This year, more than ever, you just have to stop and look at the sign for the trail honoring the man and the family that changed the snow sports industry in their own unique way.
Yes, a few turns down Ralph's Run at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, MA., will make you think, think about the void that might have been left had Ralph Crowley not decided to begin operating a skiing area in central Massachusetts.
It makes you think of 50 years of Wachusett, now a skiing and snowboarding destination, 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 got 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 then there are the “what ifs” associated with the Crowley family legacy in general:
- 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 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?
- 1968 - Wachusett Mountain Associates is awarded a five-year lease by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the ski area.
- 1975 - Lights are installed.
- 1983 - The “Wa, Wa, Wachusett” jingle is created.
- 1987 - Ralph Crowley is named the Massachusetts Small Business Person.
- 1996 - The largest stand of old growth forest east of the Connecticut River is discovered on the mountain.
- 2011 – SKI Magazine names Wachusett as one of the Top 20 resorts in the East.
- 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 one 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: Good.