It’s been a good week, and mother nature hit our region with a blanket of snow. The three-month winter season started late this year and it’s hard to believe it ends on March 20th. It becomes more encouraging when you realize Daylight Savings Time begins next weekend on Sunday, March 12th.
So yes, spring is right around the corner and with it comes our much-awaited spring skiing season with longer, brighter sun-soaked days on the slopes. The crowds soften a bit, just like the corn snow under your skis. Skiing in the spring is like slicing through butter, and on an early morning run, wide corduroy slopes welcome your artistic impressions on the soft snow.
New Hampshire is a great state to explore during this special season. We are blessed with an abundance of ski resorts, 26 in total. I often get asked where the highest concentration of ski resorts in the United States are. Most people will answer the western resorts because it may bring to mind fresh powder. However, the East and some Midwest states have a higher concentration of ski resorts. I think the majority of people would say Colorado has the most; however, the accurate answer is New York, with 52 ski resorts! So many of us think of the Empire State Building or a dense, sprawling city, and they don’t realize that Gore Mountain, Whiteface Mountain, Hunter Mountain, and 49 other ski resorts exist. It’s also hard to believe Michigan has 39 resorts (second place), with Wisconsin in 3rd with 33 resorts. Colorado then shows up in 4th with 32 resorts, and New Hampshire is 5th with 26 ski resorts, tied with California, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Maine has 18, Utah has 15, Montana has 16, and Wyoming has 10. There is, however, a big difference if you look at the square miles of ski resorts. For example, Colorado has 32 resorts totaling 927 square miles of ski territory compared to New York, with 52 ski resorts totaling 232 square miles, a huge difference in the size of the ski areas.
New Hampshire’s White Mountains include the tallest peaks in the Northeastern United States and the elevation plus the northern latitude generally assures plenty of natural snow. However, this year skipped a beat except for what we’re now experiencing. One huge advantage New Hampshire has is that many of the major ski resorts are close to one another, so skiers can experience several different mountains during one trip.
Changing snow conditions are a big part of spring skiing in New Hampshire. While many enjoy the sunshine on decks while eating lunch. Skiers are enjoying the challenging terrain. The early morning might bring on a frozen frosty surface but will change quickly to late morning butter and the afternoon with piles of lumpy corn snow to navigate through.
What I love about spring skiing is that the moguls get soft, almost like cushions, and with the new advanced ski technologies, the shovel of the ski cuts through the bumps with ease. However, cruising down a large elevated slope in spring corduroy freshly groomed trails is the ultimate experience.
Cannon Mountain in Franconia lights up in the spring. The 4,081′ evaluation of Cannon’s summit offers breathtaking views from the Vista Way, Tramway, Upper Cannon, Skylight, and the Upper Ravine trails. On a blue-sky day skiing, the Upper Mountain Trails are invigorating, while the Mid-Mountain Trails are full of long cruisers. When they think of Cannon, many people visualize the front five expert slopes.
Like Cannon Mountain, Wildcat is another old-time favorite with an elevation of 4,062′, offering the finest views of Mount Washington just across the notch. The ride up the gondola catches a perfect view of the 6,288′ tallest mountain in the Northeast. Wildcat averages 200″ of natural snow and in the spring, its 49 trails serviced by 5 lifts are sunlit with lots of curves and drop-offs to experience.
At Bretton Woods, facing the famed Mount Washington Hotel and New Hampshire’s highest peak, spring skiing is the ultimate experience. The resort’s 62 tails and 35 glades are served by 10 lifts, including 4 high-speed quads and an 8-passenger gondola. Grooming is superb, and the slopes are very wide open, western style, with Balsam trees. The lodges are top-of-the-line.
Just up I-93, Loon Mountain in the Town of Lincoln has an elevation of 3,050′ at the summit of North Peak with a vertical drop of 2,100′. There are lots of activities during the colorful spring season. Loon boasts New Hampshire’s most powerful snowmaking system, and its new state-of-the-art eight-place chairlift with heated seats and a bubble cover is New Hampshire’s first. Loon offers 61 trails and 11 lifts spread over 3 peaks.
Waterville Valley, just below Loon Mountain, is a completely self-contained resort with a rich history. In the old days, I spent many days on those slopes at a time when Waterville got its title as the official birthplace of freestyle skiing (no, I was not a competitor.) The Green Peak expansion added a nice dimension to the area. Waterville is bright, wide open, and sunny during the spring season.
We are fortunate to have Gunstock Mountain Resort in our backyard. I was up at Gunstock after this week’s snowstorm, and the conditions were outstanding, perfectly groomed corduroy slopes and blue sky. The panoramic views over Lake Winnipesaukee are breathtaking and rival those over Lake Tahoe from Heavenly Valley. It’s the perfect family resort with 49 trails and 90% snowmaking, with the best grooming serviced by 8 lifts. There’s definitely a friendly hometown feel to the mountain, and there’s lots of history tied to it. My kids and grandkids love it. Everything is so convenient. Night skiing is the best in New Hampshire, and in the spring, the natives are chirping down the slopes.
Just up the road from North Conway, Attitash Mountain includes 68 trails on 2 mountains and 8 lifts. New lifts are underway to reduce the ride time. Lots to do up in this neck of the woods, including Cranmore in North Conway right in the village. This sunny mountain enjoys 50 trails served by 9 lifts with wide open slopes and lots of après-ski in the village.
Ragged Mountain, in nearby Danbury, features two peaks with 57 trails and glades serviced by 5 lifts. I have great memories going back to when the Noonan family first developed this ski area. It’s a relaxed mountain off the main drag.
Mount Sunapee is another childhood memory where all of my friends would gather. Lots of wide rolling surfaces and cruisers (like the Upper Flying Goose Trail) to enjoy on its 66 trails with 8 lifts. The views overlooking Lake Sunapee are stunning.
During spring, the Granite State is home to a Northeastern rite of passage — the legendary Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington. This is a mecca for spring skiing and lounging on the sun-filled “rocks.” You will find steep, challenging runs with names like Hillmans Highway, The Chute, and Left Gully here. The three-mile track up to Tuckerman’s from Pinkham Notch is a workout, and then you climb up the run to ski down. This past week, an avalanche caught a snowboarder, carrying him to the rockpile embedded in some snow. Luckily, he escaped major injury. You need to be in excellent physical shape, but the experience is worth the effort. If you decide not to climb the steeps, you can descend along the winding Sherburne Ski Trail to the parking lot, a 2.4-mile long ungroomed intermediate trail.
For those of you who want to experience wet and wild this spring, you can try pond skimming, another rite of spring. Most of the ski areas will offer chilled manmade ponds on the slopes for bragging rights. At Gunstock, I believe the resort’s Spring Thing Weekend runs from March 18th-19th. I’ve never tried it; however, you should.
So let’s get out there and enjoy skiing this spring; bring a positive attitude, sunscreen, some friends & family, and enjoy that crystalized, sugary spring snow.
This article was written by Frank Roche. Frank is president of Roche Realty Group with offices in Meredith and Laconia, NH, and can be reached at (603) 279-7046. Sales data was compiled by a NEREN search on and is subject to change. Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market.