Sunny and scenic, Jackson’s vintage ski area celebrates 80th anniversary
JACKSON — Located in a sunny pocket of this scenic alpine and cross-country ski-centered village, Black Mountain has been making memories since 1935 — and those memories are carrying on strong as the family run-affordable area celebrates its 80th anniversary season.
Owned since 1995 by the Fichera family and managed by John Fichera and staff, the popular family area is said to be the oldest continuously operating lift-serviced ski area in New Hampshire, and one of the oldest lift-serviced areas in the country.
A series of events are planned for February School Vacation Week, starting with Black’s annual Chairlift Speed Dating on Valentine’s Day Saturday, Feb. 14, and continuing through Sunday, Feb. 22.
Live apres ski entertainment will be featured daily, and the mountain will continue to present family events in conjunction with the Mount Washington Valley Children’s Museum.
Apres ski performances and events for February vacation week as part of the 80th include: Eighth annual Speed Chairlift Dating, followed by Ben Cook and an Angry Orchard promotion, on Feb. 14; Greg Walsh and a Moat Mountain Brewery promotion on Feb. 15; Ryan St. Onge of Shark Martin Feb. 16; Ben Cook Feb. 17; Narragansett Beer promo and Ben Cook Feb. 18; Tim Dion Feb. 19; Ben Cook Feb. 20; Full day party with Ride & Ski and a Coors Light promotion featuring games, raffles, prizes and more • Feb. 21 and Tim Dion to kick off New Hampshire February vacation week Feb. 22.
Black today harks to its roots as a family-friendly, affordable area that offers classic New England skiing on sunny, meandering trails that all give beautiful views of the surrounding landscape.
John Fichera notes that he and his family have been proud to carry on the Black tradition.
“It is living history (and that is saying something in today’s world). People just love it, I mean really love Black. You walk through the lodge, and you hear folks talking to friends or their kids saying, ‘This is what skiing is all about,’” he said.
Black was known as Moody’s back when it started — Edwin Moody had a farmhouse that took in some lodgers. He also had a hill behind the house.
In 1935, he and local inventor George Morton and Phil Robertson (later of Cranmore and Attitash) of the local electric company at Goodrich Falls hydro-electric dam put up a tow, and soon skiers were flocking to the place.
In fall of 1936, avid hikers Bill and Betty Whitney bought the farm and renamed it Whitneys’ (that’s a possessive plural, Betty always said, because it took two people to make a go of the ski and innkeeping business).
The following winter, the Tufts-educated, mechanically-inclined Bill Whitney retrofitted Black’s rope tow by turning the bullwheel horizontal so it would not slip off so easily.
He also ordered 72 shovel handles from Sears Roebuck — he attached the handles to the slippery rope, making it easier for skiers to hang on.
Henceforth, the lift acquired a nickname — the Shovel Handle. Today, the Shovel Handle Pub at Whitneys’ carries on the old tow’s name. Shovel handles also hang from the rafters in the lower part of the Shovel Handle Pub today, giving patrons a sense of Whitney’s innovative approach. The inn and pub today are owned by Don Bilger, also owner of the nearby Inn at Jackson.
Black is born
In 1948, Bill and Betty teamed up with Stanley and Halsey Davis to expand their ski area’s trails to Black.
To help rebrand the larger new area, Whitneys’ was renamed Black Mountain.
New lifts and the base lodge were built over the years.
After 33 years of successful ownership, the Whitneys decided to sell in 1969 to begin an active life as hikers, world travelers and community citizens. Bill passed in 1976,a d Betty at age 102 in 2005. They created the Whitney Community Center as their bequest to the town.
In 1969, the Whitneys handed over the reins of Black to former ski patrol director Don Murray and his wife, Kathy.
In the early 1980s, a group of local businessmen took over Black Mountain and started a five-year investment plan. For the 1982-83 season, the base lodge was expanded by 10,000 feet. Two years later, top-to-bottom snowmaking was installed, along with a new triple chairlift. That triple serves Black today, along with the Whitneys’ Slope J-Bar, the J. Arthur Doucette Double Chair, a Platter Pull and a rope tow.
In March of 1996, John and Andrew Fichera formed Alpine Resources Corp. as the owning organization.
The mountain now has snowmaking on 98 percent of its terrain, with 143 skiable acres. Under John Fichera’s tenure, new expert trails and glades have been opened, adding to an array of trails that includes novice and intermediate terrain.
Fichera also upgraded the cafeteria. The Lostbo Pub has been expanded in recent years, offering weekend apres ski during the season from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., and daily during holiday weeks.
The mountain’s ski school is continuing its $29 learn-to-ski package all season long as part of the 80th anniversary season.
The mountain also operates a junior race program. A nursery and ski shop complete the winter offerings.
Black’s Family Passport allows two adults and two children (aged 6 to 17) to ski for $159 on weekends and $129 non-holiday midweek days.
For a truly different experience, Black offers people the chance to try a Snow Cat snow groomer ride: half-hour rides are offered weekends and holidays starting at 4:30 p.m. by reservation.
After February vacation week, the mountain offers fun spring events, including the EICSL champioships March 7, and the annual Shannon Door St. Patrick’s Day Children’s Parade and Easter Egg Hunt March 8. A spring splash party always ends the season in late March.
In warmer months, Black’s base lodge hosts functions such as reunions, weddings, fundraisers and business meetings. Black also runs a popular horse-riding program in summer and fall, where riders can get lessons, attend horse camp and even ride to the Black Mountain cabin and spend the night.
Winter or summer, it’s about families making memories.
Black Mountain is located on Route 16-B, high above Jackson Village.
For more information, visit www.blackmt.com or call 383-4490.
UPDATED BY TE 2-10-15