hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

January 2, 2014

Where beginners come to learn

By Bruce Amaro

---- — The owners of Bradford Ski Area, Neil and Bradley Sawyer, like to think of their ski operation as a skiers’ farm team, the place where new skiers go to learn their sport before they hit the bigger, more expensive mountains.

“We give about 60,000 lessons a year,” Neil Sawyer said. “Everybody comes here to ski, or learn how to,” Sawyer said.

Bradford Ski Area is also the place where experienced skiers use the slopes to stay in shape or enjoy some less aggressive local skiing.

“They come for a local day out near home and it’s usually the whole family,” Sawyer said. To meet the demand for lessons, Ski Bradford has between 230 and 250 instructors available to schedule lessons to fit most schedules.

They can run as many as 30 lessons simultaneously in one hour. Their after school programs run hour long lessons every half hour from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Often people who come to ski area with friends or as guests turn into customers who want to try the sport. They take an unplanned lesson and spend some time on the slopes of the ski area.

One of the few local, family-owned and run ski hills still available for skiing all season long, Bradford Ski manages 13 trails on 70 acres of their side of the 262-foot high ski slope. The hill is used by hikers as well who approach it from the Groveland side.

Named Dead Hill on the federal USGS maps, in 1949 two Haverhill residents, Hugh Pearson and Ken Boyd, cut the first ski trail into the side of the gently sloped hill. There they leased the land and ran their seasonal business until Sawyer’s father, Roger Sawyer, bought the business in 1956 then eventually the land on which it ran.

The senior Sawyer expanded slowly, buying up land around his slopes to add trails. “He bought land and added trails throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s and into the 1970s,” Neil Sawyer said. Neil and his brother Brad took over the business in 1972, and added more trails in the last three years. They brought in chairlifts in 1983, 1988 and 2003. Until then, the hill used T-Bar lifts and rope tows. They currently have a 10-lift capability.

“We still have the rope tows,” Neil Sawyer said.

The new trail system is mapped and color-coded for ability: the two easiest trails are marked with green circles; the four intermediate trails are marked with blue squares and the seven difficult trails are marked with black diamonds. The ski area also includes a terrain park.

Unusual in small ski areas, the Bradford operates a large terrain park once called the Snowboard Park. The area simulates travel through an area with jumps and other obstacles on the trail. The owners rearrange the park layout from year to year, but they keep the small half-pipe as part of the basic design. Skiers and snowboarders will find several rails including an A-frame rail and box, two or three down rails, with two small boxes for beginners. The designs usually includes a large kicker followed by a few small ramps throughout the run.

They are open six days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday. They also have special night rates from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week.

School vacation and holidays the hours are: Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They closed Christmas Eve night, Christmas day and New Years’ Eve night.