Before the advent of high-speed quads, live slopeside webcams, heated ski boots, and nearly-three-digit lift ticket prices, New England skiing was pure family fun with some icy patches mixed in. This winter try out some of the retro charm at these friendly mom-and-pop venues that cater to families.
QUECHEE LAKES SKI AREA, Quechee, Vt.
Talk about postcard perfect: Jingle your way from the base lodge to the ticket booth on a horse-drawn sleigh to start your day on the 100 acres of beginner and intermediate slopes, great for first-timers and those looking to perfect their parallel turns. Bonus: The beginner slope rope tow is always free. Adults $40, kids $34, age 6 and under free. After 2 p.m. adults $15, kids $12. Open Fri-Sun and holiday weeks only. www.quecheeclub.com
BLACK MOUNTAIN, Jackson, N.H.
The oldest ski hill in the state, with 78 years of rich skiing history, Black Mountain feels like a throwback to another time. Black hasn’t changed too much from when the first overhead cable lift in the country was installed on its scenic slope overlooking Mount Washington in 1935. This family-owned spot prides itself on affordability, small-mountain friendliness, and high-quality ski programs. Bonus: Black’s southern exposure provides protection from the wind and is incredibly welcoming on blustery days. Adults $35 weekdays, $49 weekends and holidays; ages 6-17 and 65 and over $25/$32; under 6 free. www.blackmt.com
SADDLEBACK MOUNTAIN, Rangeley, Maine
With 2,000 feet of vertical, 66 trails and glades, and the largest steep skiing and riding in the East at Kennebago Steeps, Saddleback is a true skiers’ mountain. Beginners have four miles of gentle trails and a Ski and Ride School with the lowest student-instructor ratio in the country (classes capped at five). Saddleback gives skiers a high alpine, true wilderness experience at an unbeatable value. Bonus: The views of Rangeley Lakes alone are worth the price of admission. Adults Sun-Fri $49, Sat and holidays $59; 7-18, college, and military $39/$49; under 7 free. www.saddlebackmaine.com
MAGIC MOUNTAIN, Londonderry, Vt.
Here is the cool, low-key little brother of the big Vermont ski resorts. Magic’s original 1960s-style trails are legendary, from off-piste glades to old-school black diamonds. Founded by Swiss-born ski instructor Hans Thorner, who aimed to create “a little corner of Switzerland,” Magic has a European feel in its diverse terrain and the miniature Swiss village at the mountain’s base. Aptly named Magic invites families and diehard skiers alike searching for a laid-back atmosphere with serious skiing. Bonus: Reflecting the retro vibe, they have introduced Throwback Thursday tickets for $15 (nonholiday). Adults $49 weekdays, $63 weekends and holidays; teens $35/$55; ages 6-12 and 70 and over $36/$43; under 6 free. www.magicmtn.com
ABENAKI SKI AREA, Wolfeboro, N.H.
Community-owned and -operated, Abenaki is the oldest small ski area in the United States (with trails cut in 1936), as well as one of the 10 oldest areas in the country. Offering five trails from green to black diamond, glade skiing, night skiing, a terrain park, one of the fastest rope tows around, and a cozy rustic lodge, Abenaki is small town skiing at its best. Bonus: Feel like you’ve time traveled as you enjoy a burger at a picnic table next to the 1940s lodge. Weekdays and weekends (nonresident children and adults) $17. Kiddie Tow: $5. www.wolfeboronh.us
CATAMOUNT, South Egremont
Skirting the New York border in the Berkshires, Catamount is a family-owned resort that strives to keep the same low-key, pure skiing vision of its founders in 1939. With six lifts serving 31 trails and 130 skiable acres, 1,000 vertical feet of skiing, three terrain parks, a designated learn-to-ski area accessed by a triple chairlift, and arguably the Bay State’s steepest trail, a double-black-diamond run with moguls and a double fall line ominously named Catapult, Catamount has enough diversity to challenge any level. Bonus: Fourth- and fifth-graders ski free with an adult ticket, valid most weekends and holidays. Adults 14-69 $30 weekdays, $62 weekends and holidays; ages 6-13 $27/$51; 5 and under $15/$10. www.catamountski.com
RAGGED MOUNTAIN, Danbury, N.H.
Kids will love skiing through an actual barn in the Barnyard Beginner area while adventure seekers will enjoy the three terrain parks and glade skiing at this resort a mere 90-minute drive from Boston. This year they have opened a new 10-lane tubing park over two football fields long. Bonus: Military discount of 25 percent with ID weekends and holidays, 50 percent discount midweek. Adults $54 weekdays, $67 weekends and holidays; ages 6-12 and 65-79 $39/$49; teens and college students (with ID) $49/$59; under 6 and 80 and over free. www.raggedmountainresort.com
MOUNT ABRAM, Greenwood, Maine
Enjoy summit views of Mount Washington and the Presidentials as you ascend one of the two chairlifts, T-bar, rope tow, or tubing lift at this learn-to-ski mountain big on environment stewardship and low on attitude. Five miles from Bethel, Mount Abram offers 560 acres of “Boundary to Boundary” skiing, as well as a beginner’s area with its own trails, lift, and lodge. Bonus: Don’t miss the Thursday learn-to-ski program with lesson, rental, and four-hour ticket for $25. Open Thu-Sun, Thu tickets $25; Friday is Caravan Car Load day when the entire car costs $79; adults $49, 6-17 and 60-79 $39; under 6 and 80 and over free. www.skimtabram .com
DARTMOUTH SKIWAY, Lyme Center, N.H.
From the welcoming McLane Family Lodge, a soaring, timber-framed structure, to the recently upgraded snowmaking capabilities, the Skiway offers everything from bunny slopes to glade skiing. Home to nearly 100 Dartmouth All-Americans and more than 30 national champions, the Skiway is one of only a handful of US ski areas owned by colleges or universities but open to all. Bonus: The Holiday Weekender deal. Ski for two consecutive weekend or holiday days for $75 adults, $60 teens, and $50 ages 6-12, 5 and under free. Adults $30 weekdays, $45 weekends and holidays; teens $28/$35; 6-12 and 65 and over $25/$30; under 6 free. www.skiway.dartmouth.edu
CROTCHED MOUNTAIN, Bennington, N.H.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary since reopening in late 2003 (it closed in 1989), Crotched Mountain has gone from being on the Lost Ski Areas of New England list to one of the premier southern New Hampshire ski hills. With a huge investment from owners Peak Resorts over the past decade, including a new lodge, state-of-the-art snowmaking and grooming equipment, and 100 percent terrain lighted for night skiing, Crotched is back in a big way. Bonus: Get whisked to the summit in four minutes on The Rocket, a newly installed high-speed quad. Adults $50 weekdays, $62 weekends and holidays; juniors, seniors, and military $41/$50; under 6 $10 any day. www.crotchedmountain.com