1980’s – The Growth Years
The decade dawned with the good news that the state passed legislation allowing the tiny Wachusett Mountain Ski Area to expand on an additional 450 acres. The state followed up in 1981 and awarded Wachusett Mountain Associates a long-term lease after an extensive search and bid process. The lease gave a green light to the rebuilding and development of the ski area, which was attracting about 50,000 skiers a year with two T-bars and a small, A-frame lodge.
WMA went right to work on area improvements and Wachusett’s 24,000 square-foot, modern and functional lodge opened in 1981, signaling a development boom at the ski area that would last for years. The new lodge had a full service cafeteria and seated 400. Another 125 visitors could be accommodated in the adjoining Coppertop Lounge, which featured nightly entertainment. The lounge and cafeteria quickly became the pulse of the mountain.
The 1982-83 ski season saw Wachusett transform itself from a small ski hill serviced by T-bars to a full scale ski resort that encompassed 62 acres. Two chairlifts (one a triple) and five trails were added, giving Wachusett 12 trails, all with lights. A computerized snowmaking system covered the entire mountain. In addition, Wachusett was able to offer 11 miles of cross-country ski trails. A full-day, weekend lift ticket cost $10 in January, 1983.
By January 1984, Wachusett had expanded to 90 acres and 14 trails serviced by three chairlifts, including a 4,500-foot double to the 2,004-foot summit. The opening of the Summit Chair immediately catapulted Wachusett into the 1,000-foot ski mountain club. A new triple chair, the Nor-easter, whisked skiers up the hill cutting down on lift lines.
Snow sports retailer Ski Market moved into Wachusett’s spacious lodge and the ski school was booming with more than 140 instructors.
But the most lasting influence of the 1980s was the advent of the “Wa Wa Wachusett” jingle that accompanies every radio advertisement for the mountain. Wa Wa Wachusett is still used today and is known world-wide.
Summers and Fall on the mountain also came to life with fairs and festivals that featured big name attractions such as Bonnie Raitt and Livingston Taylor.
By 1987 the trail count had risen to 17 and the Wachusett Mountain Ski Patrol was recognized as the top unit in America. The Black Diamond Restaurant opened in 1988 featuring pub meals, a full bar, table service and an alternative to the lodge’s cafeteria.
In 1987, Wachusett Mountain Ski Area chairman, Ralph Crowley, was recognized by President Ronald Reagan as Northeastern Small Business Person of the Year for his role in developing Wachusett Mountain.
In the final years of the decade, Wachusett grew to become a promotional partner with Colorado’s mega resort Vail.
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