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Bretton Woods, NH Unofficial Guide

skiericon.pngThis resort guide is maintained by EpicSki Ambassador: tylrwnzl


The Unofficial Guide to Bretton Woods

by Tyler Wenzel (aka tylrwnzl)


Where to start with a mountain that is so expansive? That is one of the things I love most about Bretton Woods, you can always find a spot to get away from people and just enjoy nature. At no other mountain on the East Coast have I been able to go to on a weekend/holiday and still find trails where I can just relax and ski without worrying about other skiers.




Bretton Woods commonly gets knocked for being a relatively shallow pitched mountain, but there is certainly some decently challenging terrain if you know where to look. The glade system particularly is great. It is setup in a manner that works very well for progressing as a glade skier. The Black Forest Glade on the perimeter of the Rosebrook Canyon Glades system is where I learned to take my first turns in the woods. I also taught my father and brother, who had always been scared to try skiing through the trees, to ski them there. Not only did they overcome their apprehension of it, it was their favorite runs of the whole day!



Me at the top of Black Forest Glade December of 2009.


Within the Rosebrook Canyon system, some of the Advanced rated glades (like Enchanted Bear and Minahan's Ridge) are a nice progression to learn on. On top of that there are a few other nice places to learn. On the West Mountain the Wild West and Glade West glades are nice progression advanced glades. The advantage they have is being surrounded by other trails. If you decide that you are in over your head on those glades it is quite easy to traverse out onto one of the surrounding intermediate trails. 


I have not yet gotten to try out the new Stickney system as it opened last year after my trip to Bretton Woods, but so far it has added 30 acres of more gladed skiing to the already extensive list of glades there. I hope to add some information on that sometime this season, but it seems promising. As is the Rosebrook system is usually pretty open and you don't have to deal with many skiers, so imagine the "backcountry glades" of the Stickney system will be even better.


Not to be neglected are the handful of other glades around the mountain. For instance if you want to avoid a boring traverse across the flat Outer Bounds trail along the top of the mountain between the summit of Mt. Rosebrook and the Zephyr area you can drop into the glade combination of Stinger to either Black Fly (advanced) or Old Man (expert). The entrance isn't hidden, but its certainly easy to miss if you're not looking for it. It is right next to the Ski Patrol shack atop the Fabyan's Triple Chair to the skier's left. The glades run right along the top of the mountain ridge allowing you to look down in either direction.




Bretton Woods has the best beginner trails of any mountain I've skied in the United States. There is a total of four long beginner trails to learn to ski on.



Bretton's Wood/Big or Bigger Ben trails tends to be a bit crowded being right in front of the lodge and under the Bethlehem Express, but is usually a nice trail to start the day out with. Being the main trail and visible from the lodge it is always well maintained with snow-making and grooming, but the head wall is a tad steep and tends to ice over from a lot of side slipping and scraping.



Looking down the Bretton's Wood trail and the Bethlehem Express High Speed Quad. 


Right next to that run to the skiers right is Sawyer's Swoop which usually somehow manages to avoid picking up a crowd despite being right next to the perpetually crowded already mentioned run. To get to it you take the first little, steep drop and then head toward the Rosebrook Summit HSQ, but turn left before getting down to the lift. There seems to be some issues with the trail absorbing water run off and getting icy or even wet when warm in one or two low spots, but they are usually well marked and roped off to prevent any issues.



Sawyer's Swoop, first trail on left.


Farther from the base lodge off the Zephyr chair is Range View. It is a fun cruiser regardless of ability level. Range View is also a nice beginner trail in that they only groom the center of the trail, so the sides have some nice small bumps that are good for learning on. 


Range View and the top of the Zephyr Chair.


Perhaps my favorite trail at BW is the green cruiser on the West Mountain known as Avalon. It has spectacular views and is a great trail to just cruise on. It can get crowded at times because it is a feeder to the West Mountain area, but usually is in pretty good shape.


In addition to all their long cruising trails, there is the free Learning Center Quad which has access to two, shallow pitched and well maintained, beginner trails. 




Intermediate trails are the specialty of Bretton Woods. There are so many that I can't go into full detail on all of them. A few of the highlights though. Up on Mount Rosebrook you have the aptly named Two Miles Home trail. It technically starts down next to the patrol shack  just below the top of the Rosebrook Summit Quad, but for all intensive purposes the trail named Panorama from the top of the Rosebrook Summit Quad acts as the trail head for two miles home. The very top can get icy from traffic accessing both that trail and the Stickney and Rosebrook glade systems, but after that it is a nice trail to cruise and admire the views. If you get bored of that, there are plenty of opportunities to drop into the woods to get some tree skiing in. 



The Panorama trail that forms the head of Two Miles Home--fantastic views.


Another nice Intermediate area is the whole Zephyr area. Excepting the Range View beginner trail directly underneath the lift, most the trails surrounding the lift are intermediate rated. If one trail looks tracked out or busy, just go one over and you'll find a different twist and better skiing. One trail in particular named "Aggassiz" can be fun because it is never groomed and incorporates some tree skiing as well. 


One final trail in particular sticks in my mind. That is Starr King on the West Mountain. To get to Starr King you get off the West Mountain High Speed Quad and  go to the skiers right coming off the lift. There is a short traverse on the beginner Alpine Gardens trail before hitting an intersection where you have three options. One is the beginner Abel's Traverse, the middle option is Starr King, and the westernmost trail on the mountain Waumbek. These trails tend to be pretty empty and provide great views of Mt. Washington. If the mountain is busy, staying on the West Mountain will give you plenty of options while avoiding the crowds.


Advanced and Expert Trails


I already detailed the glade trails above which account for a majority of the advanced trails at Bretton Woods. There are three or four (depending on your definition of a trail) such trails right off the Rosebrook Summit Quad. Most of them have a very steep head-wall followed by a more mellow intermediate run out. Although Bode's Run (designed by Bode Miller) does have a second drop. These trails are very picturesque and fun to ski. 


After making a run on these trails you have the option to either return to the summit or to drop further down the mountain. If you are looking to keep going I suggest taking the short trip along the intermediate Diamond ridge (the trail directly below the Rosebrook Summit Quad) and going until you get to Deception Bowl. It is an exciting trail with a long sweeping drop down along Rosebrook Canyon. Many of the glades end up dropping into Deception Bowl's run out so the farther you go the busier it can get, but is usually pretty good. 


I already mentioned Waumbek on the West Mountain, but it is worth a further mention. Really great trail and in general one of the most empty and relaxing trails to ski on the mountain. 


The expert rated trails tend to be quite short in regards to the rest of the mountain, so not a ton to write about them, but the double black rated glades can be fun to play in, so just pull out your trail map and play around!




Something else I love about Bretton Woods is the High Speed Lifts. You can get to any spot on the mountain without having to spend a long lift ride (and most of them have foot rests--I love foot rests). Plus considering waiting in a lift line is rare, the high speed lifts really do get you more skiing per day than fixed grip lifts. The base area is primarily fed by two lifts. The Bethlehem Express and the Zephyr, both high speed Dopplemayr Quads. There is a short traverse to the Zephyr which tends to make it the less crowded of the two lifts. Then you have the option of hitting either the Rosebrook Summit Quad (from the Bethlehem) or the West Mountain Quad (from the Zephyr)--also high speed Dopplemayr quads. So you can get to any area on the mountain within twenty minutes, despite the fact that Bretton Woods is the biggest ski area in the state.




Well I am at Bretton Woods to ski, but when I am in the lodge it is very nice. Only once have I been there on a holiday where the lodge completely filled up. It is a four story building, with the bottom level primarily being service areas (rentals, tuning, lockers, restrooms, etc.) The main level houses the primary cafeteria, guest services, and plenty of seating. The upper levels feature a nice fire place in the center and views of the mountain (and a few more food options). There is even a small out door deck on the second story that allows you to enjoy a hot drink and watch the skiers come down if that's your thing. 


Comments (4)

Nice job with the Bretton Woods guide.  and the pics too.
Bretton Woods is just the best place to take skiers to learn as is pointed out in the guide. Nice long wide trails, consistent pitch, and great grooming. Bretton gets more snow than most ski areas in ten Mt Washington Valley due to its location near Mt Washington and high base elevation. My ski buds and I go there quite often for the really nice glades.
Great place to take people who don't ski often, or who are just starting out.  I took a friend there who hadn't skied in 30 years.  The trails system was laid out by designers who knew what they were doing.  We rode every lift, and she was able to ski down on what was actually green terrain from each lift.  The trail map doesn't show this, but it's still possible as some of the blue trails start out green before they get more pitch to them.  She even skied her first glade!
After skiing, it's great to mosey across the street to the Mt. Washington Hotel and have apres in the ginormous lobby.  Savor the history of this grand old hotel by the fire as you drip-dry in luxury.  They offer free tours! Or enjoy the people watching - it's always a stitch to go over there afterwards.  
Nice review. It's a fantastic place for beginners, in part because of the nice wide easy runs but also because there are very few aggressive or out of control sliders there. No teenage boy with any desire to be a badass would be caught dead at Bretton. And when the snow is good this place has a lot to offer.
Bretton Woods is a great ski area for old people and kids, sort of the tai chi of ski areas. Sorry, but this is the most boring place I have skied in years. All the trails are very tame. It has only one redeeming facet, the glades. However, they get skied down to dirt fast, so you need lots of cover. Staff is nice, trails are well groomed, but keeping snow on relatively flat terrain is easy. they have a nice view of the presidential range, but unless easy blues scare you, don't ski here.
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