When Good Ski Areas Go Bad

Last season, when our son was in fifth grade we took advantage of SkiNH Snowsport Passport program  – the kid got a free lift ticket at all the ski areas in the Granite State  (pretty cool, huh?) real motivation check out different mountains. We started close to home and went to  Mount Sunapee and Pat’s Peak. While Sunapee was nice, Pat’s Peak won the side-by-side.  A short drive by 20 minutes and, when a staff member  helped the kids carry their gear from the loading zone to the racks outside the lodge the deal was sealed – we thought we’d found our new favorite.  While the lifts were slow, and the lodge in need of a need of a renno, the old-timey family friendly feel suited us.

This year for the  MLK long weekend, we headed  back to Pat’s.  Saturday and Sunday were brutally cold – the wind chill brought the temp down to 20 below – so we explored the charms of Main Street Concord, and swam in the motel’s indoor pool.  On Monday, when the temperature climbed within a degree or two of zero, we layered up, headed to the mountain, when through the whole unload the gear (no helpful attendant this time), park the car, buy tickets, suit up routine.  Finally, a little before noon, we were ready for our first run.  With three of us we went to get on the Hurricane Triple lift – that’s went things went south.  Our seven year old daughter mistimed getting on the lift.  I looked back and saw the liftie continuing to groom the snow in the loading zone and my little pink clad peanut wondering what to do. “Get on the next one!” her brother and I yelled.  She did. She got in the chair by herself, alone.  She wasn’t big enough or strong enough to pull down the bar. “Sit back! Sit back! You’re doing great!” I shouted over my shoulder all the way up.  Later I learned that it takes  a seven and a half minutes to get to the top.  She was crying when she unloaded.  I held her close, told her how brave she was.  It took awhile, but we skied down.  We got back on the lift that threw us, skied down again and then packed it in.  All of the fun had gone out of it.

That evening I called Pat’s Peak and told the woman at customer services what had happened. She listened and sympathized and promised that Sarah, the director of lift operations would call back. A couple of days went by – no call from Sarah. I called again, and left a message. A couple of hours later Bob called.  He heard explained that lowering the bar isn’t the lift attendant’s responsibility and that, as Pat’s Peak hosts school ski team races many, many kids ski at their mountain and kids even younger then seven are capable of lowing the restraining bar themselves.  Bob said that he was sorry we’d had a bad experience, but we should come back again. He was sure that we’d have a better time. When I told my daughter that I was talking to folks about what had happened to her she asked if they even knew her name.  They never asked. A note to her would have gone along way to heal her hurt. I bet she never skis at Pat’s again.

A week later, she and I went to Wachusetts, had a long lunch and then rode the chair lift where the attendant helped her on, lowered the bar, gave her a big smile and an “atta girl.”

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