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Wednesday, December 19 Local

Norma Bartol: Hitting the slopes, then and now

Imagine my surprise when I opened my Sunday newspaper and found the following headline, “Snow Country Preview,” at this time of year. Since I have been a skier for a good part of my life, I was most interested.

It LL started out like this: My grandmother was left with me, which she loved and I loved, for Christmas vacation one year when my parents were in Texas on business. What to do? As it happened, my grandmother spent part of the summer in Woodstock, Vt. What a grand place to ski — it was one of the early resorts.

So up we went via the train, as there was one then. We stayed at an inn, and my grandmother arranged to have a young man teach me and my caretaker how to ski. The skiers at the base box must have been amazed, especially as several pairs of old-fashioned ski pants were included in the mix. In those days, the snappy ones worn today were not part of my wardrobe. Therefore, off I went with the attractive young man to the slopes.

Since it was a lovely sunny day, I loved my lessons. After starting on the easiest slopes, I had developed a bit of ski knowledge by the end of the vacation. I loved every bit of it.

It was also fun meeting some young people whose parents were also staying at the inn. I hated to go home, although riding home in a fancy seat in the Pullman car was also interesting to me. All in all, it was a wonderful vacation.

That is until my parents arrived home. It seemed that my mother wanted me to enjoy the parties in New York, rather than become a skier. Then, my skiing became a slim bit of my life. Fortunately, in the years to come, I met some friends who were skiers and who asked me to join them.

At this time, I was college-bound and my cousins, the Warner brothers, asked whether I would like to join them in their ski house in Stowe, Vt. Of course! How wonderful it was, and continued to be until age caught up with me. In the meantime, I had brought up four skiers and my husband, who I had met on the slopes.

Today, age and other interests have caught up with my skiing, but I was pleased to see the headline “Snow Country Preview: Eastern ski resorts roll out biggest changes in years.” Frankly, I feel the changes happened when the first chairlift at Stowe was built.

According to the story, “Skiers will ride faster lifts, cruise down new trails, and this season the group will ride and kick back in sparkling new lodges.” The lodges have added more snow-making that is more efficient. An unusually early season was launched at Connecticut’s Mohawk Mountain, thanks to a snow-making test.

At Mount Snow, accommodates turned modern with a heated pool and indoor ice rink, and a space car lift from the hotel to the lifts.

A Connecticut resident opened the Killington ski area in Vermont in 1958. He also introduced the “experience” — a popular ski week that came with lodging, lessons, rentals, and equipment.

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At Killington, they even dug two tunnels on Snowdown Mountain that will allow skiers to enjoy a top-to-bottom run. To say nothing of the fact that you can rent exclusive use of Pico Peak in Vermont on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for a mere $6,500.

Also, there’s a new snow bowl lift at Stratton. And Bretton Woods in New Hampshire has the first eight-person gondola. Okemo in Vermont is now owned by Vail Resorts, which also owns Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont. Catamount Ski Area, where we could ski for a day, has been sold for $3 million.

How the ski world has changed.

Greenwich native Norma Bartol, a former Greenwich Time reporter and columnist, lives in the backcountry.

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