IPOS: Black Mountain | Teton Gravity Research


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Fortunately, we weak-tempered West Coast skiers don’t have to suffer too long as the sun has finally reached the nearby ridge, bathing us in its glorious warmth. “Ski in the Sun” is a saying you’ll see and hear all over Black Mountain. The trails on the mountain are all south facing which means sunny days on this mountain are hard to beat, especially when it’s a cold northeast winter day. Based on the bluebird conditions we already have, we can say this afternoon will be a perfect spring day in New England.

Snowcats zigzag past us, finishing their morning work. Two soft and curious horses observe us with curiosity from their fenced yard near the lodge. During this time, the ski lifts and the ski patrollers are busy operating the ski lifts. Someone turns on the music, which sends some catchy rock music through the speakers installed at the base. Suddenly classic rock fills the core area and Aerosmith belts with passion “Walk This Way”. When I take a look at the parking lot, I see that the empty space is now filled with rows and rows of cars. Hordes of children sprint up the hill with awkwardly balanced skis in their arms ready to tip over as a Jenga tower tips over. They eagerly head to the ski lifts in hopes of scoring the first chair of the day. Aside from infrastructure upgrades over the years, it has been Black Mountain’s morning ritual since 1935, when the resort first opened.

What’s a New England ski area without a bright red chairlift? | Photo by Katie Lozancich.

Black Mountain’s story begins in 1934, when the Civilian Conservation Corps cut some of the mountain’s first ski trails. These first ski runs make it one of the oldest ski resorts in New Hampshire. With 84 years of operation to its credit, the resort is brimming with skiing history and industry firsts. It is home to proud firsts, such as the country’s first aerial cableway and one of New England’s first snowmaking systems. The best place to learn about all this history is the Lostbo Pub, which has all kinds of historical images on the walls. While a lot has changed since those old black and white photos were taken, one thing remains the same about Black Mountain: its commitment to families. The small station prides itself on its accessibility, evident today in its pricing structure. Kids five and under ski for free, making it an obvious choice for families looking to acclimatize to the slopes. And with over 140 acres, 5 ski lifts, and 45 trails, there’s plenty to keep little ones entertained all day long.

Back outside, we take our skis and head for the ski lifts. Black Mountain still has those iconic red two-seater chairs. They give off that warm New England charm and might even put you in touch with the love of your life. Every year, the resort hosts a speed dating event on its two-seaters, and while it’s not as convenient as Tinder, the stars can line up for you to find THE ONE. Apart from the first memorable dates, we cross the non-existent ski lift line and climb the mountain. The second we step off the Summit chair, we’re rewarded with stunning views of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeast and home or the best ski touring and mountaineering you can find in the east. of Mississippi. With Mount Washington looming right in its backyard, Black Mountain has embraced the industry’s biggest walk-skiing movement. Uphill travel is now allowed on its slopes, and its 1,100 feet of vertical drop make it an easy skin up and a great place to train for bigger goals nearby. Pre-covid, the resort even hosted tandem ski mountaineering races with the Ski the Whites team, which is a legendary local ski touring and splitboard shop. Today I spotted a handful of skiers coming up the resort slopes and given the good weather, it’s not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Upstream access is not only allowed, it is encouraged. | Photo by Katie Lozancich.

After enjoying the view, I meet a local chipper named Bentley who regularly skis Black Mountain. The six-year-old may not have his front teeth yet, but he has certainly understood his priorities in life: to go as fast as possible on two skis. On the ski down the mountain, he leads the charge, choosing to be in full tuck mode as much as possible. We roam the glades in pursuit of finding the perfect rollers to jump. As we ski, we pass hordes of other laughing kids. Some are with families, but the majority of children explore the mountain on their own at will. That’s the beauty of a small resort like this – you can let your kids roam free and know they’ll eventually return to base. Everything is heading to the same place, so it’s easy to follow toddlers. When I meet Bentley at the Summit Lift, he informs me that his skis were custom made by his father and proudly shows me the top sheets. Although they are not the only source of his speed, it is true that when you are good looking you feel good, so they have to help you. After a few more laps with Bentley, we go our separate ways. I have to put a few layers on the car as the temperature has changed drastically from freezing weather to perfect spring ski weather. On the way down I see that the parking lot has undergone a complete metamorphosis.

The skyline is dominated by New England’s highest peak: Mount Washington. | Photo by Katie Lozancich.

Garden chairs are spread out in front of the cars and in the snow. Families and guests wear Hawaiian shirts and t-shirts and eat lunch in coolers set up next to them. Packaged sandwiches are spread over camping tables with all kinds of snacks. It’s a scene that looks straight out of the beach, except everyone is wearing Gore Tex and ski boots. Parents lazily bask in the sun as their children return to the chairlift. You wouldn’t see this kind of setup at some of the bigger, more glitzy resorts. Instead, it would be rows of luxury condominiums, patios with heaters and servers buzzing with $ 15 cocktails, or upscale restaurants serving $ 50 entrees. Instead, it’s all about homemade PB&J and La Croix here, and Black Mountain is proud of that difference. This resort doesn’t aspire to have all those extra bells and whistles because it knows what makes it special: the people. These families, especially the children, are the lifeblood of this place, and that won’t change anytime soon.

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