slower lifts that don’t put as many bodies on the slopes to scrape off the snow. At Black, instead of grooming as soon as the lifts close so the snow can “set up” overnight and last a little longer under heavy traffic, they groom just before the lifts open so the groomed trails are soft and inviting. Makes a huge difference! Try it sometime. Black’s been turning lifts for 75 years! With their family-friendly, low-key attitude, my guess is that they are going to be around for 75 more. What are you waiting for?