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Pats Peak, area mountains open for ski season

  • A fan gun shoots water droplets into the air, which freeze to become snow at the top of Duster trail during opening day at Pats Peak Ski Resort in Henniker on Saturday, November 30, 2013. The resort relied on their snowmaking system to open earlier than expected for the new season.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    A fan gun shoots water droplets into the air, which freeze to become snow at the top of Duster trail during opening day at Pats Peak Ski Resort in Henniker on Saturday, November 30, 2013. The resort relied on their snowmaking system to open earlier than expected for the new season.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Pats Peak ski team coach John Hughes instructs the under-eight-year-old team before taking them down the Duster trail. Skiers and snowboarders enjoyed opening day for the season at Pats Peak Ski Resort in Henniker on Saturday, November 30, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Pats Peak ski team coach John Hughes instructs the under-eight-year-old team before taking them down the Duster trail. Skiers and snowboarders enjoyed opening day for the season at Pats Peak Ski Resort in Henniker on Saturday, November 30, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Skiers and snowboarders enjoy the lodge and beginners' area on opening day for the season at Pats Peak Ski Resort in Henniker on Saturday, November 30, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Skiers and snowboarders enjoy the lodge and beginners' area on opening day for the season at Pats Peak Ski Resort in Henniker on Saturday, November 30, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • A fan gun shoots water droplets into the air, which freeze to become snow at the top of Duster trail during opening day at Pats Peak Ski Resort in Henniker on Saturday, November 30, 2013. The resort relied on their snowmaking system to open earlier than expected for the new season.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Pats Peak ski team coach John Hughes instructs the under-eight-year-old team before taking them down the Duster trail. Skiers and snowboarders enjoyed opening day for the season at Pats Peak Ski Resort in Henniker on Saturday, November 30, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Skiers and snowboarders enjoy the lodge and beginners' area on opening day for the season at Pats Peak Ski Resort in Henniker on Saturday, November 30, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

Yesterday, the digital sign next to the Hurricane Triple chairlift flashed the temperature in the chilly, early morning. It was 1 degree.

Then the red numbers blinked, flashing the time. It was 8:31 a.m.

Then it was finally, officially ski season at Pats Peak.

Larry Rodman, 44, and his son Cole, 9, slid across the snow to take the first chair up the mountain. Cole Rodman would be racing down the trails that day with his ski team, but the father and son from Brookline wanted to test the powder together first.

“Just getting one run in together before he goes,” Larry Rodman said.

Then the chair swept them up, and they were off.

This weekend is the first of the season on the slopes in Henniker, an earlier start than usual at the ski resort for what is predicted to be a snowy winter. As the day got started, lift operator Bill Hoinski quickly raked the snow behind the Rodmans, ready for skiers and snowboarders who streamed steadily up the mountain yesterday morning.

“For us, the first day, we’ve all been here before,” Hoinski said, snow in his thick brown beard. “It’s coming back and doing it again. You stop in March and pick it up in November, and it’s like summer never happened.”

At the top of the mountain, groups of ski teams assembled throughout the morning to ski the intermediate Duster trail for the first time this winter. Nearby, Michael Holmes of Hanover helped his two young children put the straps attached to their poles around their wrists.

“These guys both started skiing here when they were 2,” Holmes said.

Now Ian, 6, and Nora, 5, can ski every trail on the mountain, their dad said, including the double black diamonds.

“They treat (Pats Peak) like their own backyard,” Holmes said.

Unlike Ian and Nora Holmes, instructor Karen Shields did not learn to ski until she was an adult. But now she teaches other adults, and she prepared for a run down the mountain yesterday morning with a group of other instructors in their green Pats Peak jackets.

“It’s a great winter family, doesn’t matter if you’re 14 or 80,” she said.

That family is Pats Peak’s niche, marketing director Lori Rowell said. The ski resort recorded about 190,000 skier visits last year.

“We’re a teaching mountain,” Rowell said. “We love to teach people to ski or snowboard.”

And they’re not the only mountain already open for the winter, which the Farmers’ Almanac has forecast will be “bitterly cold and snow-

filled” in New England. Ragged Mountain in Danbury also opened its trails yesterday, and trails on Mount Sunapee and Cannon Mountain are already open. Gunstock Mountain will open its trails Friday. Both Pats Peak and Ragged Mountain will open new trails and terrain this season, along with a new tubing park at Ragged Mountain and a new lift at Pats Peak.

Julie Zapton, 37, of Hopkinton said she and her family ski on trails all across New Hampshire throughout the winter. She sat with her 2-year-old son, Camden, in the lodge at Pats Peak yesterday while her husband was out on the mountain with their two older boys, waiting for her turn to strap on her skis.

The whole family had been itching for the first ski weekend of the year, Zapton said.

The boys “were already dressed at 7 this morning, ready to leave,” she said. “They had their gear lined up last night.”

Bruce Starer also sat in the lodge yesterday morning, warming his feet and eating his traditional giant M&M cookie on a break. His mother was a ski instructor when he was younger, Starer said, and now he’s at Pats Peak every year.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” he said. “I couldn’t wait for this place to open.”

Now that the wait is over, 11-year-old Jessie Rioux wasn’t going to waste any time sitting inside the lodge. She was out with her Pats Peak team, bright blue boots strapped into her skis as she prepared to take another run down the mountain.

“I’d rather have winter off (from school) than summer,” Rioux said.

But now it was finally ski season at Pats Peak, the team was racing down the mountain, and she was off.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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