You can ski in old togs too

When Tim Gannett hits the ski trails he does so in an outfit that would strike terror in the hearts of ski fashion designers everywhere. The primary components of his winter fashion attire are an ancient down jacket, taped in sections where the threads are past repair, and a pair of corduroy jeans.

In doing so, he hopes to start a trend. As the co-owner and general manager of the Crotched Mountain Ski Area he believes it is in his best interest to promote the idea that skiing need not rank with polo and yachting as a chic, expensive sport.

"Too many people think you have to have fancy equipment and are scared off for that reason alone," says Mr. Gannett. "Many that do ski believe that all those slick parkas, $200 boots, and ski pants have to be updated every year to keep up with fashion and with what everyone else is wearing. But all anyone really needs is simply what they ordinarily wear when it's cold -- long johns, jeans, wool sweater, hat, gloves, and jacket."

From his vantage point at Crotched Mountain's East Lodge, crowning a hilltop with a panoramic view stretching from Boston to the south and Mt. Washington to the north, he hopes to see more skiers dressed simply for comfort and using equipment no more sophisticated and costly than what they need.

"Year after year I see beginning skiers decked out with equipment costing hundreds of dollars," he laments. "At that stage fancy skis are a complete waste as the skier does not yet have the skill to benefit from whatever advantages they give. Good used skis, poles, and boots can often be purchased at local ski shops for $35 to $75. New starter packages are widely available at just over $100 and, if properly maintained, will provide years of enjoyment."

Tim Gannett's economical approach doesn't end with skiwear and equipment, but extends to the variety of options and package plans available at Crotched Mountain. Those who can ski on weekdays or at night, for example, will find that $12 will cover lift tickets, a skiing lesson, and rental of all necessary equipment. And while lift tickets cost $13 on a weekend day, they can go for as little as $5 during the week.

Those who make the 75-mile drive northwest of Boston will find that the newly expanded Crotched Mountain Skiing Area is now the largest in southern New Hampshire. But despite its 26 alpine trails, two commodious base lodges, and capacity to handle 5,000 skiers a day, its atmosphere reflects the tranquility and charm that one expects at a New England resort.

Just to the east of Crotched is Francestown, a lovely village that hasn't changed much in appearance since its 18th- century beginnings. After winding past its gracious town hall and row of freshly painted colonial houses, travelers to the ski area head up Route 47 for a few miles as it snakes through a pine and hardwood forest.

This road, going over the hills and through the woods, really does lead to Grandmother's House, in this case a cozy restaurant specializing in hearty German food. A left turn at Grandmother's leads both to the ski area and to an excellent choice for overnight lodging, the Inn at Crotched Mountain.

The attractive brick inn has provided shelter for travelers ever since it was built in 1822, but not always for skiers. James Wilson, its original owner, had constructed a tunnel leading from his cellar to the Boston Post Road, thus enabling his home to be a way station for runaway slaves on their escape to the Canadian border.

Today it is a charming hostelry of just 10 guest rooms, some with working fireplaces and all with a spectacular view of either the Piscataquog Valley to the north or the twin peaks of Crotched Mountain to the south. Downstairs guests relax before glowing fires or enjoy traditional New England fare in the red and white wallpapered dining room.

Winter rates at the Inn at Crotched Mountain range from $25 to $40 a night, depending on the day of the week. Just as the ski slopes are more affordable during midweek, so is lodging. In fact, travelers who check in on a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday for two nights can stay a third for no extra charge.

Although the inn is only a half mile from the ski area, there are closer accommodations in a small complex of modern condominiums set on six acres with a spring-fed pond. Located a short walk from the East Lodge, each unit can house eight to 10 guests sharing three bedrooms, two baths, and a spacious living area. All the units rent for $275 a weekend or the same amount for Monday through Friday.A full week costs $425.

Once ready to get out on the slopes, skiers will find an abundance of snow either from nature or the 10,000 feet of new snowmaking pipes that were prompted , no doubt, by last year's almost snowless winter. Also new are two crisscross trails that link Crotched's East and West ski areas and provide a vertical drop of nearly 1,000 feet.

Even nonskiers can participate in the night activities at Crotched that include torchlight parades, sleigh rides, and musical entertainment in both the East and West Lodges.

More information on rates and schedules is available by writing to Crotched Mountain Ski Area, Mountain Road, Francestown, N.H. 03043.

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