The Ski Train

  • Visit North Central

All Aboard! Next stop: ski country.

From Monday through Friday, trains operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority — the MBTA—carry commuters eastward from North Central Massachusetts to Boston-area jobs. But on weekends, commuters swap their briefcases for ski gear and ride the rails westward for some fun and relaxation.

The Ski Train, which runs from the end of November through the end of March, includes a designated ski car that allows for easy storage of ski or snowboard equipment. The destination: Wachusett Mountain Ski Area in Princeton.

“In this day of high gasoline prices, the ski train provides our Boston-area customers with an incredible option for public transportation to the mountain,” said David Crowley, Wachusett’s general manager. “And the addition of a night train will be especially attractive to all the college students in the Boston area.”

The ski train runs from Boston’s North Station to Fitchburg. Wachusett Mountain Ski Area provides free transportation from the Fitchburg train station to the mountain lodge.
The ski train is just another feature that makes skiing so accessible to central New England residents.

Wachusett is within an hour’s drive from a population base of more than seven million people. “You don’t have to go away for a week, fly on a plane or even drive very far to feel like you’re on vacation,” added Crowley. “And best of all, with current gas prices, we’re just a couple of gallons of gas away, not a couple of tanks.”

Readers of Ski Magazine, incidentally, have regularly ranked Wachusett among the top ski areas in the Eastern United States in categories like access; on-mountain food; grooming; customer service and more, placing it well ahead of many larger competitors in northern New England.

What does Wachusett Mountain offer? Start with a 2,006 foot summit elevation and 1,000 foot vertical drop. There are 22 trails on 110 skiable acres; of those, 30 percent are novice trails, 40 percent intermediate, and 30 percent advanced.

The ski area has eight lifts with an uphill capacity of more than 9,200 skiers per hour, including two high-speed quad chair lifts — the only two in Massachusetts. To keep the mountain ready for visitors, Wachusett’s snow-making has 100 percent coverage, and a fleet of five snow-grooming vehicles manicure the trails twice a day.

Skiing at Wachusett has been a part of life here in Johnny Appleseed Country since the first trails were cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s. And last year, another product of the CCC — the original base lodge — took on a new life.

After a 50-year hiatus, the Bullock Lodge re-opened near the end of the last ski season, and will be in full swing this year. The Bullock Lodge Cider House is being operated by The Red Apple Farm of Phillipston. Located on the lower mountain between Salamander Cutoff and Lower 10th Mountain trails, it provides guests with a new alternative to take breaks from their time on the mountain.

Accessible only from the ski trails, the rejuvenated cider house serves hot and cold apple cider, hot cider donuts — made right there at the lodge — and an assortment of specialty items. Al Rose of Red Apple Farm says the Cider House will be open from 8 am to 10 pm daily.

Many features of the lodge are original, dating back to the 1930s, giving it a real New England character. Photos on the walls depicting the lodge’s history add to the interest.

Looking for a special treat? As winter nears its end, New Englanders herald the beginning of maple sugar season — a season the Cider House will celebrate with dishes of vanilla ice cream topped with local maple syrup.

Shake off the commuter blues. Head to the slopes and enjoy a great blend of history and 21st-century skiing!