Ray LaRocque, 60, didn’t have a mission when he started skiing at areas all over New England. The postal worker who lives in Belchertown, Mass., started skiing small ski areas to avoid paying big bucks for a lift ticket. Soon, he discovered the charm of tiny areas and began to seek them out.
If we were on a chairlift right now, which one would it be?
It would be the Red Chair at Magic. That was the first one I ever rode.
What motivated you to ski at 100 ski areas in New England?
I started skiing when I was 20. Warren Miller always said, ‘If you don’t ski it this year, you’re going to be a year older when you do.’ So I like to try at least one new ski area every year.
When did 100 become a goal?
Every good story starts with a road trip. Two years back, I went to ski Jay Peak with some friends. I didn’t really know all the guys, but we spent the whole night driving up together—two feet of powder had fallen, and we wanted first tracks. When we filed into the van for the ride home, the guys in the back started fighting over who had skied the most. All of a sudden I had eight guys pumping questions at me: ‘Have you skied here? Have you skied there?’ My friend Mike asked how many mountains I’d skied, and I didn’t know. With a three hour ride ahead of us and nothing else to do, I started counting them. I came up with 83, worldwide.
And when did your ‘worldwide’ focus turn toward New England?
Jump forward a few years: I’m going to ski Cranmore Mountain for the first time. It was snowing the night before, and I couldn’t sleep, so I counted the areas I had skied in New England. It just so happened that I had 49 mountains in New England, and Cranmore was my 50th.
On the ride home, my friend Jeff and I started talking about whether we could ski 100 mountains in New England, but we didn’t think there were 100 left open—maybe 75. After a few years of research, we kept finding more and more.
What was it like, skiing all of those little mountains?
Many are pretty small, but they’re gems and great places to ski. It’s worth a trip to go to the little hills and find uncrowded skiing. Like the Mount Greylock Ski Club in Williamstown, Mass.—you step back in time by entering that rustic 1937 lodge. They have a rope tow gripper, which looks like two spoons hinged together with a rope attached. The rope goes around your waist, and you clip the tow gripper over the rope, squeeze it tight and hang on. It’s the only one in use in North America. At the Bullock Lodge at Wachusett Mountain, Mass., they have homemade apple dumplings and hot cider. In Maine, Lost Valley has multi-colored chairs, and Ski Mt. Jefferson makes homemade squash doughnuts. From the top of Camden Snow Bowl, you can look out over the Atlantic. In Vermont, you can ski with Olympians (the Cochran family) at Cochran’s Ski Area, or ride the fastest rope tow in the east at Northeast Ski Slopes in East Corinth. Suicide Six is the oldest ski area in America that’s been running continuously. It started in 1934 and is still going strong.
What was number 100?
Hard’Ack Hill in St. Albans, Vt. was the 100th place we skied, and that was a beautiful little hill.