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Resort recommendations for noob in New England

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hello all,

I am thinking of picking up skiing this winter and have already started getting the equipment. I have skied around 10 times and I am still in the beginner phase (parallel ski by the end of the day when I have remembered everything). For a noob like me what are the recommendations in terms of skiing resorts? I live in Cambridge MA. I am looking for a resort that I can take classes and also possibly getting a season pass. Price is always a concern so I want something reasonable. I don't mind having to drive a couple of hours from Cambridge to get to a resort. Also if cheap lodging is available close by that's even better. Should I stick to one resort or should I try several before deciding what I like the most?

post #2 of 21
If you are looking to make day trips with the occasional overnight, you might want to look into the season pass options with Cranmore & Waterville. Also, look at the Southern NH Resort: Pat Peak & Gunstock.

If you are interested in a longer ride, you might want to look at Okemo, who has some pass options with Mount Sunapee.
post #3 of 21

I drive up to NH to ski every weekend throughout the season from the north shore of Boston.  It takes 2 1/2 hours to get there.  Here's the scoop on inexpensive lodging.

Go to www.eicsl.org.  This will connect you to the umbrella organization which coordinates the many ski clubs in North Conway.  There must be 10 or 11 with lodges in the  area.  Visit the clubs, and join one whose people and whose lodge you like.  Membership fees vary.  There's usually a big promotion the weekend of Halloween for prospective members - you can ride a bus that will take you to ten of the clubs, and they will give you tours and breakfast and lunch, and ... beverages.  When you join, your membership fees will get you get a place to stay, parties every Saturday during ski season, and depending on the club there may be a cook for Saturday meals and Sunday breakfasts.  Also, as a club member you can get discounted lift tickets if you choose not to buy a season pass.  You can pm me for more info about particular clubs.

Wildcat, just north of N. Conway, offers a great deal for new never-ever skiers.  Last year the deal was you pay a total of $200, and for that you get 6 lessons with rentals whenever you show up, and when you complete all six lessons they give you a season pass that gets you on snow for the rest of the season.  I love Wildcat.  But be forewarned:  they don't make a lot of snow.  Early season can be rough, but Wildcat lasts the longest in the Spring, staying open for up to two weeks after everyone else closes.  You'll either love Wildcat or not.  It has fiercely devoted skiers, of which I am one, but not everybody loves it.

Check out Attitash (varied terrain, great grooming and snow-making, also some real steeps, but they happen to be short), Cranmore (crowded on weekends with lots of kids), and Bretton Woods (no steeps, but great grooming and snow-making).  Those three, along with Wildcat, are the places most easily accessed from a club membership located in N. Conway.  Oh, and Sunday River over in Maine (big mountain for New England, but an hour's drive beyond N. Conway; it has everything).  These five mountains are where the N. Conway club members ski.  

Best of luck on your search.  You'll love North Conway; lots of apres ski.
post #4 of 21
 You have lots of options.  Joining a ski club with a lodge is a very good suggestion.  From Boston you have tons of options.  Mount Sunapee, Crotched Mountain, Pats Peak, and Gunstock would be easy day trips.  Sunapee has lots of intermediate terrain, excellent grooming and snowmaking, very pretty views of the lake, and good infrastructure.  But I find it gets very crowded weekends.  Gunstock also has great lake views  It's probably a little smaller than Sunapee.  They used to have very nice lesson packages but I don't know what they are offering these days.  Crotched and Pats are smaller (< 1,000 feet of vertical) and neither have high speed lifts.  The lodge at CM is hideous looking but functional.  They do a great job with snowmaking and I've usually found it less crowded than some of the other options.  It's been years since I've been to Pats.  I recall it having a friendly retro feel.  Kind of long run outs.  You could also take a look at Berkshire East.  BE has some pretty steep terrain but also has some nice intermediate/beginner terrain.  It's very retro and probably doesn't make as much snow as some of the other areas, but it's almost never crowded.  Mt. Snow would also be a doable day trip area.  Again, excellent snowmaking and grooming.  It gets busy on weekends and holidays but offers lots of skiing.  Going further North I suspect you'd like Bretton Woods.  It has great views, good snowmaking and grooming, and good infrastructure.  There are easy runs off of every lift and someone new or returning to the sport can go all over the mountain.  The Hampton Inn in Littleton offers nice ski and stay packages for Bretton, Cannon, and Burke.  Cannon has some nice green and easy intermediate terrain, but some of the blues are definitely a step up in terms of pitch.  I've not been to Wildcat, Attitash, or Burke but they would be other good options.  Have fun.
post #5 of 21
 It really depends on when you'll be skiing.  If it's going to be a weekend thing then crowds and cost are a big consideration.  If you can go during the week it opens up a lot more pleasant options.

During the week any of the bigger mountains would be fun, safe and affordable.  Waterville Valley is probably the easiest drive because it's mostly Rte 93.  I also second Sunapee, very nice mountain.  The easiest thing to do would be Wachusett which is an excellent learning mountain and they have very inexpensive season passes without weekend privileges.  However it's WAY too crowded on the weekends.  It's an hour from Cambridge, I ski there weekday mornings and it's empty and a lot of fun, great grooming, good beginner and intermediate terrain.  No real advanced terrain.

However on weekends all of the popular mountains can be a zoo and imho dangerous due to out of control skiers and snowboarders.  That's why I ski (and teach) at Berkshire East, because as RISkier said it never gets crowded.  Not a highway drive however, Rte 2 all the way.  Probably a bit over 2 hours from Cambridge.

Tell us more about when you'll be skiing and your thoughts and we'll give you even more advice!
post #6 of 21
The issue of crowds is an important one.  You can deal with it by choosing to buy a season pass at a place where the crowds are not bad.  Or by skiing during the week anywhere.  Or by just standing in line anyway -- lift lines aren't as bad as crowded slopes, remember.  Collisions in line are rare and tend not to break body parts.

Attitash in the last two years since new owners took over has had amazing snow coverage (full coverage starting early), but has not been crowded on weekends (go figure).  By that I mean,no wait of any consequence at the major lifts, and no crowded trails.  It's my favorite mountain for skiing groomed slopes.

Sunapee is awful on weekends.  Long, long lines.  Densely crowded lodges.  Crowded trails full of kids and adolescents.  Same for Cranmore and Wachusett.  Waterville Valley has a great lodge, is right off 93, but it has lots of kids on the weekends.  The lift lines aren't so bad, but the trails are filled with young racers who are zooming past everyone else.  It's been dangerous for the shy skier when I've been there on weekends.

Bretton Woods, along with Attitash, seems not to have lots of kids bombing past slower skiers.  It's often filled with families on vacation (think: intermediates with young children).  Its size allows skiers to spread out.  Its lack of steeps should not be an issue for you since you're a newbie.
post #7 of 21
Not being a Bostonian take what I say with a grain of salt.  If you are only going to ski a half dozen to a dozen times this winter I think I'd ski around and visit many of the areas mentioned by others in this thread rather than getting a pass and only going to one or two.  Will be a little more expensive but you'll enjoy the variety and learn preferences for the future.  You are luckier for the nice variety of skiing than many of us who live further south.  Something tells me overnighting in mom and pop motels around Gunstock or Cranmore might be less expensive than near the bigger name resorts.  On a nice spring day try to get up to Wildcat and ski Polecat, the most scenic long green circle run in New England.
post #8 of 21
I skied Gunstock two seasons ago and had a really good experience. The place is small but it skis much bigger than many others of the same size.
post #9 of 21
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post

Not being a Bostonian take what I say with a grain of salt.  If you are only going to ski a half dozen to a dozen times this winter I think I'd ski around and visit many of the areas mentioned by others in this thread rather than getting a pass and only going to one or two.  Will be a little more expensive but you'll enjoy the variety and learn preferences for the future.  
If you're trying to figure out whether to buy a bunch of lift tickets or buy a season pass, divide the price of single lift tickets into the season pass price for each hill.  That'll tell you how many times you need to ski to break even, should you go for the season pass.  But almost no one pays full price for regular skiing.

Liftopia.com offers discount tickets to Wildcat. I don't know which other mountains list themselves on Liftopia.  You won't find these offers for big weekends; they are there just to get people to come when business is slow.  

A membership in one of the paper-only ski clubs that are listed with EICSL will be much less expensive than a lodge membership which gets you a bed, and will get you the EICSL discounts on single lift tickets.  These discounts are available to multiple mountains.   

However, if you're going to spend the night and ski Sat/Sun, you might as well join a club that offers you a cheap overnight stay on a regular basis, with company for dinner, etc.  Club memberships vary wildly, so compare prices.  
post #10 of 21
 The OP is talking about learning how to ski this winter as well, and to that goal staying at one place (mostly) would be an advantage.  First off they could take consistent lessons at the same place - and they could develop a comfort level for certain trails, thus allowing quicker skills development.  At least that's how I see it.
post #11 of 21
The Threedom Pass gets you onto Waterville Valley, Bretton Woods, and Cranmore. All three are accessible to you, and present a variety of terrain for you to start and grow with. One season pass allowing all three areas gives you the option of doing some exploring, keeps your cost reasonable, and Waterville Valley has an excellent ski school. As respects ski lessons, taking a series of 2 hour private lessons is a good approach for advancing quickly.


Hope you enjoy this season!
post #12 of 21
Ok my 2 cents.  You choose:
1) Adventurous skiing and meeting new friends: As has been suggested join one of the north conway/ white mountains ski clubs.  These clubs are often in the theme of a parrot head get together so you need to like that. Most of them are based in greater Boston with legacies going back to the ski trains of the thirties.   You will be able to get to know skiers down there who will help you learn and make ride connections.  Certainly it is the cheapest way to ski and meet people. There are good deals on skiing around North Conway if you look.  Ski areas: Attitash-expensive but deserted.  Cranmore-classic and deals to be found. Wildcat-big moutain and deals to be found.

2) 1 season progression: buy a season pass at a local area like wachusett (whatever is the closest to you) Go out and have a ball skiing and most of all ski as many days as you can.  Take a lesson once a month and try to ski 6 days a month.  Encourage yourself to grow in learning balance, rhythm and edge set on your skis. Take one or two weekend vacations to big mountains close by: Cannon, Wildcat or Bretton Woods.
post #13 of 21
 If this winter is warmer than usual, Wachusett will have a short season.  But it does have night skiing, which can be a blast.  Get there to start around 7:00 and  you miss the school kids.  The cafe upstairs is a great hangout for night skiers.  It has a vibrant adult race league scene every weeknight.

The more north you go, and the higher the elevation, the longer the season.  Bretton Woods, Wildcat, and Attitash last the longest in NH.  Wildcat gets a slow start since they don't blow much snow.  Attitash and Bretton Woods get off to a fast start with lots of snow as fast as they can blow it.  For lift-served spring skiing it's definitely WIldcat.

Attitash has been deserted not because of conditions (which have been great) but because of some odd marketing decisions made by new management since it changed hands two seasons back.  Thus no deals available, no coupons, no discounts of any sort.  But then, empty well-covered slopes means great skiing.
post #14 of 21
Thread Starter 
Fantastic information! thanks a lot guys! I was thinking of sticking to one place so I get familiar with the mountain and also get lessons from the same person consistently. After absorbing all this information I am thinking of getting a pass at Wachusetts. This is because its only 1 hour away from home and it has night skiing therefore I will use it a lot more. If I go for it I might actually end up going 3-4 times a week which would be fantastic!

I mapquested Wildcat but it sounds like its 3.5 hours away :(

What do you guys think?
Edited by dimitris77 - 9/8/09 at 9:34pm
post #15 of 21
 A few things to consider about Wachusett.  They do a very good job with snowmaking, grooming, etc.  The lodge is pretty nice and there is certainly some good  beginner/intermediate terrain.  The folks that own/manage it know how to run a business.  It also has the three things any successful business needs, location, location, location.  It is VERY BUSY on most weekend days.  Because of proximity we've often gone Sunday mornings but generally leave before noon because of the crowds.  It's not just that the lift lines are annoying, the runs are very crowded.  Though I've never been it's also reputed to be a complete zoo when the school groups are there after school.  I do think they usually leave by 7:00 ish or so.  
post #16 of 21
Thread Starter 
I think I will stick to evenings on weekdays. I cant go skiing on Saturdays due to school so I could squeeze in a Sunday here and there.
post #17 of 21

Dimitris, Wawa sounds like a good plan for you. After a couple months there you will be ready for anything, almost Actually, in the spring you will hear about lots of late season discounts at the bigger mtns in New England (check epicski) and if you care to, you can take your improved ski game to the North for a couple outings.

I had fun on my only Wawa visit:

post #18 of 21
Thread Starter 
Sounds good! I hope to get better this winter! I am fired up now! :)
post #19 of 21
 People who ski at Wa on weekdays before the school groups get there say it's a completely different experience.  If you can get there some weekdays I think you'll really enjoy it.  If I could get there a reasonable number of weekdays I'd buy a pass.  The weekend (and Saturdays are usually worse than Sundays) crowds would be my only real criticism.  FWIW, we've also had a Wachusett ski patrol tell us that Sunday nights were generally very quiet.  The crowds leave in the afternoon and there are no school groups.
post #20 of 21
Originally Posted by dimitris77 View Post

I think I will stick to evenings on weekdays. I cant go skiing on Saturdays due to school so I could squeeze in a Sunday here and there.

I used to race with the night league on Wednesday nights.  I'd go in the morning, ski the mostly empty slopes until around 2:00 or so when the busloads of screaming kiddies arrived, take a break once the slopes filled up, then go back out afterwards for a few more runs, then break again till the race people arrived.  By 7:00 the kids leave.  The lodge floor is covered with lost notebooks, gloves, sweaters, t-shirts, homework papers, etc.  Before then, you have to step  over their stuff just to get to the bathroom.

Use the ski lock-up area if you own your own skis once the busses arrive, or you'll lose 'em.  Standing in the line to turn in your skis and to pick them back up is worth the price of the skis.  Leave the ski tenders a tip.

The night race league is a blast.  After the race, the entire bunch congregates in the upstairs restaurant to eat dinner and get their times.  This would be a fun group for you to join, maybe after a season.  Enjoy your new obsession! 
post #21 of 21
I'm in almost the exact same situation as you. I skied a few times last season, picked it up quick and fell in love. Since then I've bought my own gear and a season pass at wachusett. I'm so ready for this season to come! Hopefully I'll be happy with my choice.
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