My Tribute To The Cockaigne Ski Resort
To The Reader’s Forum:
Cockaigne Ski Resort’s closure hit me hard. I started my ski journey eons ago, when Southwestern High School offered an alternative to winter gym classes (that consisted of indoor soccer, volleyball and dancing): skiing! The hill over the football field was set up for us, and an after-school, learn-to ski-program offered by Westfield’s Eagle Ridge Ski Resort provided more instruction and practice.
Cockaigne opened the year I graduated and was our favorite place to ski, and, for some of us, to work. College and then the Marine Corps sent me to the West Coast, but I never stopped skiing, and my wife and sons became skiers/boarders, too.
Cockaigne Ski Resort was named for a fabled land of plenty, where comforts and pleasures abound, and life’s harshness abates. Perhaps this tempted fate. As reported by The Post-Journal, the iconic Austrian lodge was destroyed by fire in 2011 and the resort closed, remaining dormant until 2019, when the current structure was built. In the meantime, I moved back home with my family and was delighted with the opportunity to share this special place with them. Cockaigne is the quintessential family resort, where so many of us learned the joyful art of falling and getting up again. And what a perfect place it became for an old guy to land.
You see, the reopening of the resort created the opportunity to reform the Cockaigne Ski Patrol, a necessary function required for the resort to operate. Over the next four years, a well managed program of recruitment and training resulted in a highly proficient ski patrol unit. Training is intense and the commitment is serious. Among other events, a life was saved on our watch this year. I could not be more proud to wear the red jacket.
This well organized unit was recognized with the 2023-24 National Ski Patrol Eastern Division Best Small Alpine Patrol Award. As a result, we are now in the running for the Best Small Patrol in the Nation.
Cockaigne’s Ski patrollers dispersed to other area slopes once before, after the 2011 fire, then reunited, like the Blues Brothers, in time for the re-opening in 2019. We will do it again the day we hear the call.