Blue Hills, Canton, Mass.
From the chairlift at Blue Hills Ski Area, it feels as if you could reach out and touch the gleaming skyline of Boston, which looms just beyond the city's South End flats. With a little over 300 vertical feet and a handful of runs too short to get you to the chorus of that song running through your head, Blue Hills is little more than a neighborhood hill, conveniently located just off the Route 128 beltway. But during prime-time hours, this tiny hill-built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Thirties-hums like an MBTA train at rush hour. (In fact, you can reach it by city bus.)
Truth is, the place needs some work. The lodge is a cinderblock sardine tin, and the rental facilities are inadequate. But who better than a couple of construction company owners with ski-area experience to take over and fix the place up? Enter Al and Walter Endriunas, who also own Ragged Mountain in Danbury, N.H. They've signed a multi-year deal with the Metropolitan District Commission, which owns Blue Hills.
Instead of laying out cash for the right to operate it, the Endriunases, who skied here as kids, have agreed to make much-needed capital improvements. Already, snowmaking upgrades have made a big difference.
"We are here and here to do it right," Al Endriunas says. He's upfront about his ulterior motive-turning Blue Hills into a conveyor belt that will transport skiers northward to Ragged. Let them learn their turns in Boston, then ski New Hampshire on weekends.
Naturally, kids programs are big: Some 1,200 children enrolled for skiing and snowboarding lessons last season. On a typical day, college racers hit the slopes well before 9 a.m. Then the youth programs kick in. At the other end of the day, the lights wink on and high school racers take over, sharing the lift with locals who prefer the fresh air on the slopes to an evening in the gym.
Especially when it's this cheap: Lift tickets cost half as much as what you'd pay up north. That makes skiing affordable at Big Blue-a little hill with a new lease on life.
BLUE HILLS, CANTON, MASS.
Statistics 309 vertical feet, eight trails, one double chair, two pony lifts, one Magic Carpet, one carousel.
Average annual snowfall 50 inches.Adult lift tickets $29; midweek $20.
Information 781-828-5070; www.thenewbluehills.com.