Mass. ski area was first to open in the U.S. this season


Skiing

Guests skied during a fall festival on October 22.

A small Massachusetts ski area surprised the skiing world this season by opening first in the country, beating out ski resorts in Colorado.

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Skiers were carving turns on a small strip of man-made snow serviced by a magic carpet for one day on October 22 at the 45-acre Ski Ward in Shrewsbury during its fall festival.

Ski Ward, which opened in 1939, is one of the oldest continuously operating ski areas in the country. It has a 220-foot vertical drop and nine trails and four lifts, including a triple chair, T-bar, and carpet.

“Shout out to Ski Ward for getting things started for us,” POWDER magazine wrote.

Ski Ward celebrated on Facebook, writing: “First turns of the 2023/24 season at Ski Ward! Give it up for the little guys.”

October skiing was made possible thanks to Ski Ward’s new snow-making machine called Latitude 90, which makes artificial snow in any kind of weather.

Colorado took notice, with The Summit Daily News writing an “unexpected ski area” opened first, noting that Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin, Keystone Resort, and Loveland Ski Area routinely compete for the title.

Alan Henceroth, COO of Arapahoe Basin, otherwise known as A-Basin, wrote the following blog post about the opening:

“Our friends at Unofficial Networks are reporting that Ski Ward, Massachusetts has opened for skiing. With $5 tickets, a couple groomer widths of snow and a carpet, skiers and riders are sliding in New England. Kudos to Ski Ward for offering up some good, slippery fun.”

— Alan Henceroth

Ski Ward said on Instagram that opening first “wasn’t our original goal” after the festival.

The ski area made headlines for making snow over the summer while testing its new all-weather snowmaking machine.

General Manager Stephanie Lacroix told Spectrum News in August that the new snowmaking machine meant a guaranteed opening date in November.

“We know despite weather, we will be able to open the first week of November regardless of whether or not we have conventional snow making temperatures and we’re also hoping for less weather closures during the season,” she told Spectrum News.

Then when it advertised its fall festival, the ski area listed snow among the activities that would be offered alongside pumpkin painting, pony rides, and bounce houses.

Ski Ward is among just a few places in North America that owns a Latitude 90, according to POWDER magazine, which “aren’t capable of covering a long trail from top to bottom in snow, but they provide a valuable boost in coverage to learning areas, terrain parks, and other high-traffic areas like lift lines.”

Private lessons began at Ski Ward on Nov. 1.