After the Nor’easter we had this weekend, I couldn’t wait to hit the slopes and get my 2013 season underway. Apparently, most people spend New Year’s Day recovering from the copious amount of alcohol they drank the night before. At least that was how it looked as I pulled into a near-empty parking lot of Black Mountain in Jackson, NH, about 2 hours from my home in Portland, ME. The lot was almost empty; I was surprised more people had not taken advantage of their day off (at least for most of us) and made their way to the slopes. With little to no lines at any of the lifts, I thought I was the Griswolds at Walleyworld.
I’d chosen Black Mountain on the recommendation of EasternSlopes.com’s executive editor Tim Jones. He calls Black “one of the best areas you’ve probably never skied,” describing it as “fun, family friendly, and a little old-fashioned. There aren’t any high-speed lifts at Black, but they also don’t charge fancy resort prices.” My all-day holiday lift ticket was just $32 with my college ID. An adult weekend/holiday ticket is only $49. If I’d gone midweek, it would have been just $27 (adults are $35). As a student, with work-study income, that’s REALLY appealing!
Black Mountain is also one of the few areas in New England that faces south–a real bonus on a bright, sunny, but also cold and windy day–just exactly the conditions we had on New Year’s Day!
Taking East Bowl Triple Chair up and making my first run I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of skiing. Most of the Green trails were fine, covered with soft snow, although some trails like Sugarbush had some thin spots. Blue trails were very good and pretty much untouched by most other skiers and riders, which was fine by me. Overall most trails coming off of the East Bowl Chair lift provided multiple good runs, and if you decided to cross over to the west side of the mountain you could access some more interesting skiing on trails like Bob-A-Link.
For Diamond trails it was rather hit or miss, but I will say that my favorite trail for the day was the Down Under (aptly named, as it goes right under the East Bowl Lift). Down Under was a Black Diamond mogul trail that was both challenging and fun.
After getting my mogul fix, I decided it was a good time to head to the top before my legs decided to call it a day. I hopped on the Summit Double Chair (another aptly named part of Black!), unsure of what I’d find; sometimes, bare spots down low often means little snow up top. I headed down Upper Black Beauty where, sure enough, there were some protruding rocks and icy spots. More early season snowmaking often means fancy resort prices; Black Mountain does a great job for a small resort, but they need a little more help from Mother Nature to cover up holes and rocks at the summit and on a few other non-snowmaking trails.
Tim was right; Black Mountain has fun, old-fashioned trails, a friendly atmosphere, and surprisingly good conditions given the low, low ticket prices. With all things considered, I had a great time at Black; after another snowstorm or two, I want to go back and see if I’m right about getting some truly phenomenal riding!