Though we’d never met, Bebe Wood greeted me as she does every guest at Ragged Mountain Resort — as if I were a very dear and long-lost friend. This 91-year-old, white-haired dynamo hung up the skis about five years ago, but she can’t stay away from skiing, a sport that has provided her with a lifetime of fun, memories and friends. It’s a sport she feels everyone in New Hampshire should learn.
So it’s fitting that when Ragged unveiled a new learn-to-ski program last winter, they named it the Bebe Wood Free Learn to Ski and Ride Program.
“Bebe is the heartbeat of this place. She is the spirit of Ragged,” said the area’s marketing manager, Ben Hall. “The program embodies her spirit and her true desire to introduce this sport to as many people as she can.”
The Bebe Wood program includes three free group lessons, each lasting two hours and leading first-time skiers and snowboarders aged 7 and up through a learning progression that begins with the basics of getting into boots and sliding on the flats and ends, ideally, with students able to confidently ski beginner trails and beyond. Rentals are included, as is a beginner area lift ticket.
The kicker is that graduates of the program — those who complete three lessons — may purchase a season pass for the remainder of the season for only $69, less than a day ticket at most ski areas. They’re also invited to purchase discounted equipment, take additional one-hour lessons at a $29 rate, and purchase a “sophomore year” pass for $199.
“I came here with the attitude that everyone in New Hampshire should know how to ski,” said Wood, who began instructing at Ragged around 1965 and continued teaching for four decades. “And I still feel that. I’m pleased that we can encourage people to ski and to keep skiing. It’s just pure joy.”
In its inaugural year, the Bebe Wood program provided more than 2,200 individual lessons and had some 550 graduates. The hope is that these skiers and snowboarders not only develop a love of sliding around on snow and the skill to do so, but an affinity for Ragged.
“We hope they choose to come back here year after year to ski or ride at the mountain that introduced them to the sport,” said Hall.
That seems to be the case for Rick Lee, last winter’s first snowboarding graduate of the Bebe Wood program. After completing his three free lessons, Lee purchased the discounted season pass and spent four to five days a week at Ragged, heading to the mountain after work and on days off. Recently retired, Lee is now considering becoming an instructor so he can keep spreading the snowboarding love.
“I did it, I loved it, I couldn’t get enough of it,” said Lee, who added that taking the expense side of learning to snowboard out of the equation was a huge factor to him getting out there the first time.
“The instructor I had was just amazing,” he said. “I’d love to be able to give back a little bit and work with some of the kids up there. It’s so exciting to watch somebody learn something. It’s just so fun when you’re gliding down the mountain. It’s freedom.”
Bebe Wood found that freedom as a kid, learning to ski with her siblings. As a 20-something, she headed west to Sun Valley, Idaho, where she was one of the skiers highlighted in a 1950 LIFE magazine photo spread on “ski bums” at the resort. As the mother of four, grandmother of 10, and great-grandmother to two, Wood considers skiing a family sport. While she no longer skis, she’s happy to remain an integral part of helping others learn the sport.
“I’m thrilled that I had a chance to ski so long, to meet so many people. I still know about skiing, and I’m there to help people,” she said. “If I had my life to live over, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Many ski areas, both alpine and cross-country, offer learn-to-ski deals throughout the month. Visit www.skinh.com for more information. To learn more about the Bebe Wood program or sign up for a lesson, visit www.raggedmountainresort.com.
Winter Notes is published on Fridays during ski season. Contact Meghan McCarthy McPhaul at email@example.com.