Maybe you’re feeling the allure of the mountains to the north, but the thought of dropping thousands on the larger ski resorts is giving you anxiety. Or perhaps you don’t have the time to pack the family into the car for a winter getaway that’s hours away.
With skiing for all different levels, opportunities to learn and other fun activities, like snowtubing and snowshoeing, there are plenty of places nearby that offer all of the winter fun without the wallop to your wallet.
For those living in the Lowell and Fitchburg areas, Nashoba Valley Ski Area and Wachusett Mountain are the top choices that are right in your backyard. A tad farther out in opposite directions, there’s Ski Ward in Shrewsbury and Ski Bradford in Haverhill, two smaller operations that are also great options for local families.
Nashoba Valley Ski Area, Westford
“Nashoba Valley is pretty unique in that it’s 30 minutes from a major metropolitan area,” said President Al Fletcher. “Although we’re not the tallest vertical in town, we’re a pretty well-spread-out ski area with a lot of trails. We also offer a lot of amenities that you might only find at larger resorts, but yet we’re right next to where you live.”
Over the last couple nears, Nashoba Valley has upgraded its snowmaking capacity to 3,000 gallons per minute and and has full snowmaking capability across its skiing and tubing areas, Fletcher said. It has also made lift improvements and upgraded its grooming suite to create a nice surface every day, he said.
Nashoba features a full-service restaurant and lounge, aptly named The Outlook, that overlooks all the slopes, as well as snack bars at both its ski and tubing sites. It has a full retail shop and rental shop with close to 2,000 ski and snowboard setups for all ages, sizes and abilities, and offers a number of ski racing options for kids and adults.
Nashoba has one of the largest ski and snowboard schools in New England, with as many as 200 instructors offering a plethora of options, from multiweek to walk-in lessons, Fletcher said. Group walk-in lessons range from $50 for just the lesson to $100-$110 for lift, lesson and rental package, and there are a number of private lesson options available.
Lift tickets for adults range from $45 to $60, depending on the day and time, and are $28 for the beginners area and children age 5 and under. Access to Nashoba’s 18 snowtubing lanes is $35 per person for two hours.
Want a fun family getaway that’s not so far from home? Nashoba Valley partners with several local hotels for lodging and ski deals that can be purchased from the hotels.
A number of other package deals, specials and season passes are available directly through Nashoba Valley. For more details and current conditions, visit skinashoba.com.
Wachusett Mountain, Princeton/Westminster
According to Director of Marketing Tom Meyers, an early cold snap helped the ski area get prepared, making lots of snow to open Nov. 15 — almost two weeks earlier than it normally opens — and set it up for what has been one of the best first two months of the season it has ever had.
Despite the warm temperatures of last weekend, a thick base of about of 50 inches of snow — a mix of man-made and natural — has kept ski trails and slopes primed for the cold weather ahead.
Wachusett now measures the snow depth on its trails through GPS technology, which enables it to move and add snow where needed, Meyers said. A couple years ago, it also significantly increased its snowmaking capacity, allowing it to pump more than 8,000 gallons of water a minute, he said.
“So we can really manage the snow much better today, thanks to this technology, than we ever used to be able to in the past,” Meyers said.
It’s the first full season for Wachusett’s new beginner area, Whittier’s Teaching Meadow — with its own carpet conveyor lift — located up at the top of the Monadnock Quad.
There’s also a new heated patio in front of the lodge, and a new outdoor food service area, O’Brien’s Deck Bar & Grill, where skiers can warm up by the fire pits and enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.
Other highlights for families include Belgian waffles at the Waffle Cabin and hot cider doughnuts at the Bullock Lodge Cider House.
Need to get your skis tuned up? Drop them off at the “Big Blue,” a new tuning machine that can get your skis ready for the slopes while you grab a coffee or hot cocoa.
Daily lift tickets for adults generally range from $35 to $68, depending on the day, week, month and time of day, though there are some specials, like on St. Patrick’s Day, when lift tickets are $17 all day. Children age 5 and under are $15 each.
Beginners can take advantage of the $99, one-day, learn-to-ski package, which includes lift ticket, ski lesson and rental. Group tickets and season passes are also available.
For non-skiers, there are plenty of trails around the mountain for hiking. There are also occasional snowshoe hikes, snowtubing nights and other events. Check the calendar at wachusett.com for more details.
Ski Bradford, Haverhill
This little ski area in the Bradford section of Haverhill has more than 60 acres of skiable terrain, with lighting and snowmaking capabilities on all 15 of its trails, glades and terrain park with jumps, rails and boxes. The facility includes three triple chair lifts and six surface lifts, a complete rental shop, snack bar, lodge and ample parking.
Lift tickets range $15 to $25 for the learning area, and $24-$58 for all other lifts, depending on the day of the week, time of day and school vacation weeks.
Group beginner lesson packages are $60 per person on weekdays and $70 on weekends. Private lessons range $105 to $130, depending on skill level and day of the week. All lesson packages include area lift tickets, but rentals are an additional $25 per person.
During February school vacation, two-day ski or snowboard clinic packages are available for $190 per person, with rentals for $60.
Current conditions and more can be found on skibradford.com.
Ski Ward Ski Area, Shrewsbury
This small ski area next to Worcester offers nine trails, four lifts, eight snowtubing lanes, a fireside lodge with snack bar and Slopeside Bar & Grill with beer, wine and food specials. It includes 45 acres of skiing and snowboarding terrain, a 220-foot vertical drop and a terrain park with more than 10 features.
Lift tickets range $18 to $26 for the beginners area and $35-$55 for all other lifts depending on the day of the week, time of the day and school vacation weeks. For those who want to come between noon and 4 p.m., on regular weekdays, there are two-hour passes available for $12 for the beginners area and $17 for other lifts. Tubing tickets range $15 for an hour on weekdays to $30 for two hours on weekends, holidays and vacation weeks.
Group lesson and rental packages are $90 for one day, $149 for two days or $199 for three days. Each package includes an hourlong lesson each day, ski or snowboard equipment and boots rental, and a two-hour lift ticket valid after each lesson. Private lesson and rental packages are also available.
For current conditions and other details, visit skiward.com.