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Advice for skiing in New Hampshire?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I grew up skiing in the Poconos, then discovered the Wasatch Mountains and ever since, I've been a Western skiier living on the east coast. My favorite place to ski out west is Alta - I'm good enough to ski most of the terrain there. I lived in DC between 2001 and 2007, so anytime I went skiing, I never even considered the local stuff and flew out west. I'm in Boston right now and I figure I ought to take advantage of the proximity to Vermont/New Hampshire/Maine.

I haven't skied in a while and I need to remedy that situation. I'd like to head up to NH sometime next week (during the week, not on weekends). I really have no idea where I want to go, but in the little research I've done, Cannon Mountain and Wildcat seem pretty interesting to me.

1) Would those two places be worth checking out? Are there other places I should consider? I'm looking for a place that's more of a "ski area" than a "ski resort." I want that old time classic feel, but I also appreciate modern technology (decent lifts and snowmaking) - and I don't want someplace that's so bare-bones and minimalist that I'd feel like I'm wasting my time. I'm also looking for places with decent views, as I'll surely bring a camera with me.

2) Weather - normally, out west, I don't usually bundle up too much. How cold can I expect the conditions to be in early march?

3) Driving - I'm going to have to rent a car in Boston and drive up. Experiences out west pretty much make 4WD a necessity. When choosing a rental car, is there anything that I'll definitely need? or will any car be adequate?

4) Lodging - I'm kind of leaning on making this a two day trip. Head north first thing in the morning ski, stay overnight, ski, then drive back to Boston at the end of the second day. Can anybody recommend some cheap lodging? I don't need anything fancy, as I'm just looking for a place to sleep at night. I guess the one thing that I'd really like is a place with free internet.

Thanks in advance for any tips.
post #2 of 20
Cannon & Wildcat are pretty bare bones, neither is known for being "warm" mountain either. Both are also State (National?) Park areas & have no amenities beyond a base lodge - ie no place to stay "on mountain". Plenty of lodging in the Conway area for Wildcat. The lodging near Cannon would be Loon area.

Coming off the West coast, a bigger place may be more your style - Sugarbush (VT), Stowe (VT) or Sugarloaf (ME) come to mind. The loaf is quite a drive. Check out the resort websites, most have ski & stay packages for short money (<$100 per day). An alternative is to check with local hotel/motels as they often offer ski & stay packages (usually you pay for the room & get an almost free lift ticket - at least midweek).

Rental car depends on the weather - Cannon & Wildcat are on well traveled routes. Sugarloaf can get dicey. I run snow tires on my 4wd Honda Pilot so that I can get to the mountains on a powder day.

Lastly - you may want to consider a bus trip - generally with the group rate you get a free ride to the mountain. Call the local ski shops, they should know what's available or try Boston sports club.
post #3 of 20
If you want to make a fun trip of it and stick to New Hampshire:

- Ski at Cannon on day one.
- Stay in Lincoln (the EconoLodge there is clean and a great value)
- Ski the next day at Wildcat (about an hour away)

Both are classic New England skiing, with enough scale to make a seasoned Utah skier feel somewhat at home (I'm a Utah native, so I know of what I speak).

If you really want a bigger mountain experience, Hazmat is right: Vermont has the bigger resorts, by and large. Stowe is big and fun, and gets a lot of snow, with a great town at its feet. Sugarbush is also big, with a new base area that's fun. And as Haz also mentioned, Sugarloaf, ME, is a massive place, if not the most fun at the base (and it's out there a ways). Sunday River, ME, is also good, with a bit more of a "complete resort" feel to it.

If you want to find a more western feel to the snow, Jay Peak, VT, is the place to go. They get tons of snow, have some of the best tree skiing east of the Rockies, and a big mountain. But they're in the middle of nowhere, and there's not much close to the resort in terms of nightlife.

But I'd still stick with the Cannon + Wildcat option. Lincoln is a great town, with good restaurants, a movie theatre, plenty of shopping and many lodging options. And both mountains have tons of upside and a real New England feel.
post #4 of 20
www.skinh.com If you haven't already checked it out.

My reference point is growing up in CO during the 60's - 70's and transplanting to New England ~18 years ago.

Wildcat is my favorite NH mountain - wide variety of terrain, awesome views on a clear day, but sometimes colder than a witch's ... Even on the cold days it's fun. I haven't skied Cannon, but many people (native New Englanders) have told me it is a great advanced terrain mountain, but also very cold. The rest of NH mountains "ski small" for me - meaning that I always gravitate (or am forced) back to the same basic location after every run. Coming from the west this is what I dislike most. Loon seems to have a good variety of terrain that is relatively spread out, but weekends have previously been a zoo. With the break up of Booth Creek and ASC, I believe the crowds have dissipated somewhat (haven't skied Loon this year). Next year Loon will share pass options with Sunday River/Sugarloaf (ME), as Boyne now manages/owns all three. Attitash is moderate-sized, but is one that really doesn't ski as big as it is (for me anyway).

Not what you asked, but for one perspective...
From the objectives you listed, I would "home mountain" northern VT - Stowe, Smuggs, MRG, and Sugarbush to the south. Jay to the north. Yes, some are "resortish", but it's about the mountain and what's at the bottom doesn't really matter. If you you're not looking to set up a "base camp", I would still look at north VT, or Cannon/Wildcat as you have targeted. (Although Wildcat doesn't "feel" western ... more "vintage" New England.) Honestly, nothing in New England "feels" like the west.

My wife is an intermediate skier, which changes our dynamic some, so we elected to home mountain in ME because it is a little closer (to metro Boston) than upstate VT, is far less crowded than near-to-metro areas, on-mountain lodging is plentiful, and there is a reasonable expanse of terrain. We work from Sunday River. On extended stays, we can hit Wildcat in ~30 min, Attitash in ~1 hour, Sugarloaf in 1.5 hours, and plan to start skiing Saddleback (3hrs) on occasion. Before choosing ME, we looked seriously at mid/lower-VT, but it wasn't right for us.
post #5 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by skills View Post
3) Driving - I'm going to have to rent a car in Boston and drive up. Experiences out west pretty much make 4WD a necessity. When choosing a rental car, is there anything that I'll definitely need? or will any car be adequate?
Front wheel drive is fine for getting around New England, unless there is a major snowstorm on the days that you're going. The NH road crews do a good job at keeping the major roads cleared. There are a couple long hills along the way (Franconia Notch for Cannon, Pinkham Notch for Wildcat) . My car has front wheel drive, and I've been getting around here for years (although it's been pretty slow going at times !).
post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
Just to clarify one thing - I'm not really looking for something that will remind me of the west. (If I wanted to ski out west, I'd fly out west). I'm looking for something that is uniquely "New England" in its feel.

Since I'm looking to do something midweek - I'm assuming that the crowds won't be an issue. I'd like to feel like I'm the only one there without literally being the only guy there. Do places in New England cut back during the week (closed lifts and trails)? Would I be exchanging relative solitude for a reduction in possible terrain?

And as for cold, I don't mind a bitter cold day, but I just want to be prepared. I guess a good gauge is gloves or mittens? Usually, at Alta, I'm fine with wearing gloves (although sometimes, if it's especially windy and I'm on the lift, I may have to ball my hands up inside my gloves. Could I get away with wearing gloves? Or should I be wearing mittens? If I make that decision, I'll have a pretty good idea how strongly to layer the rest of my wardrobe.
post #7 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by skills View Post
Since I'm looking to do something midweek - I'm assuming that the crowds won't be an issue. I'd like to feel like I'm the only one there without literally being the only guy there. Do places in New England cut back during the week (closed lifts and trails)? Would I be exchanging relative solitude for a reduction in possible terrain?
Cannon shuts down the tram on certain days; Monday and Friday I believe. You can still get to everything even with it closed. A five-minute liftline at Cannon or Wildcat is a long wait -- on the weekends. You won't be the only one there mid-week, but you'll definitely have room to move.

Quote:
Originally Posted by skills View Post
And as for cold, I don't mind a bitter cold day, but I just want to be prepared. I guess a good gauge is gloves or mittens? Usually, at Alta, I'm fine with wearing gloves (although sometimes, if it's especially windy and I'm on the lift, I may have to ball my hands up inside my gloves. Could I get away with wearing gloves? Or should I be wearing mittens? If I make that decision, I'll have a pretty good idea how strongly to layer the rest of my wardrobe.
I almost never wear mittens, but then again, I tend to run warm. The main issue at both Wildcat and Cannon is that they can be WINDY. Wildcat is literally across the street from Mt. Washington ("home of the world's worst weather"). All the wind being funneled into Franconia Notch goes past Cannon.

The weather on both those mountains bears little resemblance to the weather in the nearest towns (Franconia for Cannon and Jackson for Wildcat). My advice? Pack some pretty warm stuff and some lighter stuff. Decide which to wear when you get to the mountain. Better to have it and not need it then need it and wish you had it.
post #8 of 20
Hah! I was in the same boat as you, moved from Salt Lake to Boston and started skiing in NH. I skied Loon, Wildcat, Waterville and Cannon, and ultimately decided I liked Cannon by far the best. It just seemed more of a real mountain experience skiing there, as close to the Mad River Glen vibe as I could find in NH. And the drive is really easy. But ultimately, I decided it was worth the extra hour and fifteen minutes to drive to Mad River from Boston. Once I started doing that (leaving the city at like 4:45 in the morning), I was a much happier skier.
post #9 of 20
Kevin hits it on the head: be prepared. And at Cannon, the base lodges have plenty of room to stash your stuff, in case you need to adjust.

I tend to run warm, and I tend to wear a lot of thinner layers to get the desired effect. I can't remember the last time I skied in an insulated ski jacket or parka - I only wear shells these days. Layered underneath when skiing in cold, windy weather (in descending order toward the skin): polarfleece vest; thin polarfleece zip-neck shirt or wicking zip-neck turtleneck; wicking base layer (either Coolmax short sleeve t-shirt or a Craft wind-block long-sleeve wicking shirt).

On my lower half, typically some tights and my Gore-Tex shell pants are all I need to stay warm.

Hands get my Auclair Force gloves, which are gauntlet-style and very, very warm.

The neck sometimes gets a fleece gaiter, and the head has a helmet.

Goggles are a must in the wind.

This setup works down to -20 Fahrenheit - more than enough for all but the very worst days in New England (where I add fleece tights under the pants, and wear both the wicking t-shirt and the Craft shirt).
post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by skills View Post
Just to clarify one thing - I'm not really looking for something that will remind me of the west. (If I wanted to ski out west, I'd fly out west). I'm looking for something that is uniquely "New England" in its feel.
Then it sounds like you've found your spots in NH. Somewhat compact (at least WC), but definitely New England.

I think KevinF skis Canon regularly, so you're getting the straight scoop there. I'm 4-5 days a season at WC (out of 60-70 days), so my knowledge is spotty. Been there when it was -18 and windy and when it was 40 and a picture perfect day. I don't own mittens and haven't skied in anything other than spring gloves for years. But, it isn't a bad idea to take some "warm gear" if you want to go bell to bell and never duck inside.

Enjoy!
post #11 of 20
only thing I would suggest is that you have snow tires. You don't need AWD, although it is nice to have, but you really should have snows. Remember we get almost as much ice as snow as well as rain/freeze thaw cycles etc.

NH is nice, although I almost never ski there. VT has more snow usually and less ice (how to start an internet fight .
post #12 of 20

Uniquely New England

If you want a uniquely New England experience, go up to Wilderness ski area in Colebrook and stay at The Balsams (www.thebalsams.com). Only 1,000 foot drop, the blacks are fairly easy, and everything is groomed except some glades. Not at all cheap, and you really need a significant other with you, but the food and atmosphere is great. Top notch cross country trails at the resort also.
post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ct55 View Post
only thing I would suggest is that you have snow tires. You don't need AWD, although it is nice to have, but you really should have snows. Remember we get almost as much ice as snow as well as rain/freeze thaw cycles etc.
only issue here is I'll have to rent a car in Boston. Is it possible to rent a car with snow tires? I'm not looking for anything top of the line when renting a car, I view it as a method to get from point A to point B. I don't want to rent anything excessive, but I also don't want to get something that won't be adequate.
post #14 of 20
The thing of it is, of course, if you rent a 4WD it will not snow and if you rent an econosled it most definately will.
post #15 of 20

Outside of the Classroom.....

One of the great unknown, but highly appreciated, engineers or tweakers here in New England is the person/group of people who developed the fleece headmask...! Certainly deserves some sort of honorary Gold Medal...
...I now reveal myself unto my God....&#$^%($..;-);-)
post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by skills View Post
only issue here is I'll have to rent a car in Boston. Is it possible to rent a car with snow tires? I'm not looking for anything top of the line when renting a car, I view it as a method to get from point A to point B. I don't want to rent anything excessive, but I also don't want to get something that won't be adequate.

ok enough flipping out at NE weather, its not that bad you dont need snow tires, i have a prius for gods sake and i dont die everytime a foot of snow falls


as far as a mountain goes, check out mount sunapee
post #17 of 20
My advice? Don't wait 'til next week. Go TOMORROW! Head to cannon. Right off the highway so no snow tires necessary. Probably.
post #18 of 20
ahhh farg it. Just ski. yeah go ahead don't use snows ... end up in a ditch, what do I care? You prolly ski into trees sans helmet at high speed too
post #19 of 20
I can't believe no one has suggested McIntyre. That place rocks. Almost as good as Pats Peak. Well, those are the two places I grew up racing at (more Pats than McIntyre).

My suggestions: Cannon, Loon, WV, Wildcat - more or less in that order. Oh, and Tuckerman Ravine, but that's a different animal altogether. If you venture a bit further, try Sunday River or Killington.
post #20 of 20
Try Saddleback for a multi-day. They get lots of snow with less traffic and have some pretty steep terrain. I miss that place.
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