Above photo: Skiers enjoy fresh snow at Bretton Woods.
Story and photos by Alex C. Kafka
Alex is a journalist, photographer and composer in Bethesda, Maryland.
Each resort has its strengths and its own vibe.
Three excellent, distinctive resorts — Loon Mountain, Bretton Woods and Cannon Mountain — lie within easy driving distance of Lincoln, New Hampshire. In deciding where to go, consider price, weather and slope conditions. I’d recommend sampling all three if you have time. Check with the resorts and your lodging management for daily discounts, season and group passes, multiday specials, and free skiing for young children and seniors 80 and above.
Loon Mountain is the closest, most convenient resort of the three, but also the most expensive. You’ll find it on Route 112, the Kankamagus Highway, less than 3 miles from Lincoln’s main strip. It can be crowded on weekends and holidays, but it also has impressive people-moving capacity, with eight lifts serving 52 trails. A four-person gondola ascends from the Octagon Lodge, and a variety of runs beckons beginner (green), intermediate (blue) and expert (black) skiers alike. After you’ve tried the long slopes from Loon Peak, take the Tote-Road Quad to South Peak, where the Lincoln Express Quad serves exhilarating slopes to the Pemigawasset Base Camp. That’s a good place to meet for lunch if the Octagon Lodge is crowded on a busy day, and there’s often available parking there, too. If the single-black-diamond Upper and Lower Twitcher aren’t formidable enough for you, the double-black-diamond Ripsaw should be. Not a downhiller? Check out the cross-country and snowshoeing tours, plus ice skating, indoor climbing and ziplining. Lift tickets run from $86 to $96 for adults, $76 to $86 for teens (13-18) and seniors (65 to 79), and $66 to $76 for juniors (6 to 12). Kids 5 and under and seniors 80 and over ski free.
Bretton Woods is a 30- to 40-minute drive from Lincoln, but it’s the largest ski area in New Hampshire, with 10 lifts serving 62 trails, 35 glades and three terrain parks. Its layout offers some picturesque vistas. Mount Stickney and Mount Rosebrook feature mostly intermediate runs, but there are some lovely, challenging glade (tree) runs, too, off Rosebrook. Most of the expert slopes are on West Mountain. If you see a little shop called Chutters as you exit the Zephyr Quad, you’re not hallucinating — there really is a candy store at the top of the mountain. The heights offer a view of the majestic and historic Omni Mount Washington Hotel. Adventurous people can also climb Mount Washington, cross-country ski, snowshoe and ice-climb. Lift tickets run $81 to $93 for adults, $25 to $93 for seniors 65 to 79 ($25 for weekdays), $60 to $70 for juniors 13 to 17, and $45 to $55 for children 5 to 12. Seniors 80 and over and children 4 and under ski free.
Cannon Mountain is 10 miles from Lincoln, and it’s the wildest and least expensive of the three resorts. Eleven lifts serve 97 trails and glades. It’s less cushy than the other two resorts but has a long, rich history and considerable mystique as the boyhood ski terrain of downhill legend Bode Miller. It has New Hampshire’s only aerial tram, a distinction dating back to 1938, and it boasts the state’s largest vertical drop — 2,330 feet. There are some beginner slopes, but the mountain features more intermediate and expert terrain. Cannon’s winds can be daunting on the chairs and at the top of the tram. You’ll find some of the toughest but most rewarding terrain, especially when the snow is good, on the half dozen black diamonds ending at the Zoomer Lift. They have ample bumps but also straight schussing options. Skiing is the main attraction here with fewer alternative activities. Lift tickets run $55 to $77 for adults, $50 to $64 for teens, $40 to $55 for juniors 6 to 12 and seniors 65 and over, and $44 to $55 for military personnel. Children 5 and under ski free.