The folks at Tenney Mountain want you to know that there’s a new powder day player in town.
Well, technically, she’s been around for 60 years, so let’s call it a rebirth, shall we?
Consider the situation: It’s one of those days, the sort historically bereft of friends, and you’re trying to figure out where to best get the goods. If you live in the Boston area, and aren’t married to Epic or in a relationship with Ikon, there are a few options.
Cannon Mountain, for instance, would provide the perfect big-mountain experience with a fresh foot of snow. But the Franconia Notch, N.H., ski area also is some 2½ hours away from the city. Cutting down on distance, Wachusett Mountain provides a much closer option, only an hour away, but what it delivers in time management it might lack in the sort of steepness desired when looking to get lost in powder.
This is where Tenney’s new leadership is raising its collective hands with an alternative.
The Plymouth, N.H., ski area, recently recovered from New England’s list of defunct ski areas, is only a two-hour drive from Boston and delivers slope degrees that won’t have you struggling through traverses while trying to get to the good stuff on a powder day.
“From a size standpoint, 1,400 feet of vertical is nothing to shake a stick at,” said James Hamilton, co-founder of the marketing firm that has been handling Tenney’s public relations strategy in its latest renaissance. “The pitch is pretty impressive as well. It’s not a lot of windy grades, it’s interesting stuff with a decent aspect to it.
“These aren’t big, highway trails with big snow guns on either side. They’re windy, narrower, more old-school cut trails.”
Think Mad River Glen in terms of the throwback vibe and trail circuit one might expect to find at Tenney, which is looking to make its own such story of independent revival on the New England skiing landscape this winter. After the lifts were shuttered in 2010, a Boston-area family purchased the ski area five years later and has been spending the past few years making improvements that might help to assure Tenney’s recovery would last longer than a fleeting snowstorm.
“It has been a four-year process since the management company took over,” Hamilton said.
The first 2½ years were spent getting the lift infrastructure back up and running, assessing the quality of infrastructure from a surveying standpoint, and putting energy and money into getting the Backcountry Bar and Grill up and running again.
Tenney spent the past two winters with soft openings for Plymouth locals, who helped re-establish the place as an epicenter of the local ski community. It was only once positive word of mouth started to emerge from the local, core audience that those in charge felt it was the proper time to open on a larger scale.
“You don’t want to promote a product that you’re not 100 percent confident in,” Hamilton said. “So, the way that they approached this was very thoughtful. ‘Let’s focus on doing this right and getting this place back up and running, and confirm that we can do that, and that we can bring a good experience. Let’s put a little more focus and effort behind reaching a larger audience and sharing that with more people.’ ”
That time has come for Tenney, using the 2019-20 ski season as a platform for announcing its re-emergence on the scene. In addition to rebranding itself as a laid-back, community-centric mountain, it’s also proper to note the gnarly terrain that greets guests. Three lifts bring more than 45 trails and more than 100 acres available for skiing and riding. That includes a handful of glades.
This also happens to be Tenney’s 60th anniversary, coming at a time when season pass wars and corporate takeovers have seemingly defined the industry. Tenney wants to be among the handful of independent mountains considered to still be among the more affordable, dependable options.
“I think the timing is perfect for that,” Hamilton said. “It becomes harder and harder to find an authentic ski area with a unique identity. Beyond even the value and accessibility of a mountain less than two hours from Boston, there’s also the cultural piece of it. This is what ski areas were, historically, in the United States. The fact that here, in New England, we have such a rich history in the development of the ski industry, it’s a special place because it’s a great example of why people love skiing and why skiing has grown so much as a sport since the middle of the 20th century. More places used to be like Tenney.”
One such place is Magic Mountain, the southern Vermont ski area where the revival to a central focus of value and skiing culture is one that Tenney would like to replicate. It’s in the footsteps of the cult-favorite community-centric Magic that Tenney decided to create a strong relationship with the local ski-touring community. This year, the ski area is offering a medallion good for a free lift ride for any skier checking in at the ticket office before hiking his or her way to the top of the mountain on a backcountry touring setup. It’s a similar process to the one Magic has used over the years to cultivate its own following with the uphill community.
“We really admire what they’ve been able to do in terms of re-establishing Magic as a community mountain,” Hamilton said.
Ski touring has, indeed, been a trend the folks at Tenney have been keeping an eye on, particularly with growth evident in such avenues as Vermont’s RASTA (Rochester/Randolph Area Sports Trail Alliance) and Ski the Whites’ calendar of events at Jackson, N.H.’s Black Mountain.
“We wanted to put together an uphill policy similar to Magic’s as a way of putting our flag in the ground,” Hamilton said. “We want to be a part of that community and a place where that community can go and interact with one another.”
Tenney kicked off its revival earlier this season by offering season passes for only $329, and has adult day tickets for only $59 ($45 juniors, $50 teens). It’s that sort of throwback vibe in terms of both cost and attitude that guests will find at the ski area.
Just don’t expect a high-speed quad to whip you to the top of the mountain on a powder day. Which is just fine with those who know how to tackle those days in the proper manner anyway. Limited uphill capacity normally helps hold snow and allows for more fresh tracks.
Besides, on a good powder day you’re normally in line for a rest in between runs every now and then anyway.
Which all aims to make Tenney come to the forefront of mind when planning a pow day destination. A new option, 60 years in the making.