What is the highest point of land on the Atlantic coast from Boston to the Florida Keys?
Well, it depends on what you define as on the coast, but if you said the Great Blue Hill of Boston, Massachusetts, you would not be wrong. Towering at a height of 635 feet, the summit claims an “unaided view of twenty-five miles.” That may be on a very good day. But it also boasts the Blue Hills Ski Area, which is probably the closet ski area to the ocean on the East Coast. Boston Harbor is a mere 4 miles away.
Blue Hills is one of those classic New England throwback areas, offering a mere 309 feet of vertical off of one double chair. It is a true old school “one lift wonder.”
Last year, pre-COVID on a warm January evening to avoid rush hour traffic, I eased my car off I-95 past the Dunkin’ Donuts World Headquarters and into the ski area. Located on the western side of the Great Blue Hill, the ski area does not offer a view of the ocean, but rather a view of the tail lights on the interstate. However, once on the lift, the traffic faded away and it was ski time.
Blue Hills Ski Area began in 1935 as a Civilian Conservation Corp project. Two downhill slopes were cut into the Great Blue Hill and it opened that winter without lifts. In 1949, the Park Commission added three rope tows. In 1963, a lodge, two J-Bar tows and a double chair lift were added. The double chair lift was replaced in 1978. The J-Bars faded away and a magic carpet was installed in the 2000s to aid with lessons on the “practice” slope. The area now operates under license from the Park Commission.
Located at just above sea level, snow in the Greater Boston area is feast or famine. There are years when the snow will just not stop coming and years when it will just not come. The ski area is well equipped with snowmaking but being so close to the ocean, snowmaking is more of an art than a science. Getting the combination of wet bulb temperature, air temperature, and humidity just right is a challenge. But the night I skied, there was a nice frozen granular surface than made for easy turns.
Blue Hills is a nice locals hill. Like most New England areas, there is an active racing program. On the weekends, the parking lot fills up with families. The lodge is old and the one double chair can feel a bit dated, but that is the joy of these little hills.
The Friday night I skied the crowds were not out. Just a few kids and their parents lapping off the one chair. The area’s map claims eight trails but there are really only two or three ways off the top. It was fun to make a few laps and enjoy the night. But after a while I tired decide to head back into the traffic. After a stop at Dunkin’ of course! I was in Boston after all.
Robbie Allen is an avid small hill skier. He has written several articles on the many small hills he has sought out.
I wrote up Yawgoo...(or the GOO!) a couple years ago. Never made it too Nashoba Valley.