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The Case for the Local Ski Area

So It’s Not The Rockies.  But What Makes Mom-And-Pop Special?


Ski Butternut in the Berkshires: All you need for a fun day with friends at a typical local area.
Credit: Ski Butternut

[Editor Note: As we are seeing in a month of startling industry news, the ski business is rapidly consolidating.  Big corporations are buying portfolios of resorts.  Vail has added Stowe to its collection. Aspen and its private equity investors, KLS Capital Partners are plucking up Stratton and Mt. Tremblant, among others. Other consortia have been formed or are forming. Where does this leave the mom-and-pop local area, probably closer to home, less exciting facilities, average food, but nicely discounted mid-week tickets for seniors? This is an important question in an industry that is moving away from smallness.] 

Support your local ski area. You know the place. It’s likely the place you learned to ski at and/or where you brought your children to teach them. If you have grandchildren, its the place you are bringing them to ski. It’s likely the ski area is privately owned and supports the surrounding area by employing local workers. Simply put, we go to local ski areas to ski. We don’t go to see others or to be seen. We don’t go for après ski activities or plush lodging.


Small is better? Accessible, economical, family-friendly, local ski areas have a community feeling.  

Credit: Ski Sundown

We need to support our local ski areas by skiing at them. Increasingly smaller mountains are being bought by corporations or going out of business. Local ski areas are by definition closer to home, they are less crowded and have less expensive lift tickets. Midweek skiing at one of my favorite areas, Ski Butternut, in Western Massachusetts, is $25 for all skiers! Every season, I make it a point to ski at Butternut and several of my other local ski areas, and each time it’s a wonderful experience.

Aesthetically my local ski areas fit into their surroundings rather than dominate them.

When I go to my local ski area, I don’t race there. I know I’ll park close to the lodge, I won’t have to wait in line for tickets or in lines to get on the lifts. The entire day is more relaxing. I know I’ll get plenty of great skiing, and I don’t have to jockey to get a place in line or compete for a table to have lunch at. I do less racing down the mountain (though I can do that if I want) and spend more time stopping, looking at the scenery or talking to people. I feel safer skiing at my local area because there are few, if any, rude or aggressive skiers. While skiing, I don’t have to keep looking over my shoulder to make sure I’m not going to get run over.

It’s a more relaxing day, because everything feels manageable. First time visitors are not going to be confused about where to park, how to get to the lodge or what trails go where. At the end of the day, families don’t have to worry about finding their children because everyone ends up in the same place. Since local ski areas are less overwhelming and feel safer, parents are more likely to give children the freedom to ski on their own. As a child, one of my favorite memories was being allowed to ski with my friends and explore the mountain without our parents.

Because I skied these areas as a child, I get the added benefit of a wonderful sense of nostalgia. When traveling, I’ve also had great fun skiing at independently owned mountains that I’d never been to before.

Spend a day or so exploring a local ski area and experience the charm and fun they have to offer. Just take a look at a small sample of season pass senior deals for next season:

Ski Butternut, Western MA: $175 (70+)

Ski Sundown, Northwestern CT: $109 (70+)

Catamount: Eastern NY: FREE (80+), before 6/1 $150, before 9/1 $155 (70-79)

What’s your local area? How are the deals shaping up for seniors?


Seniors Skiing, April 18, 2017 – East – Features

By Don Burch

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