"We have officially sanctioned the summit and marked it on the trail map as natural terrain," said Crotched Mountain's GM Chris Bradford.

"We are now maintaining those trails - brush clearing, occasional grooming when needed, etc. - but no lift service yet," Bradford said.

The news should cheer the fanatically loyal skiers and riders who have turned skiing at Crotched into a cult.

There's even better news ahead: "We have begun building the snowmaking system for that upper portion of the mountain," Bradford said. "Next time you're here, take a look at the new valve vault on Galaxy near the terminus of NCC-1701. That feeds the new line which runs up NCC-1701 and will eventually continue to the summit.

"I think that some open natural terrain will add a new dimension to Crotched for all the powder hounds around here," he said.

Crotched season passes are on sale, with prices set to go up Oct. 13. An unlimited adult pass costs $349 (or $299 for ski club members), and will increase to $449 after Oct. 13. Other savings are available across a range of offerings. For details, click Crotched Mountain's season pass page.

In other news, Crotched has added to its snowmaking capacity on Milky Way, Equinox and UFO, and overhauled all of its grooming machines. The area re-graded UFO, cleaned up the glade trail off the top of Galaxy and named it Solstice Glades, and worked on the area around the top of the double chairlift.

Crotched also is adding 1,000 square feet to the deck at the back of the ATC building, and making some upgrades to the main lodge, cafeteria area and Onset Pub.