Visit MaineToday's profile on Pinterest.

About The Author

mainetoday

Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

Send an email | Read more from Carey







Posted: January 26, 2015

Skiing: Southern exposure puts skiers on the sunny side of life at Black Mountain

Written by: Carey Kish

The view from the south-facing slopes of Black Mountain in Jackson, NH is pretty sweet, taking in a range of mountain peaks from Doublehead to Kearsarge, the Moats to the Tripyramids. The ski trails of Attitash and Cranmore, two other great Mt. Washington Valley ski areas, are visible amongst the scenic jumble, as are the upper heights of the village of Jackson.

If you stopped for a moment to re-read the first sentence, I can’t blame you. Yes, I did mean “south-facing.” While most every ski area one can think of faces north or northeast or northwest to hold the snow longer, Black is just the opposite. But the mountain seems to make this unusual geographic aspect work just fine, opening in mid-December each year and going until the end of March. In fact, Black Mountain has been serving skiers continuously for 80 years, so I’m figuring they know what they’re doing.

Black Mountain's southern exposure and sheltered location means plenty of sunshine and not so much wind. Photo © Carey Kish.

Black Mountain’s southern exposure and sheltered location means plenty of sunshine and not so much wind. Photo © Carey Kish.

“When other mountains are closed due to windhold, Black Mountain is wide open owing to its sheltered location,” said Genn Anzaldi, the mountain’s marketing director. “And we have the best snowmakers and groomers who make lot of big snow piles and move it around good. The mountain holds the snow really well.”

GREAT MIDWEEK VISIT

This skier visited Black Mountain on a bluebird Tuesday a couple weeks back, my first visit ever. Tuesdays are relatively quiet times at any ski mountain, but on this particular day we pretty much had the slopes to ourselves. A handful of cars in the lot and maybe a dozen other skiers and that was it, so in addition to some pretty darn fine skiing we enjoyed zero lift lines.

We made laps on the East Bowl Triple Chair all morning and well into the afternoon, enjoying the blue cruisers on skier’s left—Juniper, Galloping Goose and Runaway—as well as the steeps on Jackson Standard. It took a hundred feet of easy herringboning to make the start of Maple Slalom Chute on skier’s right, which led Big Dipper and Upper Speedwell, Bob-A-Link, David and Jubilee. Just for fun we mixed it up some on the Poma lift affectionately called the Platter Pull.

Not much for lift lines on a Tuesday at the Black Mountain triple chair. Photo © Carey Kish.

Not much for lift lines on a Tuesday at the Black Mountain triple chair. Photo © Carey Kish.

Late December and early January presented New England ski areas with some pretty challenging weather conditions. Black Mountain was making snow bigtime when I visited in hopes of opening the double chair to the summit as well as the upper trails by MLK weekend. Everything is open now, some two weeks hence.

The skiing was wonderful and we stopped often to soak up the sunshine and enjoy the great views; no particular agenda in mind but to savor each run.

PLENTY OF TERRAIN FOR EVERYBODY

“It’s a fun place and it’s bigger and more challenging than you think,” Anzaldi said.

Black Mountain does indeed have something for every skier type—never mind the incredible southern exposure sunshine and dearth of wind—with its nice mix 45 trails and glades on 143 acres and 1,100 feet of vertical drop. Snowmaking covers 98% of the mountain. Four lifts include a triple and double chair, a Poma lift and a J-bar.

Kids and families especially appreciate Black Mountain for its single base lodge and one bathroom area, and the Platter Pull lift that provides terrific access to lots of kid-friendly terrain.

“Kids have independence here. You’re not going to lose them. There’s a parent every 10 feet,” noted Anzaldi with a smile.

Black Mountain sports 45 trails and glades on 143 acres and 1,100 feet of vertical.

Black Mountain sports 45 trails and glades on 143 acres and 1,100 feet of vertical.

Another big plus to note about Black Mountain are the very affordable lift ticket prices, just $40 for adults on weekdays and $55 on weekends. Awesome specials help save even more green: Tuesday is $25 Ladies Day, Wednesday afternoon you can ski 12:30 to 4 for $17, and on Thursdays hit the slopes for $25 if you’re over 55. And for families, well, try the Family Passport for just $159 and get an entire season of midweek skiing for two adults and two kids.

Black Mountain is a pretty affordable place to ski. Photo © Carey Kish.

Black Mountain is a pretty affordable place to ski. Photo © Carey Kish.

80 YEARS OF HISTORY AT BLACK MOUNTAIN

Black Mountain is steeped in skiing history, having marked a number of significant firsts. A rope tow was installed in 1935 in hopes of attracting more guests to Moody’s Inn. In 1936, the first ski school in the U.S. started right here with the idea of drawing more people into the sport (it worked!).

Also in 1936, Bill and Betty Whitney bought Moody’s Inn and renamed it Whitney’s Inn. The rope tow was modified into an overhead cable lift, the first in the U.S. Whitney bought 75 shovel handles from Sears Roebuck and attached them to the cable for skiers to hold on to as they rode up the sloping fields on Whitney’s Hill. This surface lift remains today as a J-bar, the oldest operating lift in New England.

The J-bar surface lift at Black Mountain is the oldest operating lift in New England. Image courtesy Black Mountain.

The J-bar surface lift at Black Mountain is the oldest operating lift in New England. Image courtesy Black Mountain.

During the winter of 1957-58, the first snowmaking system in the country was installed at Black Mountain. Lights were added for night skiing in the winter of 1959-60.

Upstairs in the throwback Black Mountain base lodge, there’s a cafeteria on one end and the Lostbo Pub on the other. The cafeteria serves up plenty of fine lunchtime chow, while the pub has many of the same items and more, as well as table service (plus you can get a beer, of course). We opted for the chili and a big cookie each for our lunch break, and a PBR tall boy and Tuckerman’s Pale for après ski.

Tim the barkeep in tyhe Lostbo Pub stands guard over my PBR tall boy. Photo © Carey Kish.

Tim the barkeep in the Lostbo Pub stands guard over my PBR tall boy. Photo © Carey Kish.

Weekend and holiday afternoons after the skiing is done (but before you settle in to your après ski brewski), take a groomer ride up the mountain; just $20 for 30 minutes of good fun (reservations needed).

Great mountain views from the slopes of Black Mountain! Photo © Carey Kish.

Great mountain views from the slopes of Black Mountain! Photo © Carey Kish.

APRES SKI & SKI AND STAY

The adjacent Whitney’s Inn is a nice place to hole up for the night, a weekend or a week. Reasonably priced ski and stay packages are available. The inn’s Shovel Handle Pub is open for après ski with live entertainment Thursday through Sunday evenings from 5 to 9.

Since it was Tuesday, we headed down to Jackson village proper and the venerable Wildcat Tavern. We’d been told (warned?!) of the Tuesday night “Free Pasta Night” extravaganza and just had to take a look-see for ourselves.

Every Tuesday night from 5:30 to 8:30, any ski area-related employee eats for zippo. Ski that day and show your lift ticket and belly up to the food bar for just $6. Everybody else gets in the chow line for $9. This deal is AYCE, so we were advised to come hungry. We did and were not disappointed, getting our fill and then some of lasagna, pasta and veggies, salad, soup, bread and deserts. Throw in a few pints of good beer and you have the makings for very festive Tuesday evening.

Every Tuesday night from 5:30-8:30, show your lift ticket from any mountain that day and chow down on pasta for $6 at the Wildcat Tavern. Photo © Carey Kish.

Every Tuesday night from 5:30-8:30, show your lift ticket from any mountain that day and chow down on AYCE pasta for $6 at the Wildcat Tavern. Photo © Carey Kish.

“There’s a reason we’ve been here [at Black Mountain] for 80 years,” said Anzaldi. “If you haven’t been to ski here, you’ve got to try it.”

Make your way to Black Mountain in Jackson, NH for a most excellent ski day and experience the place for yourself. The mountain is 80 miles or 1.5 hours driving time from Portland via ME 25, US 302 and NH 16.

MORE INFO: Black Mountain, 603-383-4490. Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, 877-948-6867.

The Black Mountain cafeteria serves up a mighty delish bowl of chili. Photo © Carey Kish.

The Black Mountain cafeteria serves up a mighty delish bowl of chili. Photo © Carey Kish.

The Wildcat Tavern in Jackson is an awesome apres ski spot. Photo © Carey Kish.

The Wildcat Tavern in Jackson is an awesome apres ski spot. Photo © Carey Kish.

Mountains of good food and so much fun!

Mountains of good food and so much fun!

Black Mountain's compact base area makes it easy to find friends and family during the ski day. Photo © Carey Kish.

Black Mountain’s compact base area makes it easy to find friends and family during the ski day. Photo © Carey Kish.

The first ski school in the US started right here at Black Mountain. Image courtesy Black Mountain.

The first ski school in the US started right here at Black Mountain. Image courtesy Black Mountain.

The first overhead lift in the US was installed at Black Mountain in 1936. Image courtesy Black Mountain.

The first overhead lift in the US was installed at Black Mountain in 1936. Image courtesy Black Mountain.

There's a reason the Shovel Handle Pub at Whitney's Inn is so named.

There’s a reason the Shovel Handle Pub at Whitney’s Inn is so named.

Up Next: