“Is it a real slope? Boston doesn’t have slopes”. This was my mum’s perception when I told her I was going night skiing near Boston in Massachusetts.
All we’ve/I’ve known since I was under 2 years old is skiing in the French Alps, getting there by taking the Eurostar, then a bus winding through narrow roads climbing higher and higher, away from civilisation and into an onslaught of popping ears. Pretty far from my London home for a ski session.
Rival that with an hour or so’s drive outside Boston on Wachusett Mountain? An amazing, new thought for me. I was short on time this visit (only a long weekend), so night skiing was the best option taking into account everything else we wanted to do. And my, my, was it beautiful!
As suggested earlier, I’ve been skiing since I was younger than 2. Well, I was first put on skis when I was 18 months old. All I did was shuffle then. Going every year since then has spawned a love for skiing but perhaps one I took for granted: not having gone the past few years, I thought I was doing fine but realised the burning desire to just get on those skis, don my once-thought embarrassing helmet and hurl down a mountain.
And that I did. On Wachusett Mountain, in Worcester County in Massachusetts. It’s elevated 2006ft (611m), which just about surpasses the UK’s “mountain-not-hill” criteria of 600m. So yes, it is small, but it has 22 trails and 8 lifts. It gets its own natural snow, but when these are low, it gets topped up. We had no issue as it snowed the day before, when I arrived in Boston (great for skiing, not so great for landing a plane).
“It’s no Alps! Don’t expect a lot”, said Alan, but I wasn’t worried. It reminded me of a mini-Alps resort. Each trail had its own adventure and changed the way you skiied; you didn’t necessarily think you were on a small mountain. There was a cute wooden cabin halfway down a trail which made me think of the mulled wine/hot chocolate stop off points on the Alps; though this Massachusetts cabin could definitely have done with serving alcoholic drinks.
I mainly just wanted that feeling skiing back – even if the views in the Alps are beyond beautiful and striking. But the view from Wachusett was quite extraordinary. Here I was, with my ski gear on, surrounded in snow, cruising down a mountain on skis… and there was Boston’s skyline. A skyline I’ve seen from many places: Top of the Hub in Boston’s city, the plane, in a car, but never while I was skiing.
The moment I kicked my first boot into my ski, I felt a rush of excitement and relief: I was home. This is what I know, what comes as second nature to me. More came back to me than I expected – all my little habits I developed over years of skiing revealed themselves without me even thinking about it. Placing my gloves over my poles (though that one’s obvious); my poles straps over my skis when leaving them somewhere (again, obvious); my bum shuffle when getting to the end of a chair lift; and taking off my first ski with my other ski. Though, possibly my favourite was zooming past Alan and automatically mimicking Road Runner – “meep meep” – something my brother and I constantly did on family holidays in the Alps.
The thing I missed most about skiing – and now miss all over again – is the exhilaration. When else can you so smoothly go that fast in stunning surroundings? When else can you adapt a surface to get the exact rush you want to: sharp turns, smooth and wide, off-piste jumps, moguls? It brings out the most playful in all of us and it’s still a great workout, plus it makes you feel so incredibly alive. I find that one of the best feelings in the world and I increasingly think that’s what I strive for in my travels.