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Old School ski areas to explore

marzNC

Angel Diva
#1
Starting in the pre-season of the 2017-18 season, we had a thread about “old school” ski areas all over N. America. As Divas mentioned places they considered Old School, the list grew pretty long and covered multiple regions. When I say Old School, what I’m thinking about is a ski area/resort that has a low key vibe, is family friendly, is a good place to learn for children and adults, is often lower cost than destination resorts, and usually there is less worry about lift lines. Most people on the slopes at Old School ski areas are locals, meaning that they drive from their house.

In the next post you’ll find the list as of July 2019. The earlier thread has notes about some of the places.

How many of these "old school" ski areas have you skied?

Have you skied at an Old School ski area lately? If so, got a story to share? How about a nomination for an addition to the list?
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#2
The list of Old School ski areas/resorts below is not meant to be comprehensive. It’s more of a collection of places that can be a starting point for exploring beyond the slopes of better known places. Most of the places on the list were mentioned by Divas based on first-hand experience.

The size split at 500 acres is purely arbitrary. Although multiple regions are represented, there is a bit of a gap for the midwest.

? - Old School to some people, but not to others

CANADA
QUE: Devil's Elbow, Edelweiss, Mont Blanc, Mont Gabriel, Mont Garçeau, Mount Olympia, Mont Ste Sauveur, Mont Sutton, Owl's Head, Vorlage
NL: Smokey Mountain
BC: ?Whitewater (1200 acres)

USA, MORE THAN 500 ACRES

49 Degrees North, WA
Mt. Spokane, WA
White Pass, WA
Willamette Pass, WA
Anthony Lakes (cat skiing), OR
Hoodoo, OR
Dodge Ridge, CA
Homewood Mountain Resort (views of Lake Tahoe), CA

Blacktail, MT
?Bridger Bowl (non-profit), MT
Turner Mountain, MT
Lost Trail Pass, MT
Lookout Pass, ID/MT
Bogus Basin, ID
Brundage, ID
Pebble Creek (near Pocatello), ID
Pomerelle, ID
Schweitzer Mountain, ID
Grand Targhee, WY

?Alta Ski Area, UT
Beaver Mountain, UT
Brian Head, UT
Brighton Resort, UT
Powder Mountain (restricts number of day tickets), UT
Eldora, CO
Loveland, CO
Monarch, CO
Powder Horn (near Grand Junction), CO
Sunlight Mountain (near Aspen), CO
Wolf Creek, CO
Santa Fe, NM

Mt. Bohemia, MI
?Sugarloaf, ME

USA, OLD SCHOOL LESS THAN 500 ACRES

ME: Mount Abram, Shawnee Peak (formerly Pleasant Mountain), Black Mountain (non-profit), Lost Valley, Big Rock (non-profit, formerly Mars Hill Skiway)

NH in general, except Loon: Arrowhead (non-profit), Attitash, Black Mountain, Cannon, Cranmore, Dartmouth Skiway, Ragged, Tenney, Waterville Valley, Wildcat

VT:
Ascutney (non-profit), Bolton Valley, Cochran's Ski Area, Mad River Glen (coop ownership), Middlebury Ski Bowl, Magic Mountain, Northeast Slopes, ?Pico, Queechee,
?Smuggler’s Notch, Suicide Six

MA: Berkshire East, Bousquet, Catamount, Nashoba Valley, Ski Butternut
CT: Mohawk, Powder Ridge
RI: Yawgoo Valley

Central NY: Greek Peak, Labrador, Plattekill, Song, Swain
Catskills NY: ?Belleayre
Upstate NY: ?Gore, McCauley, Mt. Royal, Thunder Ridge, Titus Mountain

West PA (drive from Pittsburgh or DC): Blue Knob, Laurel Mountain
East PA (drive from Philly or DC): Elk, Jack Frost/Big Boulder, Montage, Shawnee Mountain
WV: Winterplace
NC: Appalachian, ?Beech, Cataloochee

OH in general
IA: Seven Oaks

MT: Maverick Mountain
WY: Pine Creek
CO: Echo, Ski Cooper
NM: Pajarito, Sipapu

WA: Bluewood, Loup Loup Ski Bowl (non-profit), Summit East at Snoqualmie Pass
OR: Mount Ashland (non-profit)

CA: Badger Pass (in Yosemite), Boreal, Mt. Waterman, Soda Springs, Snow Valley
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
#3
Devil's Elbow in Bethany Ontario closed this season. The owner has been trying to sell it, but no interest. He's in failing health and just couldn't open it up. Not sure I would call any of the other areas mentioned as "old school". Edelweiss, Mont St Sauveur, Mt. Olympia are all part of MSSI a large Quebec consortium. Owl's Head has new owners as doesn't Mt. Sutton.

All these areas have made major improvements and are well run.

You want old school, come to Batawa Ski Club, north of Trenton, Ontario. They just got rid of the T bar 5 years ago...
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#4
Here's a list of the places I've skied that are on the lists above. They are all Old School less than 500 acres.

I added Pico to the areas in VT.

ME: Shawnee Peak
NH: Attitash, Black Mountain, Cannon, Cranmore, Ragged, Waterville Valley, Wildcat
VT: Mad River Glen
MA: Berkshire East
PA: Elk

Mad River Glen takes the prize for cultivating the most "vintage" atmosphere. The lodge (shack, more like it) is old, old, old, dirty, falling apart, and all of that is embraced with pride. The skiing relies mostly on natural snow; there's very little snow-making. It's focus is on off-piste skiing on natural snow. Most of the trails on the blue/black pitches are narrow and serve as connectors for the glades. The wide trails on those pitches are left to get bumped up. It has a single chair. It has legendary terrain. The bumper sticker says "Mad River Glen - Ski it if You Can" and that's justified. However, there is beginner/novice/lower intermediate terrain on the lower pitches, and it's kept groomed. Not sure about snow-making there. The locals who ski regularly at Mad River are different from the crowds you'll find at most ski areas. Fiercely loyal they are. Colorful place and colorful people!

Wildcat is my favorite of the bunch. I say that because of its varied terrain. It isn't as "vintage" as Mad River Glen, but many of its groomed trails are narrow, and there is plenty of glade skiing to be had. Lots of terrain is left bumped up, and those bump runs vary from easy to difficult. You can find the terrain you want at any level at Wildcat.

Black Mountain in NH is interesting because it feels like a large farm that has a couple of chairlifts on it. The lodge is old. You can see the horses as you ski. My ski club used to race there. I never enjoyed Black Mountain. There's not enough terrain, and I encountered poor grooming (golf balls rolling around) too many times. I don't think they have much $$ to invest in new grooming equipment.

None of the other ski areas on that list feel "old" to me. There may be a few narrow windy trails left from the past that haven't gotten widened much (Cannon especially), but otherwise I think of them as regular skiing areas with the normal vibe found in New England.

For me, since I ski mostly in NH, small areas are the norm. You leave your boot bag in the lodge. You park near the lodge. There may be no on-site lodging, and the only place on the mountain to rent skis is the rental shop. You eat in an eating area run by the mountain itself, and there may only be the cafeteria in the main lodge. The exception for me is not small areas - but huuuge developed ones like Breckenridge. The commercial ambience is unpleasant. Ugh!
 
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marzNC

Angel Diva
#5
Devil's Elbow in Bethany Ontario closed this season. The owner has been trying to sell it, but no interest. He's in failing health and just couldn't open it up. Not sure I would call any of the other areas mentioned as "old school". Edelweiss, Mont St Sauveur, Mt. Olympia are all part of MSSI a large Quebec consortium. Owl's Head has new owners as doesn't Mt. Sutton.

All these areas have made major improvements and are well run.

You want old school, come to Batawa Ski Club, north of Trenton, Ontario. They just got rid of the T bar 5 years ago...
Have to admit I didn't check the places in Canada before adding to the list based on the other thread. I've only skied at Mont St Sauveur for a few hours at night. Certainly has plenty of fast lifts but it was early season and quite empty, so hard to tell what the usual vibe is like.
 
#6
Cochran’s is a non-profit — supposedly the nation’s first non-profit ski area.

Whaleback Mountain in NH - also a non-profit - appears to still be around. It’s visible from 93 in New Hampshire.

Of the above, I’ve been to Bolton Valley. I plan to sign up for ski lessons at Cochran’s this year though. And I’d like to trek over to Northeast Slopes sometime. Sounds like fun.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#7
Whaleback Mountain in NH - also a non-profit - appears to still be around. It’s visible from 93 in New Hampshire.
Have you skied at Whaleback?

I was thinking that other than Loon, Sunapee, and Bretton Woods, all of the other ski areas in NH are pretty much Old School. Sunapee is borderline, but with Vail money it may evolve to feel less "homey" in the next few years.
 
#8
Have you skied at Whaleback?

I was thinking that other than Loon, Sunapee, and Bretton Woods, all of the other ski areas in NH are pretty much Old School. Sunapee is borderline, but with Vail money it may evolve to feel less "homey" in the next few years.
I have not. The only time it would make sense to do it is en route to visit my parents in Quincy, but maybe I’ll make a day of it sometime next season...
 
#11
Whaleback is on I-89, between I-93 and I-91. Here you can see both the trails and the highway.
Oh . . . that one! Noticed it driving on I-89 but didn't know the name. Thanks for the pics. I would be driving during early season, so the zipperline bumps weren't there. There aren't too many ski areas with just under 100 acres that have a couple double-black trails. Has night skiing too.

Tricky part of a small place is figuring out how to make it thru a warm winter from a business standpoint.
 
#12
Oh . . . that one! Noticed it driving on I-89 but didn't know the name. Thanks for the pics. I would be driving during early season, so the zipperline bumps weren't there. There aren't too many ski areas with just under 100 acres that have a couple double-black trails. Has night skiing too.

Tricky part of a small place is figuring out how to make it thru a warm winter from a business standpoint.
The season, what, 2-3 seasons ago was really rough on them and I think that’s what spurred them to go nonprofit.
 
#13
Looks like Great Divide in Montana belongs on the Old School list. Anyone ski there? It's up by Helena. Day tickets are $48.

Learned about Great Divide because they are going to install a couple new lifts in the next few years according to Liftblog. Currently have 3 doubles for 1600 acres. It's so far north that the season is typically quite long, from mid-Nov to May. Probably with little snowmaking. Says something that the webpage about getting there says "NEW: The highway is now paved all the way up to our parking lot. Follow the yellow stripe to Great Divide!"

https://liftblog.com/2019/08/19/great-divide-to-build-two-new-chairlifts/
 
#14
Looks like the installation of the new lift at Bogus Basin is on track.

Sep 2019, Idaho Statesman
New high-speed chair lifts flown into place at 2 Idaho ski areas

The article also talks about the new lift at Tamarack. Having looked at the pictures of the village under construction, doesn't really look like they are building an Old School resort. Seems more like a friendly 4-season resort. Apparently the old lift was sold off by a bank back in 2013 before the current owners got involved. The new lift will re-open 200 acres where trails already existed and have been re-cleared.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#15
Whaleback has a new Mountain Manager. Andrew Roy went west from New England for a while but has moved back after working for Woodward.

https://www.saminfo.com/headline-news/9406-snow-people-september-2019
"Andrew Roy joins Whaleback, N.H., as the new mountain manager. Roy began his career in the ski industry on the park crew at Waterville Valley, N.H., and formerly served as the park manager at Wachusett Mountain, Mass., before moving out west to Eldora, Colo., where he was a fabricator and operator for Woodward terrain parks. He was a 2018 SAM Summit Series mentee, has attended SAM Cutter’s Camp, served on the board of Colorado Ski Country USA, and was the 2017 recipient of the CSCUSA Terrain Master award."
 
#16
Glen Plake pretty much toured a lot of small independent old school ski areas in the east last winter..
Hickory Hill, Oak, Royal, all in NYS
 
#18
Oh . . . that one! Noticed it driving on I-89 but didn't know the name. Thanks for the pics. I would be driving during early season, so the zipperline bumps weren't there. There aren't too many ski areas with just under 100 acres that have a couple double-black trails. Has night skiing too.

Tricky part of a small place is figuring out how to make it thru a warm winter from a business standpoint.
Royal Mt went to Dirt bike racing and is now one of the premier Racing places in the Country! The have a hill climb up one of our steepest trails AND they Drink A LOT OF BEER- Pays for the electricity (about 100K) to make snow so we ski into April and May some years!
 

Pixie Perfect

Certified Ski Diva
#19
I think Sierra at Tahoe and Diamond Peak would fall under old school. Growing up I skiied Dimond Peak because children skiied cheap & my dad’s family had a condo up there. As an adult I primarily ski Sierra at Tahoe for its affordable prices and it’s proximity to the Bay Area.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#20
I think Sierra at Tahoe and Diamond Peak would fall under old school. Growing up I skiied Dimond Peak because children skiied cheap & my dad’s family had a condo up there. As an adult I primarily ski Sierra at Tahoe for its affordable prices and it’s proximity to the Bay Area.
Makes sense to me from what I've seen online. Diamond Peak for sure.

I remember reading about Diamond Peak when they became the first U.S. ski area to use SnowSAT for more efficient grooming. Apparently Diamond Peak started snowmaking way back in 1966, well before the destination resorts at Tahoe started spending big money on snowmaking infrastructure. Being Old School doesn't mean a ski area isn't keeping ahead with technology important to providing the best snow conditions possible.
 

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