Exiting the pokey, red double chair at the Black Mountain summit, I left my ride, slid down the ramp and stopped in the face of Mount Washington — what a beauty.
Sail down the steeps of Jackson Standard or the turns of Valley View and take in vistas of the serene town called Jackson below but also gaze upon peaks like Tyrol and Doublehead. Wiggle down the trails and gaze over to Bartlett and Attitash and Bear Peak. Maybe you’ll recognize mountains like Kearsarge from the south-facing and affordable mountain.
The compact mountain’s been written up lately for its embracing of uphill skiing culture, but going downhill’s a blast when the conditions are right. Last Sunday, a blissful day at historic Black was had with temperatures that started in the winter-like 20s and inched up into the spring-like 40s with the snow becoming buttery and soft until it was time to go.
I hadn’t skied Black this season, so it was time. I figured the last day of Presidents’ vacation week might be a good time to go with one set of vacationers leaving and another set coming up.
The early bird definitely got the corduroy, having a seat in the lift at 8:30 a.m. and enjoying doing laps over on easy-to-carve trails like Spruce, Juniper and Galloping Goose while also making lots of turns on both sides of the summit — Upper Black Beauty to the east and Upper Maple Slalom to trails like Upper Speedwell, Lower Speedwell and Bob-o-Link on the west.
Drink in the sun while cruising off East Bowl and Sun Valley. See the parking lot start to fill up at the end of each run. Smile to the uphillers on the edge of the trail.
Black reminds me a bit of Vermont’s Mad River Valley with its lifts not in any hurry and acres of ungroomed terrain that let skiers and riders play on natural features and bumps. I’m always reminded of Black’s history while in its dyed-in-the-wool lodge with its breezeway to the bathrooms.
But it’s in that breezeway that an old summer brochure hangs on the wall. It’s tough to figure out the year it was made but it trumpets Black’s scenery, hiking trails, picnic area, summer camps and more. The lift ran from July to mid-October. The cost was a buck.
It’s more than a buck now — locals Sunday afternoon special is $20 — at the independent ski area, one of the state’s oldest. What started as an inn amenity in the mid-1930s with a rope tow grew with its lifts like the shovel handle cable lift, T-bar and eventually a chairlift in 1965.
The mountain now boasts of 45 trails and sports a vertical drop of some 1,100 feet. As the calendar turns into March and thoughts turn to spring, carving turns at Black on the right day is right on.
There are those who may wax nostalgic about where Black has been while younger skiers and riders may see it as a place to their outdoor recreational future. No matter. Rest up on the chair, take in the views and point those tips downhill for cruising without the crowds.
March is also the month for ski museum fundraising through various events. The 24th annual Hannes Schneider Race, a ski race to benefit the New England Ski Museum, will be held at Cranmore Mountain Resort on March 14. It is especially notable because 2020 falls a full century since Hannes Schneider first appeared in a ski film produced by German filmmaker Arnold Fanck, the first of a series that would make him famous throughout Europe and the world. Entry forms and more information can be found on meistercup.org.
On March 8, the New England Ski Museum will hold its 10th Nordic Marathon at the Bretton Woods Nordic Center of the Omni Mount Washington Resort. Details and a link to registration can be found on skireg.com.
A giant slalom ski race and 5K Nordic sprint to benefit the Ski Museum of Maine are scheduled for March 12 and 14. The third annual Legends GS Race begins at 1 p.m., March 12 at Mount Abram in Greenwood outside Bethel, Maine, while the first annual Tom Kendall Nordic Legends 5K begins at 1 p.m., Saturday, March 14, at the other Black Mountain in Rumford. Find out more at skimuseumofmaine.org.