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In the 1950s during snowy Christmas vacations my parents would pack up the station wagon and head over to New Hampshire to go skiing. At this time, most Mane ski places hadn’t even been invented yet. I remember for several winters we went to a family-owned place called East Hill Farm, in the shadow of Jaffrey’s Mount Monadnock.. All the guests at East Hill Farm stayed right there in the owner’s huge farmhouse and all our meals were served in the sprawling dining area.
There was a small hill out back where all the trees had been cut down. The owner had put his John Deere at the foot of the hill, taken the wheels off, attached a large pulley to it and rigged himself a clever rope-tow to haul his guests up the hill. It was a pretty basic operation, but we liked it – and like I said this was the 1950s. In those days a ski vacation was mostly a vacation. If you got a little skiing in around the edges that was fine, too.
Back then skiing, in these parts, was definitely not what they now call a “mainstream” activity and those who skied tended to be a tad on the eccentric side – or else they were from northern Europe.
At East Hill Farm back then the best skiers by far were not hotshot college kids but middle-aged guests with thick German-sounding accents – although because it was so soon after the war, they all claimed to be “Swiss.”
Once the sun went down there at East Hill Farm there were no singles bars to hang out in our discos to go to. Of course, I was too young at the time anyway, but I’ve since learned that things were pretty quiet there at night.
Everyone at the inn gathered around the huge fireplace in the front room and told stories or played Crazy Eights. That was the closest thing they had to night life there in Jaffrey.
And you might not believe it to look at the place today but back then North Conway was a sleepy, quiet little village with a few family-owned clothing stores with quaint Alpine facades that made them look like they were high in the Alps instead of in the White Mountains. For that reason everything they sold was “Alpine” – Alpine sweaters, Alpine mittens, Alpine stocking hats and Alpine beer and cigarettes.
I don’t know exactly when it happened but at some point in the late fifties or early sixties the marketing crowd got a hold of skiing and for some of us it’s been all downhill since then.
Soon after this marketing began it seemed everyone wanted to buy some equipment and head north to the slopes. The problem was there weren’t that many ski slopes around these parts to head to.
So right here in quiet, staid, picturesque New Hampshire, big corporations started buying up whole mountains and building massine ski resorts complete with restaurants, ski shops, night clubs and outdoor heated swimming pools. And because of 10 cent-a-gallon oil they were all kept at 84 degrees.
Before long the college crowd began skiing and on weekends in the winter all the roads heading north out of Boston were clogged with ski-toting sports cars.
All these memories came back to me the other day when I picked up a newspaper and read the headline: “Study finds New England Skiers getting older.”
Where has this guy been? Skiers and non-skiers - we’re all getting older. And no matter what we spend on cosmetics and surgery, none of us is as young as we used to be.
Why should skiers be different?
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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