General Manager David Crowley says Wachusett Mountain Ski Area draws on a population of 7 million people within an hour's drive, which in his view works out well for all concerned.

The mountain has a nearby pool of skiers and riders; the skiers and riders have the mountain without a long drive.

As a result, Wachusett has developed a loyal base of customers who regularly place it in the top 10 Northeastern resorts in skier/rider visits each year.

"That doesn't mean people don't want to be treated like they are on vacation," Crowley said.

"They are sharing their precious leisure time with us and we want them to know how much we appreciate it. Our staff tries to make sure our skiers and riders feel like they're on vacation right in their own backyard. You don't have to go away for a week, fly on a plane or even drive very far to feel like you're on vacation.

"We're just a couple gallons of gas away, not a couple of tanks," he says.

Crowley said that, compared to other recreational activities, the cost of skiing is a great value.

"It's actually less expensive than most activities when you compare the hourly costs. Midweek, the most expensive lift ticket at Wachusett is $39 for seven hours of skiing. This comes to approximately $5.57 an hour. Weekends and holidays, the most expensive lift ticket at Wachusett is $49 for 8 hours of skiing, or about $6.12 an hour," he said.

Crowley compared that to 18 holes of golf at $16 an hour; indoor rock climbing including gear and instruction at up to $34 an hour; bowling at $10.50 an hour; $18 for the movies; $75 an hour for a Bruins game, and $90 an hour for the Celtics.