3-21-19 Basch-Decorated Trees

A tree adorned with beads is spotted at Loon Mountain. (MARTY BASCH PHOTO)

They are an unmistakable part of ski culture. Spotted from the chairlifts, each tree has its own motif of hanging ornaments. We’re not talking about candy canes, snowflakes or streams of lights. No. These trees are laced with beads and undergarments.

For the past two seasons, I’ve noted some of the trees across northern New England ski resorts adorned with lacy and outrageous attire and other ornaments like glittering compact discs and vibrant beads.

The trees seem to see an increase in trinkets as the season progresses, with them coming into decorative maturity as Mardi Gras is celebrated followed by spring’s longer days of sunshine and season-ending spirited events.

Beads appear to be the dominant decoration of late.

Not every ski area has them but I’ve seen them in various shades of adornment from lifts like the Abenaki Quad on Bear Peak at Attitash, Cranmore’s Skimobile Express, the Wildcat Express, Shawnee’s triple, Cannon’s Peabody, Loon’s Tote Road and North Peak lifts, and at a few Sunday River lifts.

Pinpointing the exact genesis of the decorated trees is a challenge, though an editor’s response to a reader’s inquiry about the origin of the phenomenon in the December 2007 issue of Skiing Heritage may provide a colorful clue.

Credit for the first so-called panty (or bra or bead) tree is believed to go to Aspen Mountain’s Bell Mountain lift in Colorado in the late 1950s. With its mix of visiting debutantes and European ski instructors, the air was vibrant for hooking up. (Kids read this column so I’m taking it easy here.)

One explanation for the tree, the editor surmises, is that it was the place to hang trophies from the previous night’s explorations. The practice spread to Vail in the 1970s to include Mardi Gras beads — that tradition springing from New Orleans when beads are tossed out to, um, revealing participants — and then across the country. When families complained about a tree at Colorado’s Beaver Creek in the 1980s it was cut down.

To find local tree pedigrees, I reached out to ski areas in the valley and beyond to see if they wanted to chime in with an anecdote or two about the trees that spring up at their resorts, provide some background about them and what happens to the decorations once the lifts shut down.

They passed.

So keep your britches on this spring and toss with taste.


All valley ski areas have now released 2019-20 season pass rates.

Black Mountain appreciates locals with its unlimited passes for full-time Carroll, Coos and Oxford County residents. Adults pay $249, teens (13-17) are $225 and juniors (6-12) are $199. Rates increase May 1.

King Pine’s Adventure Pass is good for skiing, riding, cross-country skiing, ice skating and snowshoeing at the East Madison ski area. Adults pay $495 for the unlimited pass while teens 13-18 are $405 and juniors 6-12 are $345. The midweek version is $190, $160 and $130, respectively. Rates go up June 1.

The unlimited local student pass (rates increase Dec. 1), good for Carroll, Grafton, Belknap and Strafford plus the Maine counties of York and Oxford residents, is $270 for juniors and $325 for teens.

Shawnee Peak’s lowest prices are available until April 1 on their pass options like the unlimited adult for $685, ages 19-29 pass for $359 and high school (ages 13-18) for $465. A midweek pass is $485.

Bretton Woods recently announced a new No Regrets’ season pass option for ages 5 to 29, including unlimited skiing and riding this season and next from $399.

With all the snow out there, Cranmore is continuing daily operations through the end of the month instead of its traditional weekends only near season’s end. From March 25 to 29, Carroll, Coos and Oxford counties residents pay $29 for tickets. There are also online specials at cranmore.com for those dates for all skiers and riders.

Extending the season is a possibility at some ski areas as daily ticket prices fall in spring.

Sunday River has released its spring operations schedule which starts curtailing operations April 8 by the closing of Aurora, Oz and Jordan mid-week. A decision will be made mid-April whether to extend the season past the planned April 21.

Now go get those goggle tans.

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