Tim Jones: Sometimes it pays to think small


If I ever get so jaded I can't have fun on a little ski hill. I'm going to give up skiing. I hope, for your sake, that you feel the same way.

Now don't get me wrong. I purely love the biggest and burliest mountains that New England, New York and Quebec can offer. There's something soul-satisfying about a non-stop, breath-taking, thigh-burning top-to-bottom run at Stowe (www.stowe.com), Sugarbush (802-583-6300; www.sugarbush.com) or Mad River Glen (802-496-3551; www.madriverglen.com) in Vermont; or Whiteface (www.whiteface.com ) in New York; or Mont Orford (1-866-673-6731; www.orford.com) in Quebec.

I'm glad they are all within an easy day's drive of me. But they are all farther away and a lot more expensive to ski than some little local hills.

On Saturday, my sweetheart Marilyn and I, along with our friends David and Susan Shedd skied Granite Gorge (603-358-5000; www.granitegorge.com ) in Roxbury, N.H. It was a cold day, some weather forecasters were blathering about "dangerous cold;" we laughed, dressed warm, went skiing and had a ball.

Granite Gorge was once a "lost" ski area. It operated as Pinacle Mountain (www.nelsap.org/nh/pinnacle.html) until the mid-70s, reopened as Granite Gorge a few years ago and has been steadily adding improvements since, a little at a time.

By the way, when I say it's a "little" area, I mean it covers only 55 acres and has 525 vertical feet. But one thing in Granite Gorge's favor is that 525 feet carries its pitch from top to base. There are no flat spots or long run outs. They had about half their terrain open and were blowing more snow all day.

An all-day adult lift ticket here is $45. There's a cute little base lodge with a snack bar and they offer lessons and rentals, cross-country skiing and tubing. In short, it's a real ski area.

On a "busy" Saturday, we had to wait in line exactly once, when we happened to hit the lift line at the precise moment that all of the Saturday morning lessons were launching. After that, we sometimes had to wait for two or even three chairs to load before we could get on. The lone double chair (there's also a handle tow for the main terrain park and a beginners carpet lift), moves right along, getting you to the top of the hill before you have a chance to chill. The wind was blowing; we could hear it, but never really felt it.

Susan wanted to work on her technique, particularly turn initiation, so she and I took several runs together. David and Marilyn went their own merry way, found a couple of small jumps and went over them a number of times, gradually gaining speed, height and distance. You could hear them giggling over the whole mountain.

After three hours, we were cold, hungry, ready for a break and grinning ear to ear. After lunch, a few more runs put the perfect cap on the day. By that time, there was almost no one else on the hill, though the snow was still in perfect shape.

On the way home, all we could talk about was how much fun we had had. Nobody felt like we had to ski more to justify an expensive ticket. We just had enjoyed a lovely little hill with everything we needed.



On Superbowl Sunday, Mount Snow (800-245-7669; www.mountsnow.com) in Dover, Vt., has three great deals: the Super Morning Ticket is valid from 8 .m. to 12:30 p.m.; non-football fans can ski Sunday afternoon for $25 with the "I Hate Football Ticket "or ski all-day Sunday and Monday for $99 with the Super Sunday Plus two-day ticket.

Tim Jones writes about outdoor sports and travel. He can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com


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