Mountain Skiing

  • Visit North Central
  • Posted on May 9, 2015

Close to Home

You take it all in. There is a 38,000-square-foot lodge that features a cafeteria, a restaurant and a retail shop. You have a room booked up the road at the Inn, but you notice a whole lot of space for the day-tripper, along with a huge rental shop.

Two distinct learning areas stand out as well: one to the right for the first-timer, away from the traffic, and one to the left for those making the transition.

And, of course, there’s the skiing and the snowboarding.

The point Ralph Crowley was trying to make when applying for an operating lease from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts back in 1969 was that a gem could be found with just 1,000 feet of vertical and without driving back and forth to northern New England.

The point turned out to be an exclamation — the punctuation on how a local hill can evolve without losing its cozy feel. Wachusett is the Algonquin Indian word for “The Great Hill,” and that describes the entire Wachusett experience.

So what makes the place so great on the snow? Those who know Wachusett love to point out that it skis and rides much bigger than its 1,000 vertical feet.

“The vertical of the trails may be 1,000 feet but the elevation is 2,006. All of the main chair lifts are state-of-the-art, high speed quads,” said Wachusett Senior Vice President Bruce McDonald. “You can see five New England states from the summit. It’s a mountain and it feels like it.”

The state-of-the-art lift system also offers a big-time resort feel.

Ten Before Ten
Longtime Marketing Director Tom Meyers says, “The lift system allows you to get a lot of vertical during the day so you can easily make up in number of runs what we might lack in number of vertical.”

The unwritten rule with Wachusett regulars is “10 before 10,” and that many runs that early is certainly possible.

With that in mind, stand on the patio area and just look at the lifts. Two things stand out: there are three high-speed quads, and they all have a purpose.

To the left is The Minuteman, which gives the beginners graduating their way up the hill the quick ride they deserve, but also easy loading and a soft landing at the top.

The Polar Express, named for the Crowleys’ beverage company, runs up the gut and is the key to keeping the advanced skiers and snowboarding cruisers happy. It opens up the steeps, the blues that, when open with a lot of snow, brings Wachusett to another level in its class.

To the right is the Monadnock Express Quad. It gives the intermediates not only a quick ride up, but a big-time feel on their way to the gentler terrain from the secondary summit.
Family member Jeff Crowley points out that “lots of lifts up north” are about the same length. “That’s why we have a big mountain feel,” he says.

The Trails
Greens like Sundowner, Easy Rider and Indian Summer are like a country club for those working on their turns, those taking the next-step lessons and families. Blues like Ralph’s Run and Look Mom are more of the same for the next level too. Connifer Connection and the Lower 10th Mountain offer solid cruising.

The popular Upper 10th Mountain and Smith Walton let folks get the black diamond fixes in.

McDonald has a favorite routine: warm up on the Monadnock quad, then, take in the view of New Hampshire, then hit Challenger off the Minuteman quad and crank some “full-on G-S turns edge-to-edge.”

Try Salamander Cutoff and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Nothing scientific here; it’s just a fun route to take down.

During time when there is really good snow – like last March – take the Polar Express Up. Take a left off the lift and keep going. Take Roper’s Road. Get back on the lift and do it again, only take Balance Rock this time. It’s old growth forest in there and respecting the signs is a must. But it’s a playground that renders a “New England feel,” Meyers said. Once in there and you’ll understand.

“The Balance Rock trail is special,” Crowley said. “It was cut back in the 30s and has lots of twists and turns. It’s especially fun if you do all four sections in a row.”

Take a Cider Stop
And tucked about a third of the way up the hill, is the Bullock Lodge. It’s the snow sports industry’s equivalent of the drive-through window. Just get a cider doughnut and say no more.

It’s a spot, McDonald says, where you can smell the wood burning stoves,doughnuts and hot cider, where the only way out is still down the mountain…”