So It’s Not The Rockies.  But What Makes Mom-And-Pop Special?

Ski Butternut in the Berkshires: All you need for a fun day with friends at a typical local area.
Credit: Ski Butternut

[Editor Note: As we are seeing in a month of startling industry news, the ski business is rapidly consolidating.  Big corporations are buying portfolios of resorts.  Vail has added Stowe to its collection. Aspen and its private equity investors, KLS Capital Partners are plucking up Stratton and Mt. Tremblant, among others. Other consortia have been formed or are forming. Where does this leave the mom-and-pop local area, probably closer to home, less exciting facilities, average food, but nicely discounted mid-week tickets for seniors? This is an important question in an industry that is moving away from smallness.] 

Support your local ski area. You know the place. It’s likely the place you learned to ski at and/or where you brought your children to teach them. If you have grandchildren, its the place you are bringing them to ski. It’s likely the ski area is privately owned and supports the surrounding area by employing local workers. Simply put, we go to local ski areas to ski. We don’t go to see others or to be seen. We don’t go for après ski activities or plush lodging.

Small is better? Accessible, economical, family-friendly, local ski areas have a community feeling.
Credit: Ski Sundown

We need to support our local ski areas by skiing at them. Increasingly smaller mountains are being bought by corporations or going out of business. Local ski areas are by definition closer to home, they are less crowded and have less expensive lift tickets. Midweek skiing at one of my favorite areas, Ski Butternut, in Western Massachusetts, is $25 for all skiers! Every season, I make it a point to ski at Butternut and several of my other local ski areas, and each time it’s a wonderful experience.

Aesthetically my local ski areas fit into their surroundings rather than dominate them.

When I go to my local ski area, I don’t race there. I know I’ll park close to the lodge, I won’t have to wait in line for tickets or in lines to get on the lifts. The entire day is more relaxing. I know I’ll get plenty of great skiing, and I don’t have to jockey to get a place in line or compete for a table to have lunch at. I do less racing down the mountain (though I can do that if I want) and spend more time stopping, looking at the scenery or talking to people. I feel safer skiing at my local area because there are few, if any, rude or aggressive skiers. While skiing, I don’t have to keep looking over my shoulder to make sure I’m not going to get run over.

It’s a more relaxing day, because everything feels manageable. First time visitors are not going to be confused about where to park, how to get to the lodge or what trails go where. At the end of the day, families don’t have to worry about finding their children because everyone ends up in the same place. Since local ski areas are less overwhelming and feel safer, parents are more likely to give children the freedom to ski on their own. As a child, one of my favorite memories was being allowed to ski with my friends and explore the mountain without our parents.

Because I skied these areas as a child, I get the added benefit of a wonderful sense of nostalgia. When traveling, I’ve also had great fun skiing at independently owned mountains that I’d never been to before.

Spend a day or so exploring a local ski area and experience the charm and fun they have to offer. Just take a look at a small sample of season pass senior deals for next season:

Ski Butternut, Western MA: $175 (70+)

Ski Sundown, Northwestern CT: $109 (70+)

Catamount: Eastern NY: FREE (80+), before 6/1 $150, before 9/1 $155 (70-79)

What’s your local area? How are the deals shaping up for seniors?




  1. Don,

    Ski Bradford, In the Bradford section of Haverhill, MA is a family owned area that you should consider profiling.
    I have been teaching there since 1999 and it’s a local gem, credited with teaching thousands of kids and adults to ski for over 60 years.

    • Ken
      Ski Bradford is exactly the type of family owned area I was thinking of. Large mountains owe a debt of gratitude to these local ski areas because a large portion of their skiers learned to ski at these mountains and from instructors such as yourself.
      Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Daniel Berson says:

    For the NYC area two senior bargains (at least in the past season) are Mountain Creek (free 72+) and Mt. Peter (free 70+). Mountain Creek in full operation is three connected mountains (the old Vernon Valley and Great Gorge combined) and does offer the five mile linked “Southern Soujourn'”. Mt. Peter is tiny and old time, but can be a lot of fun.

  3. Patrick Higashi says:

    I’m 75 and I ski at Sierra At Tahoe. It’s a great family ski area. A season’s pass for 70+ skiers is $139.

    • Pat
      Being an Eastern skier I was unfamiliar with Sierra at Tahoe. I just visited their website…by my standards that’s a lot of mountain. Thanks for sharing this DEAL with our readers.

  4. Sherm White says:

    I ski and work at Smugglers Notch in Northern Vt, which I would describe,as a “hybrid”, over 2000ft of vertical, a destination area with a strong local following. Don makes a strong point about supporting your local area, but I would expand it beyond small. Whatever your local area is, support it. They are the heart and soul of snow sports, and hopefully always will be.

  5. Sherm
    It we don’t support them some will disappear. I don’t want to see any more ski areas on the New England Lost Ski Area Project (NELSAP) website or similar site for any region.
    I haven’t skied Smuggs in nearly 45 years (over 4 hour drive for me). I intended to get their this winter but didn’t make it…next year for sure.

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