For family skiing, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Although big ski resorts usually offer more off-the-slopes and après-ski activities, nothing beats the smaller more personal experience of a day’s skiing with kids on a small mountain in the company of local families. Another plus of smaller ski areas is the affordable lift tickets, usually far less than those at bigger, glitzier resorts. Here are some of the Northeast’s favorite mountains that locals like to keep secret.
This short hill has a lot to offer, with good terrain, plenty of snow-making and superb grooming. Nashoba Valley is also so close to Boston you can see the top of the skyline from the summit on a clear day. The terrain park challenges boarders with some exciting features, and there’s a huge 18-lane tubing park. It’s an especially good place for beginners, with an excellent learning program and Playground Park, where younger kids and novices have a place of their own. Nashoba extends the day with skiing well into the night, remaining open under effective lighting until 10 p.m. daily.
Well-groomed trails, good snow-making, an inviting lodge and affordable lift tickets make Pats Peak a favorite. A new triple chairlift this season doubles the capacity to the summit, also accessing the Cascade Basin Expansion, an area on the back of the main mountain opened four years ago. There’s a terrain park, tubing, night skiing, snow biking and some of the best chili served at any base lodge in New England.
When the larger ski resorts all around it struggle to keep good conditions through winter warm spells, King Pine is likely to have great skiing, thanks to the combination of snowmaking, grooming and location.
With only a 500-foot vertical, runs are short, but each one weaves through pine woods and over a surprising variety of terrain (including the second-steepest trail in the state). Lines are short or non-existent, and it has the kind of laidback friendly atmosphere where people stop to help kids up from a fall and stand aside so families can ride together on the lifts.
Although it’s a sizable mountain with 71 trails on 300 skiable acres, its self-contained Alpine village style and friendly attitudes give Bolton Valley the relaxed atmosphere of a smaller ski area. That feeling is enhanced by its world-apart setting, deep in a valley amid more than 5,000 acres of undeveloped forest. Trails are evenly divided between beginner, intermediate and expert, and there are three terrain parks. Using wind power as an energy source, Bolton is known for its award-winning environmental initiatives.
While experienced skiers head to Magic Mountain for the powder and super-challenging steeps, there are plenty of trails for all skill levels, as well as a tubing hill. Families with a mix of beginners and experts will love this mountain, as its varied terrain gives everyone plenty of snow. Look here for some of the most challenging tree skiing in the East, and for an excellent beginners program, with small group lessons and dedicated instructors. If your kids ski with Magic Mountain stickers on their helmets, they’ll get admiring looks from skiers all over New England, who know it as a real skiers’ mountain.