Like many New Englanders of a certain age, I grew up skiing the mountains of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, until Jake Burton ushered in a new era of winter-sports fun. Already deeply entrenched in the skateboarding lifestyle, I readily hung up my skis for a snowboard, only to learn that this newfangled contraption wasn't welcome at some of the ski resorts I knew so well. Banned from the places that saw snowboarders as a reckless and rowdy bunch — and the sport as a passing trend — my friends and I struck out for the local mountains that would have us. Thankfully, those days are ancient history, and now a mountain without a halfpipe and an assortment of rails is as rare as an asymmetrical snowboard or a pair of non-parabolic skis. Whether you're just starting out and seeking the safety of a bunny slope or an expert looking for that next adrenaline rush, New England offers something for everyone. Enjoy this guide to some of the best riding the region has to offer.
WHERE TO GO SNOWBOARDING/DOWNHILL SKIING
BLUE HILLS SKI AREA The closest thing to having a winter wonderland in your own backyard, the William F. Rogers Ski Slopes on Great Blue Hill are a city slicker's best friend. If Mother Nature's lagging, 90 percent of the 60 acres of terrain are covered by man-made snow, and more than half of the 12 trails are lit for night riding. There are separate areas for beginners, mid-tier skiers/boarders, and parks and pipes riders, as well as private and group lessons — everything you need to change your outlook on winter!
Canton, MA | ski-bluehills.com | 781.828.5070
NASHOBA VALLEY Nashoba Valley claims 17 trails (the number used to be higher), even though anyone standing and looking at the 240-foot hillside — roughly one-third the height of the Prudential Tower — would have trouble figuring out where some of them end and others begin. Still, it's a learner's paradise, with clearly demarcated areas for each skill level, serviced by their own lifts. That, the location, private and group lessons, and half-day as well as nighttime tickets make this one of the most convenient places around to learn how to ski or ride.
Westford, MA | skinashoba.com | 978.692.3033
WACHUSETT MOUNTAIN As a kid, my after-school ski program brought us to Wachusett Mountain once a week for night skiing winter after winter. It's a decent place for beginners and intermediate skiers/riders alike. Granted, it also has a few black-diamond trails and a vertical of 1000 feet, but truth be told, its proximity is its greatest asset. Which is precisely why my friends and I would leave the house at 5:30 am on Saturdays to get to New Hampshire's White Mountains in time for first runs.
Princeton, MA | wachusett.com | 978.464.2300
BRETTON WOODS MOUNTAIN RESORT The Granite State's largest ski area, Bretton Woods features four terrain parks and 101 trails on 434 acres, including intermittent tree runs and the Rosebrook Canyon Glades, a large free-riding area with patches of heavier maintenance than might typically be expected of "backcountry" terrain, although it still provides plenty of opportunities to sit in the back seat as you plow through the powder. Snowmaking covers 92 percent of the mountain, so you can ride morning, noon, and night whether Old Man Winter is doing his job or not.
Bretton Woods, NH | brettonwoods.com | 800.314.1752