What does change sound like?

On October 20, 2011, in Uncategorized, by admin

What does change sound like? Sometimes it sounds like the quiet whir of an electric motor.

I grew up around diesel engines. My parents owned a small moving company, and from the time I could walk, I was around trucks every weekend and all summer long. I played around them, I worked around them, and I often slept in the sleeper cab while my father drove long distances.  The sound of a diesel engine is oddly relaxing to me, and to this day, I retain the not-particularly-useful ability to tell the difference between a Cummins diesel engine and a Caterpillar diesel just by the sound.

It’s probably for that reason alone that I’ve always been willing to forgive the High Country Double’s sluggardly ways. When my kids were little, I found it somehow comforting to hear the putt-putt-putt of the old diesel, and it really wasn’t such a bad thing that the chair came around the bullwheel at the speed of a slow walk.  The littlest kids could board without ever slowing the chair down. On the other hand, it was a little bit frustrating to see BBTS racers skating up the hill faster than the chair moved, and the 6 minute uphill-time for a couple hundred vertical feet was almost the same as the ride on the White Peaks Quad from the base to 3600 feet. If I was feeling charitable, I might tell you that it was a good place to go rest late in the morning.

Most of the time, though, I was not feeling charitable. The slow lift meant I seldom had the patience to go up to the summit.  Worse still, my environmentalist sensibilities were rattled every time the engine belched to life with a big black plume.

That’s about to change, though. The venerable High Country chair is receiving a heart transplant this fall, with an efficient, and much faster, new electric motor. Skiers and the environment will both see an immediate improvement. Much shorter ride times will open the summit to the impatient, and should dramatically shorten early season lift lines. The old diesel engine, which produced hundreds or thousands of pounds of soot and carbon dioxide emissions each winter, is now a thing of the past.

Best of all, though, is the short-but-sweet terrain that a faster High Country chair opens up.  In years past it was seldom worth the six slow (often cold) minutes up for the quick run down High Country.  Because of its altitude — the chair tops out at 3800 feet — the runs on High Country are the first to open each fall.  All winter long, you’ll often find untracked snow along either edge of the open slopes.  And if you stay hard to skier’s left, you’ll find an under-appreciated delight — the soft, silent snow of Tangent, the natural-snow-only connector that runs from High Country to Periphery, bypassing the top of the Northside Double.  Narrow and tunnel-like, Tangent is a throwback to the first trails cut on New Hampshire mountains, and on a good morning, it’s a great experience.

I’ll probably miss the comforting burble of the old diesel on the High Country Chair — but no where near as much as I will appreciate the swifter ride up to the summit.


Last Friday night was the grand opening of the new 1829 boutique in Town Square.  As happens a lot around here, the faithful were out in force, shopping, chatting, hanging.  It is a lovely store — a harbinger of the future, I hope — and the welcoming crowd brought a positive vibe.  As I scanned around at all the familiar faces, some weekenders and some residents, I thought about the strange gravity that brings us all back here, or makes us stay.  The old marketing campaign, “Love”, really wasn’t too far off the mark.  With that thought, I give you the first twenty-one reasons I could think of why you should abandon the comforts of the suburbs and move to Waterville Valley full time.  Or, as I say in my more candid moments, “Brains… more brains… fresh brains…”

1. You ask your friends what time they’re arriving Friday night, because it never occurs to you that they might not actually be coming up.

2. You hit refresh more than three times on the Resort webcam during a conference call.

3. You know where Swazeytown is.

4. You care where Swazeytown is.

5. You smell woodsmoke and leaf mold and your Pavlovian response is to start waxing your skis.

6. You feel just a little better when you put on your WV fleece or baseball cap.

7. You know exactly when it’s time to say goodbye in Thornton, because you know exactly where your cell phone will drop on Rt. 49 on the way in.

8. Your server at the Coyote says, “I won’t bother with tonight’s specials.  The Buffalo Meatloaf and a very dry Grey Goose Martini, super cold, slightly dirty.”  And she doesn’t wait for confirmation.

9. You stop in the middle of Lower Bobby’s, and you can pick out your condo.

10. You hear Warren Miller intone “I’ve been telling you, move to a ski resort this year.  If you don’t, you’ll be one year older when you do”… and in your heart of hearts, you know he’s right.

11. The sight of a moose thrills you nearly as much as the sight of your bride/groom standing at the altar.  Nearly.

12. The thought of running into a bear on the trail secretly pleases you.

13. The idea that a family of red foxes might be your closest neighbors seems pretty good to you.

14. You wonder why Real Life can’t be like this.

15. You scheme on Sunday nights for a reason to stay.

16. You realize that “work-from-home” Fridays can mean “work-from-the-Valley”.  And then you actually work, so you get to do it again.

17. Your kids’ best friends are the kids they ski with every weekend.

18. Your best friends are the grown-up kids you ski with every weekend.

19. You know what time the Saturday morning warm-up crowd at the Schwendi breaks, so you can always get a table.  No, I am not sharing.

20. You recognize and appreciate the fact that Steve, the Schwendi chef, will always play four songs you know and one you don’t, but love, in his house music mix.

21. Regardless of where you spend your weekdays, you only truly feel at home when you’re in the Valley.

If more than a few of these ring a bell for you, you have my condolences… what time do you want to meet for coffee on Tuesday morning?