By John Goralski
On the first day of December, Mt. Southington ski area was able to do a soft opening for one day because of a sudden winter chill. As temperatures continued to fall, they were able to start up the lifts the following weekend and snows continue to pile up. With two early storms, increased snow production, and snow guns firing through the night, this holiday week could prove to be one of the best in recent years.
It’s a great way to kick off Mt. Southington’s 50th anniversary celebration.
“I’m hoping that Dec. 1 was kind of an indicator of what this season is like,” said Mt. Southington general manager Ed Beckley in the days leading up to school vacations. “Now, it looks like we’ll be opening this weekend with all our trails open. It’s a big difference from last year. It’s almost a complete 180 degree turn.”
For local skiers, that’s the best possible news. The local facility has geared up for their anniversary season, and it could be a good one.
“We did some new things, but most people aren’t going to see them right away,” said Beckley. “We made a lot of changes to our snow making capacity. We brought in extra power, so that we can run extra snow guns at the same time. It was a major capital expense that we did, but we also added all new rental equipment. We have all new skis and a bunch of new snowboards. We’re pretty excited about it.”
In 1964, skiers at the top of Mt. Southington were treated to pastoral views of apple orchards and farmlands. Over the past five decades, visitors to the local facility have been able to watch the town’s steady expansion from a farm town, to a blue collar community, and a bustling suburb. Highways were strung across the valley like Christmas ribbons and houses popped up like presents under the tree.
Ski areas have come and gone. Even the sport has changed. The one constant has been Southington’s small mountain. Like the town, it has continued to sprawl across the more than 50 acres of mountainside. Longtime general manager Ed Beckley said that the organization takes great pride in being a part of Southington’s growth.
With more than 350 local workers, it’s one of the town’s largest employers. Beckley said that he couldn’t go anywhere in town without running into someone who works or has worked at the facility. The area boasts a celebrated children’s training program for kids aged 7 or younger. They’ve recently added a new lift and practice area for burgeoning skiers. It’s one way that the area has become a family-friendly community meeting place.
“It’s a historic Connecticut landmark, and Southington can certainly be proud of it because we’ve been involved with the community for 50 years,” said Beckley. “We try to give back with donations and community service. It’s a good community thing.”
As part of the celebration, the area has frozen its prices despite rising costs. They are planning a host of festivities centered around the milestone celebration on Saturday, Jan. 11, including a ceremonial ribbon cutting, giveaways, games, prizes, and music on the outdoor deck.
Even though forecasts warn about a blast of hot weather or rains at the start of the holiday week, officials have already laid down between 20-40 inches of packed powder. A little warm weather won’t be a problem.
For more information or up-to-the minute conditions, contact the website at www.mountsouthington. com.