I’ve always been a big fan of stockpiling periodicals. In fact, a casual perusal of the files in my basement will reveal a treasure trove of frozen moments spread out over decades; front pages of The Boston Globe celebrating World Series and Super Bowl wins, accompanied by clips of a more random variety, like when Bruce Hurst signed with the Padres or when the Celtics hired Dave Gavitt as team president.
There are a host of Ski and Skiing magazines — mostly from the 90’s — as well, copies so thick with content and ads that it can make one wistful for that sort of reading experience in comparison to our information overload today.
But what’s great about perusing through these issues is the ability to remember, or learn about, skiing history in “real time.” It’s always worthwhile to remember just how different skiing was 30 years ago, or how it hasn’t changed much at all.
Many editions of both Ski and Skiing are available online via a Google Books search, and it makes for a fascinating way to dive down the mountain rabbit hole, if you will. There’s always some interesting nugget that I learn about, a moment in skiing history that never resonated for one reason or another.
For instance, a random search last week brought me to the Spring, 1985 edition of Skiing Magazine, which contained a short passage about the Busch CitySki, a 1984 event when two tons of snow and ice were dumped on the Boston Common to create a dual slalom race course. It happened to be the first time that Bruins legend Bobby Orr put on a pair of skis, and it makes me wonder if Orr ever found the experience worthy enough to try it again at some point over the next 35 years.
The piece that really caught my eye in this issue though was a feature on skiing at Wildcat Mountain in New Hampshire. It’s a poignant account of author John Skow’s familiarity with the no-frills Pinkham Notch locale, during which he notes that one result of Wildcat’s “plainness” is that not many fancy people go there.
That’s true today as well.
Which is why when the news came down over the summer that Vail — VAIL — of all places had just purchased Wildcat Mountain as part of its Peak Resorts swoop, there was a sense of incredulity. Vail, that place with the elite vibe, site of the Bogner fashion shows in lift lines, the conglomerate of all skiing conglomerates…Vail owned Wildcat?
There’s always a knowledge that things are going to change — for better or worse — when new ownership comes knocking. It will be the case for Wildcat under Vail’s Epic pass, but more in line with higher ticket window prices and maybe a few more interested eyes swinging by to experience a new stop on their Epic buffets this winter. Beyond that, it’s not like Wildcat faithful are soon going to find a base village being built under the strict parameters of its National Forest home.
That’s why reading, “A Loyalist Skis at Wildcat,” is like an appreciation for New England ski areas that have stayed faithful to their foundations. Really, the only things Skow mentions in his piece that are any different at the ski area today are the presence of the gondola (since replaced by one of the best quads in the business) and cost (in 1985, an adult all-day lift ticket was all of $21).
The sometimes-gritty skiing, the majestic view of Tuckerman Ravine, and the familiar vibe captured on one of Wildcat’s finest powder or spring days aren’t going anywhere.
“[Wildcat’s] loyalists are fierce,” Skow wrote, “and an occasional visitor is likely to find, without ever quite realizing why this is so, that he is becoming a regular and a loyalist himself.”
Doesn’t sound much different from where we sit nearly 35 years later.
The New England ski season is only a few weeks old, but we’ve already had our first lift malfunction. This one took place at Mount Snow, where about 200 people had to be evacuated last Saturday, according to WCAX. There were no injuries reported.
“Everyone at the mountain, they were all so friendly,” skier Tarja McGrail told CBS Boston. “It never felt like I wasn’t safe.”
Steals and deals
Each week in this space we’ll bring you some unique deals to keep an eye out for when you’re planning your time in ski country. This week, we present the New England Ski Journal readers special at the Comfort Inn and Suites in North Conway. Receive 10 percent off all direct-booked reservations by calling the hotel at 603-356-8811. Visit www.northconwaycomfortinn.com for more information. This deal is good for the entire 2019-20 season.
World Cup domineers Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin are the subjects of documentaries coming out this fall. The retired Vonn’s is an HBO Sports production debuting on Tuesday (10 p.m.) when “The Final Season” recounts “Vonn’s life from her childhood in St. Paul, Minnesota and her later relocation to Vail, Colorado, where she fully realized her skiing potential.” Shiffrin’s series of profile pieces take place on Outside TV, where viewers can now watch the first four episodes of the seven-part “A Matter of Time.”
That’s some solid appointment viewing ahead of next weekend’s World Cup event at Killington, where Shiffrin will, once again, look to wow the crowd.