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  • First Ever Turns at Ascutney

    By Mitch Kaplan

    Photo courtesy Ascutney/Jerry LeBlondHannah was a little nervous. She'd looked at the mountain and couldn't quite figure out where SHE was going to ski. The place seemed awfully big. Real big, if you were only six and had never skied before.

    Camille, on the other hand, wasn't worried at all. She was more concerned about smearing the peanut butter just right on her mini-bagel. And getting some hot chocolate. But, hey, what did Camille know? She wasn't even three yet, and she wasn't going skiing. She was only going to Ducklings. Day care. Shoot, she did that at home.

    But, Hannah, she was qualified to be a Mini-Olympian. And, Mini-Olympians went skiing.

    You can vacation at much larger resorts in Vermont than Ascutney. You can visit ski areas there that boast many more runs, more vertical and more lifts. But, as we discovered - myself, Hannah, Camille, and their parents Ken and Cathy - you're not likely to find any Vermont resort that handles young kids much better than this large monadnock mountain. (Okay - I'll tell you - a monadnock is a mountain that's not in a chain, but that stands alone.)

    We reassured Hannah, of course, her parents and I. But, we really didn't need to. By the time we'd passed through the brief and amazingly organized line to register her for the weekend's program, she'd already fallen under the charming spell of the Ascutney staff. How good was that staff? Well, when we'd Photo courtesy Ascutney/David Brownellbecome confused about where to get Hannah's equipment, we were provided a personal escort to help us get the job done.

    As to Camille, well, let's just say that she walked into the day care center, immediately made a fast friend named Tony, and never looked back.

    Somewhere in mid-morning, mom, dad and I skied the wrong way (accidentally on purpose?) and found ourselves back at the base village area. As we rode the Village Triple back up, who did we spot but Hannah herself, riding to the top of the beginners' Wonder Carpet. Looking mighty intense, she was, as she moved to the beginners' slight hill and pursued her mini downhill run. Looking pretty good, too.

    After lunch, Cathy went to check on Hannah, "just to see if she needed warmer clothes or anything." The kid's only comment? She wanted to switch instructors to a guy - I think - named Rick. Why Rick? Because he had candy.

    We snuck over there at mid-afternoon to peek at her progress and, whoa! - there she was, tree skiing. Yep. By this time the group was using the beginner triple chair (later Hannah just couldn't figure out why her parents thought it a big deal that she was already riding a chairlift), and they were skiing down through a garden of life-sized character cut-outs and between two small patches of trees. They whizzed along effortlessly, looking for all the world like a line of ducklings.

    Photo courtesy Ascutney/David BrownellLate that afternoon, as I walked from my condo to dinner in the main lodge, I passed through behind the lodge. A diverse and loud crowd had gathered. Music was playing. Kids were sliding down the small hill on inflatable tubes. Other kids were skating where the snow had been cleared from the pond. Still others were roasting marshmallows over open fires. There was a whole lot of laughing going on. Currier & Ives couldn't have painted a more idyllic picture of winter fun.

    I didn't see Hannah and Camille there, though. Turns out they'd gone swimming at the Fitness Center. But, the next morning I ran into Hannah and her dad at breakfast (Camille was still sleeping). "How'd you like the skiing?" I asked her.

    "Good," she said with purposeful understatement. But her smile belayed her enthusiasm.

    "Going out there again today?"

    "Yes!" she crowed with delight.

    Yeah - you can find bigger hills than Ascutney in Vermont. But, I don't think the place takes a back seat to anybody when it comes to handling families with young children.

    For lodging info visit our KidzTravel page here .

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