>BACK TO SKI & SNOWBOARD
New England Soul
Chris Weiss shares his Fav Five New England
mountains for pure skiing and riding.
A skier at New Hampshire's Cannon
Mountain enjoys powder in Echo Woods after a January storm. (Cannon
EAST COAST RIDERS ARE
A GRITTY LOT. Itís a proud defining quality. Unlike the spoiled crowds
elsewhere, we donít sit back and sip hot cocoa while waiting for the
perfect powder morning or bluebird day. If the powder drops while weíre
out skiing, great. If not, itís just another day on the mountain.
Sometimes itís not powder; itís rain, sleet and wind instead. It really
doesnít matter; we arenít out there for photo ops.
Itís no surprise that
New England skiers and boarders demand mountains that are equally
gritty. New England skiing is known for its steep narrow runs,
challenging trees and highly variable snow conditions. While many
resorts elsewhere have sought to create a lavish vacation experience
replete with spa treatments and fine dining, New Englandís best resorts
are defined by their ride. They reflect the no-nonsense spirit and
fortitude of skiers and riders. Here, skiing is still about skiing.
Some resorts in the
valleys across the Green and White Mountains are among the best places
in the world to experience the soul of skiing. In some cases, amenities
may be slim, and they may be difficult to get to. However, once youíre
there, life melts away and the only concern is the overnight forecast.
What these resorts lack in fancy amenities and activities, they make up
for in character. With an unspoken humility, they let their terrain (and
patrons) do the talking. So if you consider yourself a serious skier or
rider, skip the crowds and hype and find yourself a piece of skiing at
Jay Peak is what New
England riding is all about. Scratch that, itís what riding is about
period. No pretense. No fancy, cookie-cutter village. And youíll have to
work a little harder to get there. Once youíre there, youíll be buried
in powder and barely see the light of day. As its dedicated followers
know, Jay gets dumped on like no other resort eastside. If itís snowing
elsewhere in Vermont, Jayís getting a few extra inches. If itís rainy or
sunny in central Vermont, itís still snowing at Jay. Planning a winter
getaway to Jay when itís NOT snowing would be more difficult than
planning it just in time for a 2-footer.
All that snow isnít
going to waste, either. It finds home in the glades, chutes and
backcountry and waits to be ploughed. Thereís always a stash hidden
somewhere, so as long as you know where to look (or are with someone who
does) youíll be buried to the midsection. Book an extra day; youíll
thank yourself once you get there.
What is it about
trams that inspire a sense of honesty in all sports winter? Cannon
the New Hampshire state-owned mountain
is home to skiing that is as honest as its tram. No fancy dressing, just
challenging runs and incredible mountain views. Cannon Mountain is easy
to get to, located right off of I-93, so travel is never an obstacle.
Once there, expect to be invigorated by steep, raw terrain strewn with
rocks, trees and challenging grades. Donít expect to be skiing amongst
the crowds, however. Cannonís lack of development and slope side
accommodations make it largely a local affair. Let others stay home and
complain of the cold and the ice ó more snow for you.
In a state whose ski
headlines are dominated by two heavyweights, Saddleback is the killer
resort waiting in the shadows. A great way to escape heightened crowds
at Sugarloaf or Sunday River, Saddleback offers some steep, narrow runs
and serious glade skiing. Take the new Kennebego Quad to the summit and
find an advanced/expert playground waiting for your tracks, skierís
right ó there are virtually no greens or blues here, so be sure youíre
up to the task. On a powder day, take a 10-minute hike to the true
summit and enjoy access to an eastern rarity: above-treeline snowfields.
Saddlebackís progressive separation gives every level of skier and rider
what they want without the clutter that they donít. Adult lift tickets
are just $40 a day. Seriously.
notoriously slow lifts, Smugglerís Notch is a true classic. Great for
families and passionate experts alike, Smuggs is one of New Englandís
glade-heavy gems. Enjoy 22 designated glade areas with something for all
abilities. An open unmarked glade policy expands Smuggsí glades to over
750 acres. Thereís a new set of trees beckoning around every corner.
On the slopes, Smuggs
is no slouch either. While the triple black diamonds may be a bit
overblown, Smuggís healthy vertical of 2,610 feet provides a wealth of
steep trails that meet the demands of discerning riders, while gently
winding blues and greens provide long, scenic runs for novices. Smuggsí
diversity makes it a top option for families or groups with a mix of
Wildcat prides itself on providing the
no-frills, old-time skiing experience that has largely vanished from the
modern ski scene. Expect to find imposing terrain and non-existent lift
lines. The resort also has some of the most stunning alpine scenery in
New England with views of the towering Mount Washington, New Englandís
highest peak, to the west. To the east, you can see straight out to the
Atlantic Ocean on a clear day. The sometimes-brutal northern NH weather
fraught with frigid cold and bitter winds preserve Wildcatís place as a
dedicated skierís mountain. If you tire of the Catís challenging glades
and groomers, the eastís most infamous backcountry
Tuckermanís Ravine ó
is a stoneís throw away.
In addition to these great resorts, New
England offers a multitude of smaller resorts that don't receive the ink
of the big names. These mountains may not all have mind-blowing stats,
but they're great places to enjoy the slopes and trees while dodging the
rush. You won't find their billboards dotting the interstate or
advertising lining the pages of ski glossies, but you will find some of
the purest, sweetest riding that you've ever accessed. Avoid the crowds
on that next ski vacation and ride one of New England's true skier's
mountains. (For a full
list of New England ski resorts, visit our links.)
As an avid snowboarder growing up in
New Jersey, writer Chris Weiss looked to New England as a refuge
for world class riding. He sneaks off to Stowe, Killington, Jay Peak and
other resorts whenever he gets the chance.