Editor's Note: Kathleen Baglio Humphreys will write a weekly ski column for the New Hampshire Union Leader on Fridays. Her love of skiing and background in news and photography are a perfect combination. She learned to ski after college, and couldn't get enough of the snow. She met her husband, Ray, at Killington while on a ski trip. He's a ski coach, former instructor, ski patroller and ski racer. They have two children, RJ, 15, and Ashley Rose, 13, who are ski racers for the Franconia Ski Club at Cannon Mountain. The family lives in Lyndeborough.
THE REBIRTH of a mountain happened on Dec. 20, 2003, as Crotched Mountain Ski & Ride Area in Bennington was scratched off the Lost Ski Areas of New England list to try to make a comeback as a ski resort. It was a long journey, with many ups and downs, plus a few acquisitions of sister mountains along the way, but owners Peak Resorts have made this small New Hampshire mountain a big success.
Crotched Mountain and Onset went bankrupt in 1989 after the crash of the real estate market. For 13 seasons, trees and shrubs grew over the unused trails, so you may imagine all the work to be done — from new lifts, to a large modern lodge and a $9 million investment in state-of-the-art snowmaking and grooming equipment.
On opening day, heavy equipment was still doing work at the base of the mountain as the first skiers and snowboarders put the bar down on the Summit Chairlift for a ride to the top of the 1,000-vertical-foot mountain. The side of the mountain that was reopened was the former Onset foot mountain. The side of the mountain that was reopened was the former Onset side, while the former while the former Crotched Mountain side in Francestown remains unused to this day.
In 2003, adult season passes were only $189.
A few clubs were organized, but the beauty of skiing at Crotched Mountain in the early years was there were never any lift lines, so it felt like a private mountain. And the snow was absolutely incredible, natural or man-made. Crotched makes some of the best snow around which, in a lean snow year, can really boost its snow totals and make local skiers and riders very happy.
Luckily, the great snow and limited lift-lines are still attractions today.
The Rocket was installed last November and the detachable high-speed quad boasts a four-minute ride to the top to maximize the number of runs and limit the wait time at the bottom. Crotched Mountain is not afraid to turn on its state-of-the-art SMI fan snow guns, which can cover areas quickly with the beautiful white stuff, or open the entire mountain in only three days' time.
General Manager Pat Terry reflects on the success of the ski resort: "Why Crotched Mountain has been successful over the past 10 years, first and foremost, is our snowmaking system.
Snowmaking is the reason why a lot of ski resorts see their demise.
Our snowmaking is brand new and it's the most efficient snowmaking system in New England and has a lot of power for the amount of acres we have to cover, so that's a huge asset right off the bat.
Another big part of our success is the local value of outdoor recreation in southern New Hampshire. It's a testament to all the season pass holders.
Half the skier visits come from season pass holders and this mountain is an important asset to the community."
Being local and accessible makes Crotched Mountain a great place for school programs and seasonal programs, such as the junior race program or adult racing. Last season Crotched started new programs, including the recreational middle school race program, and this year will add a recreation freestyle program.
"We have all these type of programs and lessons available for people to utilize the mountain, which is great, but the bottom line is Crotched Mountain is a great family mountain. It's easy to find everyone you are skiing with and keep everyone together because people don't get lost here, while the mountain has great terrain, especially now with the new chairlift," added Terry.
You want night skiing? Extreme night skiing? You got it.
If you have ever felt like skiing or snowboarding until 3 a.m., Crotched Mountain offers exclusive Midnight Madness, which is skiing from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. on the weekends in January and February. It's a social skiing experience complete with a bonfire at the base of the mountain and a live band by the fireplace in the cozy lounge.
Until now, season pass holders still had to visit the ticket window to pull a lift pass each visit, but a special 10th anniversary treat is a direct-slope access pass for all season ticket holders.
Crotched Mountain was Peak Resorts' first New Hampshire purchase, but since then it has added Wildcat and Attitash to its family.
Those pass holders can come ski at Crotched now with their Attitash or Wildcat season pass. Crotched Mountain pass holders can upgrade to include access to Wildcat and Attitash.
Regular Crotched Mountain season pass holders can enjoy benefits of 50 percent off midweek passes, 35 percent on weekends or 10 percent on holidays at all Peak Resorts areas — Attitash, Wildcat and Mount Snow in Vermont.
After skiing or riding on the same equipment for 10 seasons, most people would think it's time to retire the old equipment; Crotched Mountain had that thought.
"One big thing we did for our anniversary season was to spend $200,000 on a whole new rental fleet from Head that includes skis, snowboards and boots," said Terry, also pointing out some of Crotched Mountain's exceptional parks.
Crotched Mountain will be open this weekend.
"Trails are to be determined right now. We have a lot of snow on the hill and the weather is looking great for snowmaking after this system goes through," said Terry.
In honor of its 10th anniversary season, Crotched Mountain will be offering web specials throughout the season. For more information, go to crotchedmountain.com or call 588-3668.
Email Kathleen Humphreys at email@example.com