HENNIKER, N.H. -- Father and son finished snowboarding through the lighted terrain park and headed for the rental shop. There was nothing wrong with Riley Rain's ride. Riley, 7, of Dunbarton, wanted to switch.
"We're going to swap out," said his father, Arvid. "He wants to ski now."
Later, maybe, they would go tubing.
Having plenty of options is one of the reasons families with children and groups of teenagers converge on Pats Peak, about 20 minutes west of Concord, on a typical Saturday night. They also want to take advantage of the small mountain's popular Pay One Price (POP) program. Modeled after an all-inclusive amusement park ticket, the $29 pass includes skiing, snowboarding, tubing, rentals, mini-lessons, and entertainment from 3 to 10 p.m.
Pats Peak opened in 1963, but POP was not introduced until the 2002-03 season. According to general manager Kris Blomback, the idea was to get more people interested in trying snow sports, and to get skiers to try snowboarding and riders to try skiing.
On a recent weekend, the scene at Pats Peak in late afternoon resembled a factory shift change with day skiers and riders leaving the 22-trail hill, and the twilight crew arriving to put their time in. Novices lined up in the rental shop -- filling out equipment forms, trying on boots, being outfitted with boards, then riding a short conveyor belt lift to the snow.
A group of snowboard and ski instructors waited alongside another beginner's carpet lift, assessing the skill levels of the neophytes shuffling up the bunny slope. Digital cameras recorded first turns and falls. A mix of languages filled the air , but no translation was needed for the laughter or grunts from a spill.
Instructors provided the basics in the informal lessons. Snowboarders learned about the heel- and toe-side turns needed to maneuver the board, while skiers were enticed into forming old-fashioned pizza pie wedges designed for maximum control.
No high-speed quads moved the masses to the mountain top. Instead, old-school triple and double lifts did the job. From the 1,400-foot summit, the hills of Henniker rolled out on the horizon. As the sun set, the lights of Concord and Manchester flickered in the distance. In a winter of snow produced largely from snowmaking's guns and hoses, skiers and riders schussed down trails on manmade snow.
The easier green circle trails were located on the outer sides of the ski area. The trails increased in difficulty up to the mountain's middle double black diamond run called Hurricane with its beefed up moguls and fast drops. The kindest run was on the east side along the soothing pathways of Breeze to Zephyr. The intermediate Duster swooped through light and shadows, while the black diamond Cyclone had a delicious initial bite.
The mountain's west side, also called the Valley, featured trails like the straight shot of Downdraft and the mellow Whisper and Puff. Freestylers found rails and other gravity-defying elements in the Turbulence Terrain Park.
The menu of options continued at the tubing area. A J-bar provided transportation to the top of the run. Each tube had a leash attached to the lift by an attendant. The wavy lift ride ended with a roll off the tube as another attendant unloaded the inflatable sled.
One by one, all sizes of riders did the belly-flop down one of four 600-foot-long fast and frozen lanes. Foot dragging was encouraged to decrease speed. At the end, sledders were stopped by zipping up a large bank of snow before drifting back to a standstill.
To rest tired bones, families had two indoor options : the Swiss-style base lodge and Valley Lodge. Both had cubby holes for storage, long tables for meals, and food options. The Valley Lodge was lighter, quieter, and less crowded.
In the base lodge, children munched on huge M&M cookies on the first floor, while upstairs in the busy Sled Pub, hands large and small reached for the free popcorn. That was where Kellie Steward of Hampton and her family wound down their evening. Steward said she and her husband had learned to ski at Pats Peak. They were continuing the tradition with their sons, ages 4 and 3, while their 6-month-old daughter was in the nursery downstairs. One of the boys had fallen asleep in Steward's lap.
"We were going to go tubing, " she said, "but they were worn out."
Contact Marty Basch, a freelance writer in New Hampshire, at email@example.com.