This year, more than ever, you just have to stop and look at the sign for the trail honoring the man - and subsequently the family - who changed the snow sports industry in their own unique way.
Yes, a few turns down Ralph's Run at Wachusett Mountain makes you think. It makes you think about the void that might have been left had Ralph Crowley not decided to begin operating a skiing and now skiing and snowboarding area in central Massachusetts.
It makes you think of 50 years of Wachusett, mostly under the leadership of Ralph and his family.
You think about a lot of what ifs.
What if Ralph, as legend has it, never began getting tired of that ride to Vermont each weekend?
What if he did not persevere with environmentalists and state officials to prove that one could develop trails and maintain a respect for old growth forest?
And that has translated to the Crowley family legacy in general...
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What if the Crowleys never put an emphasis on fun in the lessons?
What if the Crowleys never developed a state-of-the-art lodge that makes many big mountains just jealous?
What if the Crowleys never decided to add skyboxes - yes the snow sports version of corporate suites - to that lodge.
What if the Crowleys never re-opened the Bullock Lodge to link the place to its historic past?
What if Wachusett, like some day hills limited to 1,000 feet of vertical, decided not to install high-speed lifts?
What if the Crowleys never defied their relative southern location with stellar snowmaking and grooming?
What if the Crowleys never owned Polar Beverage and featured Orange Dry in the food court and restaurants?
Here's a timeline on Wachusett's 50 years:
• 1962 - Lift-serviced skiing begins with the opening of a 2,000-foot T-bar.
• 1963 - A 3,500-foot T-bar is installed and a ski shop opens at the base of the mountain.
• 1967 - The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection takes control of Wachusett Mountain ski area.
• 1968 - Wachusett Mountain Associates, under the leadership of Ralph Crowley, is awarded a five-year lease for the ski area.
• 1975 - Lights are installed and Wachusett offers two skiing sessions each day.
• 1976 - The first after-school learn-to-ski program is introduced.
• 1976 - The Graduated Length Method of ski instruction comes to Wachusett along with short ski pioneer Clif Taylor.
• 1980 - Massachusetts passes legislation that allows the ski area to expand on an additional 450 acres of the mountain.
• 1981 - Wachusett Mountain Associates is granted a long-term lease to operate the ski area.
• 1982 - The first phase of expansion is completed with a lodge, two chairlifts, six trails and a computerized snowmaking system.
• 1983 - The “Wa, Wa Wachusett” jingle is created.
• 1983 - R.H. White Construction company, of Auburn, MA, temporarily manages the ski area, and invests in further expansion.
• 1984 - Three trails are added and a chairlift is extended to the summit, giving Wachusett 1,000 feet of vertical.
• 1987 - The U.S. Small Business Administration names Ralph Crowley Massachusetts Small Business Person of the year for transforming Wachusett.
• 1988 - The Black Diamond Restaurant opens.
• 1992 - Mountainside Ski & Sport opens in the Main Base Lodge.
• 1993 - Wachusett expands with five lifts, 18 trails and an additional 19 acres.
• 1995 - The Polar Express, a four-passenger, high-speed chairlift goes to the summit.
• 1996 - The largest stand of old growth forest east of the Connecticut River is discovered on the mountain during expansion planning.
• 1998 - Wachusett Mountain acquires the Wachusett Village Inn.
• 2000 - The Minuteman lift gets converted to a high-speed quad chair, giving Wachusett two four-passenger chairlifts.
• 2000 – The base lodge is expanded with the addition of the Granite Room and second-story mountain suites.
• 2000 - The Monadnock lift is converted into a triple chairlift.
• 2001 - A segment from Hollywood movie “Shallow Hal,” directed by the Farelly Brothers, is filmed at Wachusett.
• 2003 - Environmentalists protest Wachusett’s expansion plans and perch in Vickery Bowl area trees for 45 days.
• 2004 - The Vickery Bowl, with two new trails and a lift, opens after nearly 10 years of environmental review.
• 2004 - Wachusett Mountain is named the site for filming the movie “The Legend of Lucy Keyes.”
• 2006 - The Ski Train from Boston was reinstated in partnership with the MBTA.
• 2008 - The Crowley Family receives the Sherman Adams Award from the National Ski Areas Association for significant contributions to the ski industry.
• 2010 - Bullock Lodge reopens after 50 years serving fresh cider doughnuts and hot cider prepared by Red Apple Farm of Phillipston, MA.
• 2011 – SKI Magazine designates Wachusett as of the the Top 20 resorts in the East.
• 2011 - A four-passenger chairlift replaced the Monadnock triple in the beginner’s area.
• 2012 - Wachusett defies Mother Nature in one of the worst snowfall winters on record and remains open most of the season.
It's funny, but during that frustrating season a year ago, longtime Wachusett Marketing Director Tom Meyers openly challenged the snow sports media to trust the technology, come to Wachusett, and write about the experience.
It was good, which in a nutshell sums up the one-word to really describe the past 50 years there.
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