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Downhill economy

How to go skiing in New England with no car and little money
By JASON O'BRYAN  |  November 18, 2008


Thrills, generally speaking, aren't cheap. Neither is speed . . . but for those of us fortunate enough to live in New England, skiing can be. We're talking about exhilaration, my friends, as very little compares to the frictionless bomb of a good run, racing the biting cold as you hurtle your way down a mountain. Once the exclusive province of Sherpas and the Swiss, skiing (and now snowboarding) has become affordable to even the most Ramen-fed of us. It can also be a seemingly bottomless money-pit that will take your shoes and the shirt you're wearing before spitting you back into your bitter, impoverished life. The difference? Planning.

Though most of this guide is dedicated to the spirit of rugged individualism, the best deals out there often involve going with a large organization. Many colleges in the area have ski clubs, and for non-students, organizations such as the Boston Ski and Sports Club (BSSC) or the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Boston Chapter organize trips.

For example, if you're looking to get out of the immediate area, BSSC offers weekend same-day or overnight trips for members and non-members alike to five of the eight biggest mountains in the New England — Jay Peak, Killington, Sugarbush, Sugarloaf, and Sunday River. For $78 ($73 for members), BSSC provides transportation to the mountain, lift tickets, discounted rentals and/or lessons, and optional activities . . . and considering that the lift tickets alone for any of these five giants cost between $65 (Jay Peak) and $82 (Killington), these organizations essentially offer free transportation, and are far and away the best deals around.

Day tripper
Even if you're intent on going it alone, skiing and snowboarding doesn't have to be a multi-day adventure. Contrary to what they'd have you think in Vermont, there are four places to go skiing within 50 miles of Boston, and 13 within 100 miles. Many of them additionally offer night skiing, which means it's completely feasible to get out of work or school, go ski for a few hours, and go home . . . which, in and of itself, is pretty cool. All prices listed are for adult tickets, and all distances are measured, in miles, from Fenway Park.

The Blue Hills Ski Area is by far the closest option for Boston skiers. It's only 13.9 miles away, and one of the three ski slopes reachable via commuter rail — a 25-minute ride on the Fairmount line to Readville, and cab the last two miles to the mountain. Lift tickets are as cheap as you'll find anywhere, $18 to $27 on weekdays and $24 to $36 on weekends and holidays. With rentals a modest $28, the whole experience is possible for under $65. The only issue is the size of the mountain. Though it's the tallest and biggest around short of Wachusett, the vertical drop is only 309 feet, less than half the height of the Prudential Center and less than one-sixth of the common-law definition of "mountain." So if you've ever looked up at the Prudential Tower, gleaming in the morning sun, and asked yourself, "I wonder what it's like to ski down 40 percent of that," go find out. Blue Hills also offers cheap season passes with outstanding deals for students. Best for scattered days or nights, to satisfy the fix.

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