Friday December 28, 2012

First of all, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! There’s snow on the slopes and more in the forecast as I write this. It’s time to go skiing!

There’s a lot of natural snow at most New England ski areas with this week’s big storm.

If you can’t afford the time
or money to travel somewhere to ski, go somewhere close. With modern snowmaking and grooming, the conditions are almost always better than you think they are going to be.

Holiday weeks present something of a conundrum for skiers and riders. It’s the same challenge presented by weekends. That’s pretty much when most people can ski, but that’s also when the slopes are most crowded and the prices are the highest.

Of course, if you happen to like the energy of being surrounded by lots of other happy people, it isn’t an issue. Think of holiday weeks as the skiing version of Black Friday shopping -- without the bargains, of course.

If you don’t like crowds, but still want to ski on holidays, get to the area early in the morning in time for first chair. If you can’t manage that, try to arrive when everyone else has been out on the slopes for a couple of hours and is about to break for lunch. This second strategy can sometimes save you money, too -- check to see if the area offers half-day tickets.

Generally, if you are looking to ski during a holiday week, the smaller and mid-sized areas are going to provide a quieter, more relaxing experience. I’m a big fan of smaller areas any time, and especially during holidays.

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NIGHT SKIING NOW

Christmas/New Year’s is also a great time to try night skiing. Skiing under the lights is pretty magical. Areas that offer night skiing often host after-school groups and night race leagues, which can make the whole scene pretty lively, but that isn’t an issue on holiday weeks. Nights are generally quieter than days. And cheaper.

Bousquet Ski Area (413-442-8316; www.bousquets.com) in Pittsfield, is offering $10 Thursday nights (3 to 9 p.m.) all season long. (Note that you’ll have to purchase a $5 RFID "Access Pass" on your first visit). A regular night ticket is only $20. The adult weekend/holiday ticket is only $37.

On Saturday, Dec. 29, Pats Peak (603-428- 3245; www.patspeak .com) in Henniker, N.H., starts up its Saturday Night POP (Pay-One-Price) program. POP Under the Lights on Saturday nights includes skiing, snowboarding, snowtubing, rentals, lesson tips and entertainment. Tubing hours are from 5 to 10 p.m. Lesson tips are from 4 to 6 p.m., in the beginners’ area.

This is one of the best bargains in New England skiing. The fact that you get the same price during a holiday week is a bonus.

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LEARN-TO-SKI MONTH

If you or someone you know has always thought about taking up skiing or snowboarding, January is the time to do it. January is Learn-to-Ski Month, and almost every ski area around is offering some sort of great deal for beginners.

I’ll be delving into more of these deals next week, but the one at Mount Sunapee (603-763-2356; www.mtsunapee.com) in Newbury, N.H., really caught my eye. It is offering a "Two for One, Join the Fun" promotion, which means you get two "Get Into" introduction to skiing/snowboarding packages for $89. Participants must be at least 13 years old. The package includes a two-hour beginner lesson, rental equipment and a full-day lift ticket to the South Peak learning area. The package is offered from Tuesday, Jan. 2, through
Thursday, Jan. 31, excluding Jan. 19 through 21.

To participate, you have to
print a coupon from the Mount Sunapee website and bring it
to the ski area to purchase your package.