We were persuaded to go night skiing at Wachusett Mountain, which is the only noteworthy ski area within an hour’s drive of Boston. I had never been to Wachusett nor gone night skiing, and I expected the worst on both fronts. Hey, the good thing about being a pessimist is you’re never disappointed, and when things turn out to be pretty good, then you’re pleasantly delighted.
Even non-skiers in Boston metro are familiar with Wachusett Mountain due to their incessant television and radio advertising that employs a catchy-to-the-point-of-grating jingle “Oh, wa-Wachusett.” The ads always feature the adult members of the family that owns Wachusett, sitting on the ski lifts and talking about how great the snow is on Wachusett, and then skiing down a mountain of cash… I mean, snow with gleeful looks on their faces.
Night skiing goes from 4-10pm ($44 lift tickets during “prime season”) and we arrived right at 4pm. Because it’s school vacation week in Massachusetts, the ski area was mobbed with groups of kids of all ages, but especially teenagers. The amount of money on display was almost shocking: designer snowboard, designer boots, designer jackets and pants, and $6 cups of french fries. I mean, wow. Each one of these kids represented a minimum of $1000 worth of gear, and they strut around the base area, fully aware of how freaking cool they looked. (It was a different story on the mountain, where many of them wobbled, snow-plowed, and skidded out of control… not looking quite as cool).
I feared that Wachusett’s relatively low altitude as well as its notorious weekend crowds would guarantee icy patches and an absence of powder by 4pm, but, wow: the snow was excellent, especially considering temperatures hit 50 degrees that day. So while the lift tickets are a wee bit expensive considering the lack of terrain, obviously they’ve invested a lot into snow-making as well as their speedy quad lifts that have been engineered to minimize mounting/dismounting foibles.
Since Mr. Pinault was on his telemark skis, we decided to warm-up his thigh muscles on the mid-level trails, which turned out to be the most popular part of the mountain due to the halfpipe and snowboard park located under this ski lift. We watched the teenaged boys do tricks on various apparatus, risking limb if not life to impress each other (and us captive spectators). The sun was still out, the weather was still warm, and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the snow. After Mr. Pinault got his telemark style down, we moved on to the more “challenging” Black trails.
I say “challenging” with mocking quotes, because, my God, compared to Europe, these Black trails are a joke. Black trails in the Alps are basically vertical cliffs — I’ve never skied one and don’t plan to, because even Mr. Pinault gets nervous on Black trails. But the Black trails at Wachusett would rate among the easiest in the Alps. Not that I mind, but the budding Bode Millers and Lindsey Vonns who fly straight down with nary a turn or pole plant will have a cruel surprise should they ever go to a real mountain and attempt a real Black trail.
As the sun went down, the lights came on and my night vision kicked in. It did get chilly, and the lift lines were long, but we had no urge to go into the lodge for a break. (Not that we could have found a table, anyway, because the place was packed. It always amazes me how many people “go skiing” and spend most of their time in the lodge.) We skied for four hours straight until 8pm, basically on the same two Black trails, until we grew increasingly cold and ready for dinner. Mr. Pinault’s thighs were burning from the telemark turns. And so we headed to the parking lot to go home, tired but satisfied with our trip to wa-Wachusett (although wa-once a year there is probably enough for me).