Lost But Not Forgotten: Growing up on King RidgeNov 18, 2022 01:10PM ● By Susan Nye - Photography Courtesy of the Laurids Lauriden Ski School
Spend any time traveling the highways and byways of New England and you’re bound to spot one or a dozen lost ski areas. Located in quiet, rural areas, most had a lift, maybe two, possibly a warming hut but more likely an outdoor firepit and not much more. Size didn’t matter. At least during the long winter, they were the heart and soul of the surrounding towns.
Often run on a shoestring and without snowmaking, a few bad winters could put these hills out of business. All these years later, bankrupt and abandoned or transformed into housing developments, the faint outlines of old trails are all that remain. That and many wonderful memories of growing up on skis.
The Good Old Days
I grew up on one of those lost ski hills. Between the gentle trails and the ski school, King Ridge was a great place to learn to ski. Perfect for families, the trails, lift lines, and lodge were jammed with moms and dads and kids. You could always find a friend to ski with and, if your own weren’t around, someone else’s mom or dad would do their best to keep you from misbehaving.
Okay, maybe it was the times, the good old days, but King Ridge was one of those places where parents dropped off their kids at 8:30 or 9 in the morning and picked them up six or seven hours later. If you had an emergency—like it was 10 below zero, it started to rain, or your brother broke his leg—and needed an earlier pickup, no problem. You didn’t even need a dime to call home. You simply called your number. When your mom answered, the operator told you to deposit 10 cents. Instead of dropping a dime, you quickly shouted, “Come get us! It’s too [icy, cold, or whatever excuse]” and hoped she’d come.
A Happy Accident
Our King Ridge adventure started one sunny Saturday morning. Driving up from the Boston suburbs, Dad missed the turn to Pat’s Peak and we discovered King Ridge. Accident turned into coincidence when we bumped into some neighbors at lunchtime. While my sister Brenda and I continued skiing, Dad joined our friends on the deck of their ski house for lunch and a bloody Mary. One thing led to another and 11 months later, we had our own little vacation house in the woods near Pleasant Lake. Even better, we were the proud owners of season passes to King Ridge.
As far as Brenda and I were concerned, we’d hit the big time. Up until then, we’d been skiing in an apple orchard somewhere in central Massachusetts. Dad was our instructor and the ride up the hill was on a rope spun around the wheel of an ancient Ford. With loads of other beginners, dozens of apple trees, and old stone walls, skiing down was an obstacle course. There was no real lodge, just a barely heated farmstand that sold apples and lukewarm cocoa.
King Ridge, on the other hand, had the Laurid Lauridson Ski School, about a dozen trails, a couple of T-bars, and at least one dreaded rope tow. Luckily, our rapidly improving skills kept us off the beginners’ slope and away from the rope tow. Unlike the no-name trails at the apple orchard, the runs were named after the colorful cast of characters from Alice in Wonderland.
The resort also had a real lodge. While we mostly brown-bagged it, on a few lucky occasions we splurged on lunch. A definite treat, even if the lady behind the counter complained loudly about the out-of-towners while she flipped burgers and rattled the French-fry basket.
Let the Fun Begin
Now, all those upgrades didn’t come cheap. As long as we bought before Labor Day, a season pass for our family of five (Mom and my little brother took up skiing once we built the little house in the woods) was just over $100.
Every morning as we backed out of the driveway, Mom or Dad would insist we show proof that we had our hats, gloves, goggles, and ski pass. If you forgot any of the first three, you could rummage through the lost and found and, hopefully, find something to keep your fingers and/or ears from freezing. If you forgot our pass, well, that was another story. For that, you had to go to the office and see Mrs. Badmington. If you thought a trip to the principal’s office was bad, it was nothing compared to Mrs. Badmington’s third degree.
King Ridge was the perfect place to learn to ski. The short, gentle runs were groomed to perfection. Dad used to joke that between Monday and Friday the crew shoveled snow out of the woods and onto the trails. They probably did. But, pre-snowmaking, the season was short. That meant that no matter how cold it was, if there was snow, we went skiing. No questions, no arguments. A thrifty Yankee, Dad expected us get our money’s worth out of those passes. (Mom was more of a softy on that score. She didn’t like the cold.)
Changing Times and Fond Memories
From our first ski on that sunny Saturday morning, King Ridge steadily expanded, adding trails, lifts, and eventually snowmaking. Even with snowmaking, intermittent snow droughts have ensured that skiing is and always will be a tough industry in New England, especially for small mountains with limited elevation and terrain. By the mid-nineties, King Ridge had 20 trails and seven lifts, including three chairlifts and not a single rope tow. It also had accumulated significant debt.
To the chagrin of one and all, King Ridge ski area was put on the auction block in June 1995. Once the playground of local kids and vacationers, several houses now perch on the summit and admire the expansive view. Thankfully, the developer carved out a bit more than 400 acres for the King Hill Reservation. The trails in the reservation remain open to hiking and backcountry skiing. Those trails plus fond memories of a winter wonderland are all that are left behind.