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Ski it if you're invited

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01/10/2008

By Kara Herlihy

Sugarbush, Mad River Glen, Cosmic Hill. Don't recognize that last one? That's because its Peter Avedisian's super top-secret ski hill buried deep in The Valley, and, lest anyone forget, not open to the public.

For most, exclusivity comes at a price; for Avedisian, it's priceless. It's his backyard ski area, Cosmic Hill, where the skiers are limited to his close friends, and, before you boot up, your John Hancock is required on a liability waiver.

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BACKYARD PLAYGROUND

Avedisian's hill puts the backyard swing set to shame. With a 175-foot vertical drop, nine wooden t-bars, and an incredibly energy-efficient snowmaking system, Cosmic Hill is truly a ski on, ski off experience.

Cosmic Hill has been up and running for 15 years but has been a dream of Avedisian's for the greater part of his life. "I've always been into snowmaking and wanted to do something with it," he said. "One thing led to another," he added.

Cosmic Hill sits on 11 acres and boasts two lift towers. Avedisian admits he has little water to make snow, but the snow he does make is groomed personally with the help of his snowmobile.

"The terrain is intermediate, advanced," he said, adding, "It's pretty bumpy and there are a lot of jumps." Avedisian maintains a qualified clientele of expert skier friends who affectionately call Cosmic Hill "a small Mad River."

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NO LIFEGUARD ON DUTY

While he admits that it would be nice to someday start a public ski area, Avedisian has kept Cosmic Hill open by invitation only. "It's my backyard, after all," he said.

The private nature of his backyard ski hill has been challenged recently due to an article written in the January issue of Ski Magazine, which disclosed the Moretown location of Cosmic Hill along with that of several other New England and greater northern home-based ski spots.

"I got an e-mail the other day from someone asking for directions to my ski area," Avedisian joked. "I had to write back and tell them it was in my backyard."

For Avedisian, Cosmic Hill has been a bit of an evolution. He's had hills before, including rope tows, which he admits have become increasingly dangerous, even life threatening.

"If you get tied up in one of those, they could kill you," he said.

So, he does most of his skiing in his own backyard, while he says he tries to make it to Sugarbush and Mad River Glen when he can.

Still Avedisian keeps in touch with a network of other backyard ski hill owners and snowmaking enthusiasts, which, evidently, is how Ski Magazine found him.

"I talk with a lot of people who are into snowmaking," he said. There are home snowmaking enterprises all over the world; "there is one in France, Germany, Australia," he listed.

With the recent rains that local skiers are cursing from there cars, Avedisian watches as the snow is wiped from his backyard, something even his snowmaking guns can't tackle.

"It's still so early," he promises, "but the wind is going to come soon," he lamented.

While Cosmic Hill has been a lifelong endeavor, Avedisian says if he ever moves it will be to a condo on the slopes -- "if," he said.

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