Here, you'll find the stories our friends and followers have shared about their #MyFirstMountain experience...
Ask a collection of mountain resort industry folks and die-hard skiers where they got their start, and you’ll find most of their “home” mountains weren’t ones featured in extreme ski films. The community ski hill and small, independently-owned ski areas have played a major part in the developement of the ski bum. We pay tribute to these ski areas. Read these stories from our friends and followers about their first times on snow, and entry into the world of skiing and snowboarding.
More Stories from Your Industry Peers...
Mountain Manager, Devil's Head Resort
My very first Home "Mtn" was Teeple Hill in Oakland County Mi. A very small state run recreational park with a couple rope tows. Long gone now. After taking a few runs with skis, I would sneak back onto the hill when the park ranger was not looking with my Snurfer!
General Manager, Mount Ashland
I was just a baby when my father was on ski patrol at Crotched Mountain in Francestown, NH. I mastered my "pizza" at just two years old in the early 70’s. Every available day and night our family had, we were there in the patrol room ready to head out for untold adventures.
I can still picture the red snow suit I wore as I explored the mountain like I owned the place. I remember walking into the lodge in my wooden skis still firmly attached to go to the bathroom because safety straps were a horrible invention! In the end I didn't make it and when mom was washing the red suit she asked "why didn't you just go in the woods?" Now knowing that was an option, I never saw the lodge bathrooms again. I went bell to bell every day. Back then parents were comfortable letting even the tiniest of skiers roam free. After sacrificing a number of wool mittens to the rope tow I moved on to the t-bar where I would ride solo as not to have the T in my back. I floated in mid-air, spinning in circles, until jumping off at the top. The lift operators cringed to see the bar swing wildly into the guides around the bull wheel narrowly escaping a de-rope. I was not allowed to ride the old Hall double chair until I could raise the heavy steel safety bar on my own. In fact there was a hand carved sign about safety bar requirements that was spelled “Safty Bar". We got a chuckle about that with each ride. Despite the small size, Crotched never got old. Full tucks down Willet's run and Blitz were commonplace. Pre-jumping the headwall on Blitz was a necessity to avoid flat splatting the landing.
My mom made me a patrol belt and my Jr. Patrol career was launched. We would do sweep with our parents at the end of the day, tucking blitz of course, so we were not much help. As time passed the lodge became more than a second home to me. It was home. After the lifts closed, the kids played in the snow or wore out the video games and ate french fries while our parents listened to the Bavarian Oompa band and ate fondue in the bar.
All throughout my school years we would ski under the lights in the after school programs. We would steal a kiss on the dark chairlift and hold hands on the bus ride home. Many a romance has blossomed at the ski hill. My mom (and now my sister Danielle) volunteered to manage a few of the after school programs and as a result we also had season passes at Pat’s Peak as schools were lured from one area to the other. Pat’s was not my first mountain but an incredibly important part of my early ski life. Glen Plake perfectly described Pat’s as a “little skier factory”, a testament to their ability to cram hundreds of school buses into the parking lot night after night.
Our Crotched Mountain “family” grew and consisted of folks from near and far. Many of them we would never see outside of the ski area, but considered them the closest of friends. The closest we ever got to non-skiing gatherings were the trips to Grandmother’s Restaurant and Albertos that had the tag line “The best food by a dam site” as it sat next to a dam at a small mill in Bennington NH. I still remember so many of the families that inhabited the mountain to this day despite having no contact with them in decades.
Eventually, when the cross trails were created linking what would be called Crotched East to the Bobcat (previously Onset) side, the mountain got larger, but I was always more fond of the original east side and it’s iconic lodge and more exciting terrain that fill my memories.
As I reflect back, my best memories were hanging out in the top shack of the chair in my “ski patrol uniform” with my dad, building jumps with friends, and exploring every inch of the mountain. One of the most vivid memories was getting my first ride in an old Tucker Sno Cat. In a bizarre twist of fate I now live 30 minutes from Medford Oregon, home of Tucker (the original!) Sno Cat. I get all nostalgic every time I pass the factory and see those beautiful orange machines. Time wore on and as with many small ski areas, the mountain’s financial position slid downhill after a few bad seasons and an unsuccessful condo development project. Eventually my little home mountain closed in 1989 filing chapter 11. We were all devastated.
Thanks to NELSAP (New England Lost Ski Areas Project) my skinning buddies would seek out other small defunct ski areas across New England to have semi-manicured backcountry skiing. My friends and I continued to skin to the top of Crotched bagging turns on the still skiable runs. That all ended on a full moon night where we sat at the top, drinking brandy, and took our final run in the moonlight dodging the inevitable saplings that took back the trails and returned them to forest. The lifts still eerily silent, chairs and T’s swinging in the wind, I wept. It finally sunk in that my old stomping grounds weren’t coming back. Miraculously in 2003 the West side was purchased and re-developed by Peak Resorts. They did an amazing job rebuilding the area to withstand tough winters. An impressive snowmaking system was installed that could blanket the area in hours ensuring they could open if the temperatures allowed. Many were not impressed with the new industrial steel building that replaced the old wooden lodge, but remember, it’s not about the lodge for me. It is about the skiing, the vibe, the family, and camaraderie that lives only in these little community gems. I was elated that unlike most defunct ski areas, Crotched came back and is still here today. It is extremely rare for ski areas to return from the dead and to have my first mountain rise from the ashes fills me with hope for the future of these special places. Antelope Butte is a recent success story and a reminder that with community support anything is achievable. Let’s all hope for more.
A year before Crotched’s triumphant return I left the misery of a very successful high tech career. After my wife Jeannine and I did some soul searching and dug deep into what was important in life, we took a huge cut in pay, and started in the ski business joining the team at Sunday River in 2002. I worked my way through the ranks over 12 years when I finally returned to the soul and the deep roots of skiing. I am proud to now manage Mt. Ashland, a small non-profit community ski area in Southern Oregon. We share the same challenges as Crotched and all small ski areas in times of higher costs and shorter, more unpredictable winters. My first year at the helm followed the 50th anniversary season at Mt. Ashland. Receiving only 100 inches of snow in 2014, the lifts never spun and the area teetered on the edge of closure as it had many times before. In my first season I was painfully delivered 87 inches of snow and we squeezed 38 days of operations out of every last flake, closing and re-opening three times. With a few good winters since, our position is as strong as ever and we are braced for difficulties ahead. But there are no guarantees. We are snow farmers, and farming isn’t always great especially when Mother Nature takes her extended vacations. Mt. Ashland has returned me to the special feelings I could only get at my first mountain. The most important mountain in my life. Crotched Mountain. The one that fostered my love of this amazing sport and the wonderful people that make it what it is. Support your community ski hills. They are the most important ones on the planet. Without them millions of people will not have the life changing experiences these little mountains deliver. Experiences that grow from the roots you plant on your first mountain.
Vice President, Shawnee Peak
My first mountain was Spruce Peak at Stowe, back when they had the green double chairs. My parents tell the (debatable) story of me being carried onto the lift as I refused to get on, yet somehow I made it down the slopes. I have vivid memories of the old base lodge and a getting a fountain Coke as a treat. Last December, I had quite the trip down memory lane when I got married at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, 30 years later!
Stay tuned for more stories, coming soon!