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The 1975-76 ski season in New England has gotten off to a very slow start; record high temperatures during the month of November meant only a few areas in Northern Vermont could make enough snow to provide decent cover and very little natural snow has fallen thus far. Every year since the record breaking 1968-69 winter, people have come forth with prediction that the upcoming winter, would bring heavy snowfall back to New England. It hasn't happened yet, and if the early trend continues, it won't happen this season.
Nevertheless, skiing in New England is as varied, challenging and rewarding, in its own way of course, as skiing almost anywhere in the world. There are almost 100 major ski areas in New England, the closest being Blue Hills in Canton. For thoselooking for full-day, weekend or vacation trips, here's a list of 15 varied ski areas, each with something special to offer a specific taste in skiing.
KILLINGTON: Always the first to open and the last to close in New England. Probably the safest bet for good skiing, at least until the first big, region-wide snowstorm hits or after the baseball season opens. Killington has something to offer everyone, and a lot of it. However, it gets crowded on weekends and good snow gets pretty chewed up by zillions of skiers. Still, when in doubt about snow cover and conditions in New England, Killington is probably the best place to go. 150 miles from Boston.
MAD RIVER GLEN: Absolutely one of the best "little big" ski areas anywhere. It doesn't have a great uphill capacity (3 double chairs and a single chair) but it has some of the best trails in New England. This is more an experts mountain than many, and not nearly as fashionable as nearby Glen Ellen or Sugarbush, but alas, nothing can compare to Mad River's Glades with fresh, knee-deep powder. 194 miles from Boston.
STOWE: A tremendous mountain for everyone; but that's its biggest problem; everyone goes there. Best to ski Stowe in the middle of the week and leave the hour-long liftlines to the weekenders. 216 miles from Boston.
SMUGGLER'S NOTCH: A smaller, next-door neighbor to Stowe, but a lot like Mad River in that it has a lot to offer despite its size. Some die-hards rate Smuggler's among the best in the East. 240 miles from Boston.
JAY PEAK: Only 15 miles south of the Canadian border, so it takes over five hours to get there. Consequently, Jay rarely gets over-crowded, and can provide some really excellent skiing. It is one of the coldest ski areas around and gets windy often, so it's a good idea to check it out carefully before setting out. 270 miles from Boston.
MT. SNOW: The closest of the really big ski areas. In fact, Snow has more miles (71) of trails than any other mountain in New England. Although it is pretty far south, Snow can be one of the best. It gets crowded on weekends and is a haven for jet-setters, but on weekdays in mid-winter you may do okay. The back slope has some very good expert slopes and the whole front face of the mountain is a intermediate's dream. Outdoor, steam-heated pool is an extra, added attraction. 127 miles from Boston.
STRATTON: More family oriented than Mt. Snow, but still an area for beautiful people. In addition, it's got some pretty good trails for all skiers.
WILDCAT: One of those hot-then-cold areas. When the conditions are right, it's great, but, like many areas in New Hampshire, it tends to harden-or ice-up quickly. Although it gets very cold and windy (right in the shadow of Mt. Washington) the gondola to the top protects skiers. During mid-week Wildcat has some great deals that should not be passed up. For instance, "Two-for Day" (Wednesdays) gives you two tickets for the price of one; and the "Wildcat Escape" plan gives you two-days skiing (Mon./Tues. or Thurs./Fri.) and a night's lodging for $16. 150 miles from Boston,.
CANNON MT.: An under-rated, under-used mountain, but don't tell anybody. Cannon is tolerable on weekends and completely empty on weekdays. The snow cover on top tends to ice up or blow away (since the mountain is almost above the timber-line and only scrub pine trees offer protection), but when it's open, an aerial tramway and two T-bars serve it. Cannon has a great front face for mogul skiers and racers and it's served by its own little chairlift that rarely has a line. In addition, it has nice beginner's slopes. Student tickets are half-price on weekdays (with I.D.). 147 miles from Boston.
LOON MT.: A nice family area, with a variety of skiing. Although Loon is known primarily as an intermediate area, it has a few challenging trails. In short, Loon is a great mountain for the easy-going recreational skier. The four-man gondola also makes it easy to ski with friends. It offers a weekday discount or students with I.D. 132 miles from Boston.
WATERVILLE VALLEY: One of the most over-rated ski areas in the East. While it may be a dreamland for the executive from Marblehead who owns one of the condominiums for weekend use, the only reason to go to Waterville Valley is to see a World Cup race or a hot-dogging championship. Then you'll get to see what people with a lot of money for development can do to a once-beautiful and isolated valley in the White Mountains. 130 miles from Boston.
MT. SUNAPEE: A nice short day trip, but nonetheless a decent mountain. Sunapee has five chairlifts and a variety of slopes. It gets crowded on weekends. 100 miles from Boston.
RAGGED MT.: A neat little area tucked in Southern New Hampshire. Even though it has only one chairlift, it rarely gets crowded, so it might just be the best place to try on Washington's Birthday.
SUGARLOAF: Sugarloaf is sort of a sleeping giant; it has the potential to be one-hell of a mountain. With a good hefty snowfall one of these winters, skiers are going to see (or hear) why. Sugarloaf has the only open snowfields in the east (aside from Tuckerman's Ravine). The trouble in recent years is that they've rarely been open. Also, Sugarloaf, in a decent winter, has been known to stay open long into May for spring skiers. Even if the snowfields aren't open. Sugarloaf is one of the best in the East and is worth the trip. They say that New Years eve is always quite a bash up there, even though it is pretty isolated. 233 miles from Boston.
SUNDAY RIVER: Sunday River is another unsung mountain that is at least worth trying. It claims to have a vertical drop of 1500 ft. (under the 2000 ft. plus of the giants, but larger than most in the East) and gets a lot of snow because of its proximity to the Mt. Washington Valley. For Harvard students, there is one more attractive feature: If you're wondering what to do with the extra week of vacation in January (5-11), it just happens to be half-price week for anyone sporting Massachusetts I.D.
If you're looking to buy ski equipment as a holiday gift for someone, you're best bet is to try the Ski Market on Commonwealth Ave. Right now, Ski Market is ofering several ski-boot-binding-pole packages starting at $109. The savings on these packages range up to $150 and the equipment is name-brand. These packages are particularly good buys for the intermediate skier looking to step up from cheap or rental equipment. Ski Market also has some of the best bargains around on skis, boots and clothing.
As for the best equipment to buy, here are a few suggestions on skis. Good skis abound these days, including those made by k-2, Rossignol, Hexcel, Head, Dynastar, and Kneissel. Of this lot, it's difficult to say which are the best, since each ski manufacturer makes a number of different lines. It may be that you'll do best by shopping the sales and taking the best buy. Nevertheless, all other things being equal, I'd have to say that K-2 skis are probably the best all-around skis available. Unlike some of the others, K-2 has maintained a high reputation for quality over a number of years; they have yet to put out a ski that is prone to breakage or just not up to snuff. In addition, K-2's new lines, the 233, 244 and 255, (in shorts or conventional lengths) stand out as all-round skis in an extremely flooded market. And anyway, if you care about such things, the K-2 is a subsidiary of Cummins Engine Co., by far the most progressively managed major corporation in the country in terms of social responsibility
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