Crowley Family (Brian Ruland)

The starts and stops of this 2012-2013 winter have done nothing to dampen the spirits of Wachusett Mountain in Worcester County, Massachusetts.The resort is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season. 


Wachusett first marked the occasion last Saturday night with a birthday celebration that included some of the snow sports industry’s top luminaries, including David Ingemie, President of the SIA, and Michael Berry, President of the NSAA, as well as many members of the Eastern Ski Writers Association.


The headliners, however, were the Crowleys, the family that has owned and operated Wachusett. Respected in the industry, Ralph Crowley was named the Massachusetts Small Business Person of the Year in 1987. As Crowley was recognized for transforming Wachusett, his staff has undertaken the initiative of making the birthday party memorable.


On Saturday, Dec. 22, the mountain’s 50th Anniversary Retro Celebration offers half-price lift tickets for anyone dressed in the neon/retro look of bygone days. There will be music from the 60s playing in the Coppertop, with a cutting of the 50th birthday cake before day’s end.


Wachusett came into existence in 1933 when Olympian Charles Proctor designed and built the resort’s first ski trail, with a 2,000 foot long T bar servicing patrons. The run was Balance Rock Trail which was improved several years later when the Civilian Conservation Corps arrived, and then added several other runs.


It was a much better option than the hiking trails and auto road that skiers used prior to Proctor’s arrival. The work served him well as Proctor later went on to Sun Valley and designed that trail network.


Shortly thereafter, the CCC constructed the Bullock Lodge warming hut. But it took an advocate such as Wachusett Reservation Superintendent Earle Vickery, who saw the potential in the mountain’s terrain as an alpine ski area. 


In 1959, Vickery convinced the Massachusetts legislature to fund its development. Taking advantage of the boom in skiing, the Commonwealth appropriated $225,000 and Wachusett installed more trails, lifts and snowmaking on its eastern face. The rest as they say…


In the modern era, fixed triple chairs have been replaced by high-speed quads; double chairs have been updated to triples; and in 2000, the main base lodge got an extreme makeover with an additional 10,000 square feet and an expansion of two stories.


To further entice the Boston snow crowd, a ski train was reinstated in 2006, linking North Station to Fitchburg. A shuttle ride later, and skiers and boarders are on the hill.


In 2010, Bullock Lodge was renovated, and after being mostly idle for 50 years, re-opened as Bullock Lodge Cider House.The evolution of Wachusett has resonated with eastern skiers and riders, who continue to populate the resort with strong ratings from snow sport publications and online communities. That, alone, is worth celebrating. 


Photo: From left: The Crowley Family – Chris, Ralph, Carolyn Stimpston, Jeff, David (Brian RulandPhoto/Wachusett Resort)