Video: The Chairlift

Everyone’s favorite commute.


10 Reasons To Finally Give Backcountry Skiing A Try

Don’t get us wrong: Ski resorts are great. But if you’ve ever been stuck behind dozens of people in a lift line, not so patiently waiting for your turn to get back on the slopes, thinking the “good” snow is being scraped away by everyone in line before you, you wouldn’t be alone. For me, making the jump into the backcountry was a product of being tired waiting in line, but the benefits go well beyond that. Not only can you skip the lines and ticket windows, but you’ll get a full workout in, and have lots more flexibility with time and your ski schedule. So why should you consider skiing uphill?

Credit: Luke Looman

1. It’s great exercise.

The biggest thing to like about uphill travel—whether you’re deep in the backcountry or just doing an uphill lap at the resort—is the amazing exercise it provides. When I’m on a steep pitch, almost to the end of my ascent, the burning in my lungs and legs and the exhaustion of the climb feels great. While this may prevent some from trying skinning, my fellow exercise junkies out there know that the sweat makes the experience even better because you’ve earned each of those turns.

2. You have more time flexibility.

For me, this seems more important than for most other skiers. I work rotating shifts so my schedule fluctuates, and my busy schedule usually doesn’t allow me to take a ski day. But since I don’t need to rely on a chairlift, I get turns in anytime, day or night. Just last week I did an uphill lap at my local ski area at midnight simply because that was the most convenient time for me. If you’re going to be uphilling at a resort, before heading out, always get familiar with the policies of your particular ski area and the hours they allow uphilling. They typically go well beyond the mountain’s life hours, but it’s worth knowing if there is a cutoff.

Credit: Luke Looman

3. Find more location variety.

Another big selling point for skinning is that all you need is a mountain and snow. Once you get better, you can explore different routes, and begin to challenge yourself with tougher terrain. Backcountry skiing has not confined me to one route like riding a chair lifts. And now, it’s exciting when I get to the top of a new ski line. I see a different view almost every time I go out, even if that view may not be as picturesque as the resorts, the feeling of exploration is unmatched by any chair lift rides.

4. Ride more terrain.

Resorts usually cater to families and tourists, and I have noticed their terrain options are limiting compared to backcountry skiing. There are only so many times I can ski yet another wide-open groomer before I crave some fun glades with their hidden, unexpected obstacles. In the backcountry, you’ll stumble on lines you never knew existed. The trees may tighten up, you might stumble upon an open field, or you may be headed straight towards a cliff (be careful!). Those surprises have proved rewarding to me when I find an exciting stretch of woods that let me find a good flow but also challenges my skill level.

Credit: Luke Looman

5. Ski through sunrises and sunsets.

Everyone loves a good sunrise or sunset, but if you’re confined to resort skiing, you rarely get the opportunity to ski during these picturesque moments. Skinning allows you to combine your favorite outdoor sport with a daily dose of natural beauty. Since uphill skiing is more arduous and takes a longer time, I end up stopping and enjoying the view more than I would have otherwise. The sunrise or sunset gives me an excuse to stop at the top and relish in the fact that I worked hard to get up there, while taking in a gorgeous view.

6. Make it as competitive or uncompetitive as you want.

If you’re competitive like me, knowing how quickly you can skin the local uphill route can increase bragging rights to your buddies. When someone tells me they made it up a mountain in a certain amount of time, it isn’t long before I’m getting packed up to try to beat that time. There is something special about being competitive in a difficult sport that makes it more rewarding.

Credit: Luke Looman

7. Combine camping with skiing.

For any crazies out there that enjoy winter camping, finding a good backcountry zone that allows camping can provide an entire weekend of exploring. If you are willing to skin in the night before, you can gain access to almost any terrain on the East Coast (that’s avalanche safe), and you are likely putting yourself in an incredible spot to start your day the next morning.

8. It’s cheaper!

While a touring-specific ski setup can come with some initial cost, thanks to the rising costs of ticket prices, you can actually save money in the long run in the backcountry. And especially considering how many years you’ll get out of that new gear, it’s well worth it.

Credit: Luke Looman

9. Find better—and deeper—snow.

I’ll admit, I am a bit of a snow snob. Fake snow just isn’t the same as natural, and any other snow snob will agree with that. When you catch a powder day at the resort, it may not last long before it turns into bump city. However, the backcountry may remain undisturbed all winter long. You just need to know where to find the goods.

10. The “Cool Factor.”

When you do the research, spend time looking at maps, talking to locals about the good stashes, it makes the ski experience so much better. Standing at the top of a remote mountain thinking “I bet not many people have skied this before, if ever” is something I think every skier should experience.


Opinion: How to Handle the Flood of New Backcountry Users

It should come as no surprise that there are more people than ever who are exploring the outdoors and recreating in new places. It has been the work of outdoor companies, guiding outfits, educational programs, and town recreation departments (just to name a few players) to get people outside for decades. The result? More and more people have been encouraged to “escape to the wilderness” and pursue a healthier lifestyle among the trees and mountains. But the fact that this romantic and well-intentioned message has truly taken hold of us inevitably means it’s taken hold of others and we’re all escaping to the same getaways. 

Social media, the Covid-19 pandemic, and unprecedented access to recreational spaces have all converged to push more people outdoors. By now we’ve all noticed how parking lots are full, there are lines for popular climbs, and it might feel harder to be alone outdoors. Not to mention the risk to our “secret spots.” So, what should we do?

But the fact that this romantic and well-intentioned message has truly taken hold of us inevitably means it’s taken hold of others and we’re all escaping to the same getaways. 

Let’s start by talking about what we shouldn’t do. Outdoor activities, especially adventure sports, have a long history and pervasive reputation of elitism, gatekeeping, and hiding a disdain for competition of space behind an open-armed welcome message. Outdoor athletes and recreationists are not bad people, but they understand a notion that was aptly put by rock climbing pioneer Royal Robbins decades ago, “a simple equation exists between freedom and numbers: the more people the less freedom.” 

Isn’t that a big reason why we like going out into the wilder places? I can get a lot more skiing in if I go to a resort, or a lot of climbing in at a gym, so why make the effort to hike for hours for a couple ski runs? Or a few pitches of climbing? There’s a lot to unpack there, but it’s a question to keep in mind as we think about how we might treat the new wave of outdoor users, and the changing landscape of the places we’re used to having to ourselves. 

Let’s all remember when we were first starting out. We were all newbies at one point or another, and everyone needs experience to learn. How do you gain experience? Get out and make mistakes, figure it out, and get some mileage in, maybe with a mentor or a group of peers. With more beginners venturing out of their comfort zones and into the woods than ever, there is no reason for us to make their journey harder by being judgmental, alienating, or protective over places that aren’t ours. It’s not your terrain. 

I’m a New Englander, and recognize my own aversion to sunny, cheerful salutations to everyone I pass, but it’s not hard to be a kind person, or at least to pretend to be one for a moment. Look out for each other! If something is obviously unsafe or needlessly risky, say something. On the other side of the coin, it’s no fun to be patronized. I know that I wouldn’t appreciate a stranger accosting me for not taking the Ten Essentials on a Sherburne lap, or reminding me how “steep the trail is up there.” Somewhere on the spectrum between the crusty curmudgeon and the mansplainer there is a happy space for a real peach of a neighbor. 

The other bird that tends to get the worms is the one that goes someplace else. Meaning having a plan B, C, and D can save the day if you show up to a feeding frenzy.

So what do we do now?

The early bird gets the worm. No matter what “the worm” is to you, you’re more likely to get it if you show up before anyone else. Depending what you’re going for, that might be pretty darn early. The other bird that tends to get the worms is the one that goes someplace else. Meaning having a plan B, C, and D can save the day if you show up to a feeding frenzy. Keep in mind that there has been a documented rise in accidents that seems to stem from this dispersion of users into less familiar and more remote terrain. This is certainly not advice to get in over your head if your favorite local spot is a little busy, so remember your limits, and also remember that the mountains aren’t going anywhere. 

That being said, one thing that won’t be around for long is our pristine wilderness. The great environmental bummer of our time is our impact on the places we love and profess to care about. Far worse than any complaint of having neighbors at the crag is how we are disfiguring and destroying our valuable natural spaces, and at an alarming rate. One thing that we can be sure of is that the number of people getting out into the woods will only increase, and that the variables we can control have nothing to do with who is using the outdoors. Here is an opportunity to remembering share—Leave No Trace principles, to model good stewardship, and to help out our community and conservation programs in maintaining sustainable use of our crags, trails, and parks. Don’t just let someone else take care of it, because if we all assume that someone else will care for the outdoors, then there will be nothing left to enjoy. Donate some cash, volunteer some time, and be a part of the solution. 

Now might be a time to start thinking about where the outdoor recreation world is heading, how it’s evolving, and how our activities might need to evolve as well. We no longer live in a world where “because that’s how it always was” is helpful or meaningful when it comes to our adventure sports. The conversation instead should be open to anyone, constantly in motion, and working towards protecting the land and the communities that we all depend on. 

Credit: Tim Peck

Ski Area Profile: Ragged Mountain, NH

New Hampshire’s reputation for skiing is growing—North Conway was recently named “Best Ski Town in North America” by USA Today. The ski areas in the Mount Washington Valley may steal the spotlight, but there are plenty of other great, lesser-known places to schuss in the Granite State. Lacking the size and the notoriety of the state’s big-name resorts, these smaller ski areas are unrivaled when it comes to stoke and community. One such gem is Danbury’s Ragged Mountain.

Whether it’s the terrain, welcoming atmosphere, proximity to southern New England, affordability, or epic views, there are a lot of reasons to love Ragged Mountain.

The Reggae Glades. | Credit: Tim Peck

Why Skiers Love Ragged: The Terrain

Ragged isn’t a “big” mountain, but it isn’t small either and it has plenty of terrain for every type of skier on its two peaks, Ragged Mountain and Spear Mountain. Ragged’s 57 trails are spread evenly across skill levels and its 1,250 feet of vertical is just enough that even seasoned skiers “feel the burn” toward the end of a run.

Beginner trails like Blueberry Patch, Lower Easy Winder, and Cardigan are mellow, wide, and always well-groomed, making them the perfect place for newer skiers and riders to build the confidence needed to tackle more challenging terrain. Intermediate runs like Exhibition and Flying Yankee are favorites of both seasoned and less-experienced skiers alike, thanks to their initial steep pitch and mellow runouts. Those looking for the steep stuff will love expert runs such as Sweepstakes and Showboat.

For a moderately sized mountain, Ragged is big on glades—it has 17. Skiers new to playing in the woods will love the widely spaced Reggae Glades and the lower-angle trees of Moose Alley. Options abound for skiers all about getting feisty in the forest—favorites include Rags to Riches and Pel’s Pass, both of which take advantage of the gladed terrain between the two peaks. There’s even a handful of double-black-diamond glades like Not Too Shabby, which delivers plenty of pitch and face-smackingly tight trees.

The Summit Six Express. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Welcoming Atmosphere

Ragged Mountain is easy to navigate—its trails are well marked and all of them lead to a shared base area that allows easy access to both peaks. This lets families or groups of disparate abilities break up to ski different trails and explore different terrain, then easily regroup between runs or at pre-arranged intervals. There is rarely a long wait for either of the mountain’s two primary lifts—the Summit Six and Spear Mountain Express—and both lifts provide a speedy ride to the top.

In non-COVID times, Ragged’s base lodge is a hub of activity. The lower level of the Elmwood Lodge (or Red Barn) is home to the Harvest Café and has an abundance of room for families to spread out. On the second level, visitors will find the Stone Hearth Bar and more open space for getting ready for, or kicking back after, a long day on the slopes. (If you do visit the bar, don’t forget to grab an aptly named Rags To Riches IPA.) Skiers looking for something more substantial than a hot chocolate from the café or a pint from the pub can find sit-down dining in the Birches Mountain Restaurant.

For those interested in chilling outside, there are a number of picnic tables and Adirondack chairs scattered across a stone patio in front of the Elmwood Lodge along with a fire pit for warming up frozen digits. With the current restrictions in the lodge due to COVID-19, Ragged has had a robust parking lot scene this year, with set-ups ranging from simple camp chairs and coolers to more involved arrangements with grills, portable heaters, and awnings.

Blueberry Patch. | Credit: Tim Peck

Proximity to Southern New England

Ragged is a pretty easy day trip from southern New England, especially when compared to ski destinations like North Conway. It is about an hour from New Hampshire’s two largest cities (Manchester and Nashua) and a little under two hours from Boston, which makes it a reasonable day trip for many. Good thing, too—there are limited lodging and food options near the mountain. Tilton (a little over 30 minutes away) is the closest town to offer a variety of hotel and dining options. Many love stopping at the Tilt’n Diner on the way home.

Although Ragged isn’t that far from southern New England, it does have a bit of a “can’t get there from here” vibe, as there are a bunch of ways to get to the mountain, but none of them are particularly direct. It is near both I-93 and I-89, but plan on driving between 20 and 30 minutes on backroads no matter which way you come.

Mount Cardigan from the Reggae Glades. | Credit: Tim Peck

It’s Affordable

Another perk of avoiding New Hampshire’s bigger-name mountains is avoiding their big-ticket prices. Ragged Mountain’s “Mission Affordable” season pass is one of the best deals going—it’s under $500 if you buy it early enough. If you’re interested in visiting Ragged this winter, find yourself a season ticket holder; They get four buddy tickets with their season pass, which are valid for a $49 lift ticket with no blackout dates.

Going deep on Flying Yankee. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Views

The views are big at this mid-sized mountain. From the summit of Ragged Mountain, visitors are treated to a fantastic perspective of the White Mountains, including the peaks of Franconia Ridge, the Bonds, and the often snow-capped Presidentials. From the top of Spear Mountain, skiers are treated to an excellent perspective of Mount Cardigan.

If you want the terrain and soul of one of New Hampshire’s big-name ski resorts, but are looking to get off the beaten path, put Ragged Mountain on your must-visit list this winter.


Video: 5 Tips for Staying Safe in Avalanche Terrain with MWAC

Looking for something to watch tonight? How about refreshing your snow safety.


How to Choose The Right Jacket for Winter Adventures

Whether it’s to keep us dry, help us stay warm, fend off the wind, or shed snow, we ask a lot of our jackets—this is why so many hikers, climbers, and skiers are obsessed with them. On any given trip, our hiking packs likely contain three to four coats, which allows us to adjust for the ever-changing weather found in the mountains. There’s a difference between pulling a coat from your pack and grabbing the “right” coat from your pack, especially when Mother Nature rears her ugly head. Here’s how to dial your outer layer setup this winter.

Insulation

Down puffies like EMS’s Feather Pack and synthetic puffies such as the EMS Primapack offer exceptional warmth for their (very light) weight, making them incredibly versatile jackets to have in your quiver. The EMS Feather Pack and Primapack are favorites for cold-weather activities like winter hiking, backcountry skiing and snowboarding, ice climbing, and mountaineering. Since these jackets take up minimal space in your pack and provide exceptional warmth, they’re common additions to three-season hiking packs for chilly summits or to use in the event of an emergency. Walk any city street and you’ll notice that puffies like the Feather Pack and Primapack are extremely popular for everyday wear as well.

A word of caution: the thin nylon face fabric used on many lightweight puffies—including the Feather Pack and Primapack—can rip when exposed to sharp stuff like ice tools, ski edges, and tough branches. Consequently, they’re best worn under a hardshell or softshell during tear-prone activities such as tree skiing or when used near the sharp picks and points of ice tools and crampons.

Down Insulation: The Feather Pack

The Feather Pack’s down insulation provides unrivaled warmth-to-weight—down is, pound for pound, the world’s best insulator. The Feather Pack, and jackets like it, are popular with a broad spectrum of users who covet their superior warmth, minimal weight, and small size when packed. However, down is susceptible to moisture (like snow and rain), and while some jackets, like the Feather Pack, are made with hydrophobic down to improve water resistance, there are better options for wet-weather activities.

Best Use: Insulating jacket on cold, dry days when aerobic output is low and weight and space are at a premium.  

Synthetic Insulation: The Prima Pack

Synthetic puffies like the EMS Primapack offer many of the same advantages as those of down puffies, namely, they’re light, packable, and warm. Synthetic insulation generally outperforms down in wet weather—it provides insulation even when wet and dries more quickly than its down counterparts. As a result, synthetic-insulation jackets, such as the EMS Primapack, are popular with those living in wet climates or participating in activities where moisture is inevitable. The downside of synthetic insulation is that it does not pack up quite as small as comparable down jackets.

Best Use: Daily driver on cold days and for outings where warmth is critical and the conditions are likely to be wet. 

Active Insulation: The Vortex

Active insulation, like that used in the EMS Vortex, is a must-have for on-the-move athletes in cold-weather—think heading uphill while backcountry skiing, cross-country skiing, and fast-paced hikes. Active insulation is designed to breathe during high-exertion activities and move moisture from the inside to the outside, making it an awesome part of any layering system. Active insulation pieces like the Vortex work great on their own, but what allows the insulation to breathe also allows the wind to penetrate through it. Consequently, they’re best paired with an outer layer, such as under a hardshell or softshell, in windy conditions.

Best Use: Higher-output aerobic activity in cold weather like hiking, climbing, or backcountry skiing. 

Hardshell: The NimbusFlex

Another key piece of the outerwear puzzle is a hardshell, such as the EMS NimbusFlex Rain Jacket. An outer layer like this has minimal insulating value itself but plays a critical role in your insulating system by keeping the elements (such as rain and snow) off the layers you’re wearing underneath. An added benefit of hardshells is that they do a great job blocking the wind.

Best Use: As an outer layer when it’s wet (resort skiing, ice climbing, hiking during a storm) or very windy (above-treeline travel).

The EMS Clipper

Softshell: The Clipper

Bridging the gap between true insulating layers (like the Feather Pack,  Primapack, and Vortex) and traditional hardshells, a softshell like the EMS Clipper is a great option for active pursuits. Typically worn over a base layer, the Clipper offers wind and water resistance in addition to providing some insulation. Breathable, stretchy, and rugged, you’ll see many folks wearing softshells while climbing, skiing, and hiking.

Best Use: Daily driver for aerobic activities on spring, fall, and mild winter days. 

Three-in-One: The Nor’easter

Where a softshell molds the best features of a hardshell and insulation together, a three-in-one jacket like the EMS Nor’easter zips them together. These jackets feature a burly hardshell with an insulating layer zipped inside, giving you the option to wear just the hardshell over a baselayer on a warm-but-wet day, just the insulation (in the case of the Nor’easter, it’s a fleece) when you need warmth and breathability but no weather protection, or zip them together to make a burly do-it-all coat.

Best Use: Skiing (especially at a resort), cold and/or poor weather aerobic activities in deep winter. 

Putting It All Together

The best jacket choice is often activity-dependent, and finding the right combination of layers for you involves many personal preferences. One common practice in the Northeast for hiking, backcountry skiing, and climbing is a base layer and softshell, with users donning a puffy (rest breaks, exposed ridgelines, and emergencies) and a hardshell (precip and high winds) at appropriate junctions. On colder days, consider swapping the softshell with an active insulator like the Vortex.


The Gear You Need for Uphilling at Magic Mountain

Uphill skiing continues to grow in popularity among seasoned and novice human-powered skiers alike thanks to reliable conditions and low objective hazards. Magic Mountain in Londonderry, Vermont has been at the forefront of the uphill movement with its “Hike One Ride One” program that famously rewards uphill skiers with a token for a free lift ride when they successfully reach the 2,850-foot summit of the mountain—a 1,700-foot climb.

Although the free-ride program is temporarily suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions (read the full details here), Magic Mountain’s awesome terrain, great snow, and soulful ski culture make it a must-visit. Make your visit even more enchanting by showing up with the right gear for uphilling.

Credit: Tim Peck

EMS Merino Wool Baselayer

Uphillers access the goods via a designated skinning route on Magic’s left side, either an uphill trail in the woods or, if snow cover is low in the woods, up the resort’s leftmost trail (Lower Magic Carpet to Up Your Sleeve to White Out). Skinning up even low-angle terrain like that found on Magic Carpet generates a lot of heat and makes the heavy baselayers you use for riding the lifts too warm for this aerobic activity. EMS’s Merino Wool baselayers (men’s top and bottom; women’s top and bottom) wick sweat and keep you comfortable on the uphill and offer enough insulation for the descent. Wool naturally fights odors too, which is great if you’re heading into the Black Line Tavern at the end of the day.

EMS Field Glove

A leather work glove, like the Outdoor Research Askel or EMS Field Glove, offers enough dexterity for ripping skins and buckling boots behind the Red Chair Double’s top shack at Magic’s summit while providing enough insulation to keep you warm while dropping down Black Line.

Credit: Tim Peck

Osprey Kamber/Kresta

With your car and the base lodge always a short ski away and no need for a full backcountry ski kit, a small 20-24 liter pack is perfect for uphilling at Magic. The Osprey Kamber 22 and Kresta 20 have all the ski-specific features of bigger bags—like a way to divide wet and dry gear and glove-friendly zippers and buckles—in an uphill friendly size.

Smith Camber/Compass

From the tree skiing on Warlock, to tired legs from the skin to the summit, to that newbie tackling Sorcerer for the first time, danger is always lurking on the slopes—even at a place as bewitching as Magic. Tuck a helmet like the Smith Camber or Compass into your pack and don it for your descent.

Credit: Tim Peck

Giro Block

Goggles go in and out of the pack a lot while uphill skiing, making a good pair of goggles that you won’t lose sleep over if you happen to scratch them, like the Giro Block, an important piece of your kit. They’re even more essential for those super-fit skiers who seem almost as fast as Magic’s old Black Lift and are bagging multiple laps a day.

The North Face Thermoball Eco

Whether you’re waiting for your ski buddies in the parking lot, transitioning from up to down next to the Black Line Quad, or enjoying a post-session hangout next to the firepit, a puffy like The Northface Thermoball Eco (men’s/women’s) is essential to falling under Magic’s spell.

Credit: Tim Peck

Turtle Fur Chelonia 150 Double Layer Neck Warmer

Neck warmers, gaiters, and tubes have long been a staple of resort, backcountry, and uphill skiers alike and are even more relevant in the age of COVID-19. From sealing in warmth while dropping into the Gonnif Glade to serving as a face covering at places where people congregate, like the top of the Red Chair Double. Make sure to have something like the Turtle Fur Chelonia 150 Double Layer Neck Warmer or Stria Totally Tubular Headwear close at hand.

HydroFlash Wide Mouth 20 oz. Bottle

Sure, you can leave food and a drink in your car or grab something quick at the Base Cafeteria, but it’s good to carry something to eat and drink with you on the mountain—after all, you’re “earning your turns.” Energy bars and PB&Js are great for sustenance, but having something warm to drink—like hot cocoa in an insulated Hydro Flask bottle—can lift your spirits on bitter Vermont days and reenergize tired legs.

Credit: Tim Peck

Osprey Snowkit Duffel

Nestled in southern Vermont, Magic is a popular day trip for skiers and riders from New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. The Osprey Snowkit Duffel makes traveling to and from the mountain easy. It keeps your kit together for transitioning quickly from car to slopes in the morning and has a dedicated, ventilated compartment for stashing your sweaty boots at the end of the day.

Teva Ember Mock

After a long day ticking vertical, your feet are probably dying to slip into something more comfortable. Teva Ember Mocks (men’s/women’s) are stylish enough for inside if you scored a coveted reservation at the Black Line Tavern and warm enough if you prefer the parking lot après.

Make the most of your day at Magic Mountain and leave your ski partner spellbound by showing up with the right gear for a day of uphilling.


Go Big at Boston’s Local Ski Area: Blue Hills

Straddling the Milton-Canton town line, the Blue Hills Ski Area in Greater Boston’s Blue Hills Reservation is one of many local ski hills that are the lifeblood of the ski industry in the Northeast. Sure it’s small—just a handful of trails, one chairlift, a few magic carpets, and a vertical drop of just 309 feet—but between its storied history, geographic proximity to Boston, and skier-friendly hours, this family-focused area has served as a developing ground for skiers and riders across the region.

Credit: Tim Peck

A Ski Hill in Boston’s Backyard

Like so many ski trails in the Northeast, the first runs on Great Blue Hill were cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Charlie Proctor—winner of the first US downhill race in 1927 on Mount Moosilauke’s Carriage Road, member of the 1928 Olympic Ski Team, and the first (with John Carleton) to ski the Tuckerman Ravine Headwall in 1931—was among the designers. Alpine in nature, the narrow “Number 1” trail was later widened to become Big Blue, the backbone of the lift-serviced resort developed in 1949 and opened in February 1950 by the Metropolitan District Commission.

Big Blue remains Blue Hills’ preeminent ski trail to this day. It’s the most prominent, too—the large, wide slope is visible for miles around, especially at night when lights illuminate the snow-covered steep for night skiing. But it’s not the only reason to visit Blue Hills. The area has a stellar learning area where generations of skiers have learned to ski, as well as several other trails like Patriots Path, Chute, and Sonya that are great for novices and intermediates alike.

These days, Blue Hills is best known as a family-friendly resort. With learn-to-ski programs for all ages and a deep rental fleet, there are lots of opportunities for first-timers at Blue Hills. The beginner area, with several magic carpets and trails, is located just steps from the area’s rental building, so getting on the slopes for a lesson couldn’t be easier. For parents putting children in lessons, there are ample vantage points both on and off the slopes to observe and take pictures. And when they—like so many other skiers and riders have over the generations—graduate from the beginner area to making runs down Big Blue, it’s easy to watch them carve turns from the front of the lodge.

Credit: Tim Peck

When to Visit

For the most reliable conditions, visit Blue Hills on weekdays before school gets out or just after opening on a weekend morning. Arrive then and you’ll likely find a handful of retirees plus a patroller and/or ski instructor, all with huge grins on their faces from arcing large-radius turns down a freshly groomed Big Blue. For those working a more traditional schedule, the chair spins until 9 pm on weeknights and 8 pm on weekends and holidays. Clear goggles are a huge plus for night skiers.

Larger storms help bolster the snowmaking efforts at Blue Hills. If conditions allow, Sonya is a pleasant run with excellent views of the Boston skyline. Don’t miss Beer’s Bluff either, a  steeper-than-you’d-expect run under the lift that’s named for the ski area’s former operators.

Many high schools and area ski teams call Blue Hills home and Big Blue has been the home of many ski races over the years. Skiers or riders looking to ski chair-to-chair should check the race schedule before visiting.

Credit: Tim Peck

Getting There

Nestled in the Blue Hills Reservation, Blue Hills is located near the junction of Interstates 93 and 95. Just minutes from Boston, the ski area is convenient for those living south and west of the city. Given its location and large surrounding population, it’s no surprise that so many people have learned to ski or ride there.

Post-skiing, the popular après hangout is the nearby Hillside Pub. The food is good, the beer is cold, and you’ll likely find a few ski patrollers and lifties mixed in amongst the crowd. If you’re catching the last chair on a weeknight, call ahead with your order and it’ll be ready when you get there.

If you’re interested in learning to ski or ride or just looking to cold-down with a few post-work groomers, put a visit to Blue Hills on your winter to-do list.

Credit: Tim Peck