Midweek Respite

Everyone needs a change of pace now and then. Just after we returned from NY, one of my daughters still wasn’t satisfied with her vacation. So we settled on a reasonable addendum to the trip: a bit of night skiing at the Blue Hills in Canton, MA.

The cost of downhill skiing is mostly out of reach for my family. Consider the math: at “reasonably priced” Cannon Mountain, we’d have to buy three $66 adult lift tickets and three $50 junior tickets, for a total of $348 before rentals ($40 each for the kids, for another $160) or gas or lunch. That’s $500 a day,  more than many families pay per day for a Disney pilgrimmage. It’s important to me that my kids know how to ski and enjoy it, but they also have to realize we have a house to heat and music lessons to pay for, too.

A few years ago when the kids qualified for children’s lift tickets, I took them three or four times a year. We had fun visiting Sunapee, Cannon, and Loon, expanding their skills and jockeying for seats on the three-hour drives. Later, we joined the Mass. Ski and Snowboard Club, which ferries teens from suburban Boston towns to ski areas several times a month in winter. That was fun, but it wasn’t like riding together in our van (with a thermos of hot chocolate and Dunkin Donut stops whenever mom could be persuaded), and it added some complications upon arrival (mom helping dozens of other kids negotiate the rental lines, etc). That didn’t last long. The last time we skied together, at Sunday River in Maine last year, it was thanks to passes provided by my former employer who must have taken pity on me because she knew I was going to be laid off two months later!

With a multitude of “big mountain” NH and Western Mass. ski areas within driving distance, we overlooked the Blue Hills. It’s about 30 minutes from our house and offers night skiing. The icing on the cake was this: a perk of my in-the-clutch part-time job with Eastern Mountain Sports is free lift tickets at Blue Hills. So I grabbed my old 160 Rossignols out of the garage and, hoping I wouldn’t leave rusty streaks in the snow, we took off.

There were no lines at 7pm, not for rentals (for my daughter), for lift tickets, nor for the double chair lift. Despite the meager 300-foot drop, the conditions were impressive. After all, this was school vacation week, the place had been open for 12 hours already that day, and yet there was still a thick carpet of powdery granules on the surface.

There were a total of three trails for us to ski. A fourth included a snowboard “terrain park” (more like parkette), so we stayed away. The first trail, which paralleled the chairlift, was wide and open with a bulge in the middle but otherwise little to distinguish it. The center trail, the Chute, labeled with a black diamond, was moderately challenging — a blue slope anywhere else — with two tight turns on it. The last was a fun ride that included a choice of endings — a favorite for any writer!

For two hours, we raced from the top to the bottom in five-minute intervals. There was just a handful of teen snowboarders on the slopes, and stars above us. A glittering Boston skyline could be seen in the distance. It was great.

So, for $50 (her rentals and lift ticket), we got the adrenaline flowing, filled our lungs with fresh air, and reconsidered the tiny Blue Hills.

And we started conspiring ways to save enough for a real, big mountain ski day before the end of winter.

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