Slopeside with James Patrick: Seniors rule the hills at NH ski areas during the week
DANBURY -- The skier in the red jacket at the bottom of Ragged Mountain didn't have any time for dilly-dallying Tuesday. Paul Raymond hopped right on the Six Pack chairlift, which zoomed him to the top of the mountain.
Raymond adjusted his gloves at the summit, then worked his way down the run. His turns were a little loopy and he didn't bend his knees much, but he skied for about five minutes before stopping for a break near the bottom.
Give the guy a break. At nearly 80 years old, the only giveaway to Raymond's age was the rear-entry Nordica boots that date back to at least the 1980s.
"If I took 'em off you'd see the heels are all epoxy because the boots are broken," Raymond said.
New Hampshire's ski areas cater to all demographics. Kids crowd the slopes when school lets out and families take over on the weekends. The middle of the week is for retirees.
Jack and Marcia Williams were already packing up to leave Ragged Mountain just after 11 a.m. Tuesday. They live 10 minutes away, are semi-retired, and ski four or five times a week. During the winter, hanging out at the ski hill is simply a way of life.
"The white hairs all kinda gang up on the mountain at 9 or 9:30 in the morning," Jack Williams said.
Who else is going to ski at 9:30 a.m. on a Tuesday?
Fortunately, ski resorts cut seniors a break. All ski areas offer modest price cuts for the 65-plus crowd; Cannon Mountain's senior pass is about 40 percent cheaper than its adult season pass.
But it's when you turn 80 years old that the real deals kick in. Loon Mountain offers a super senior pass for those 80 and up at $30. Gunstock offers a $10 season pass for those 70 and up who live in Belknap County; it's $25 for those 80 and up with no residency requirement.
Ragged charges $20 for a season pass for those in their 80s and beyond.
While he was taking his breather, Raymond smiled when he was asked about how much he paid for his lift ticket. He turns 80 in three weeks, which means, technically, his ticket should cost $37.
"The ticket lady told me, 'Well, you've made it this far, so we'll give you a deal,' " Raymond said. His one-day lift ticket price: $5.
To be sure, these seniors would be skiing even if they weren't getting a bargain. Joe Doran is a 63-year-old semi-retired school teacher who lives in Enfield. He works at the Dartmouth Skiway where he teaches kids how to ski.
At Ragged Mountain on Tuesday, Doran was working his way through the soft snow on the side of a groomed run. He skis every day.
"I can't imagine what it would be like not to ski," Doran said.
As he stood talking in the middle of the run under the chairlift, a friend went by and yelled out to him. A few minutes later, a kid threw a snowball at Doran from the chairs. He taught lessons at Ragged in the 1990s and still knows people. He's been on skis for 60 years.
"Even if I get to the point where they say I have to stop teaching, I'd still be out skiing," Doran said. "It's just like walking to me."
With $20 season passes, it's almost as cheap as walking, too.
James Patrick's Slopeside column appears each Friday during the ski season. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.