Small on Vertical, Big on Fun: Beat the Crowds at These Small New England Ski Resorts

For those who cut their teeth skiing eastern mountains, the long row of red tail lights leading to a resort is an all-too-familiar sight. In most cases, you hit your first line before even buckling your boots.

To some extent, crowds are just a fact of Northeastern skiing, especially at the larger resorts and always on the weekends. But, instead of going big, why not opt for a smaller mountain with local history, a lower price, fewer crowds, and arguably better conditions? Here is the low down on some lesser-known resorts in New England that completely deliver.

Courtesy of Camden Snow Bowl
Courtesy of Camden Snow Bowl

Camden Snow Bowl

The Camden Snow Bowl, a community-owned ski mountain located in Camden, Maine, is fairly small—offering just 105 skiable acres and 845 vertical feet. Despite its short stature, it has amazing views and one of the only New England peaks where you can see the ocean.

What the Snow Bowl lacks in size, it makes up for in character, and you will be glad to catch a glimpse of what skiing was like before the days of multi-peak resorts. For example, the snow bowl hosts a historic A-frame lodge at its base which opened in 1936 during the Great Depression.

The resort has something for everyone, and this mountain is great if you have a few friends at varying skill levels. Nearly all the more difficult trails from the summit lift have well-maintained glades between them, and here, skiing the trees is a pleasure rather than a liability. Interested in getting more comfortable with backcountry conditions? The intermediate Scrimshaw or Connie’s Light glades are great places to get your feet wet.

If tree skiing isn’t for you, take a relaxing cruise down the mile-long Spinnaker trail. The mountain’s small size allows your party to split up, run after run, but easily meet at the base for the next one.

Shawnee Mountain | Credit: Chris Sferra
Shawnee Peak | Credit: Christopher O. Sferra

Shawnee Peak

Founded in 1938, Shawnee Peak is the ideal mountain for Portland locals to jam in a last-minute day trip. Located in the foothills of the White Mountains in Bridgton, Maine, Shawnee offers a surprisingly big mountain feel (1,300 vertical feet and 245 skiable acres) for a small mountain price.

When the snow starts falling in the morning, do yourself a favor: Leave work early to “sneak to the peak” and catch some great turns on the empty trails. Don’t worry about arriving late in the day; starting at 3:30 p.m., inexpensive evening tickets allow you to hit 19 lit slopes until 8 or 9 o’clock.

If a day trip is not in the cards, Shawnee has a yurt and several cabins for a rustic ski-on-ski-off experience. At the summit, catch impressive views of the Whites and Moose Pond as the sun sinks towards the horizon.

Shawnee’s accessibility combined with its ample night skiing terrain makes it a great mid-week destination if you want to catch some fresh snow before it gets skied off.

Cranmore Mountain | Credit: Dan Houde
Cranmore Mountain | Credit: Dan Houde

Cranmore Mountain

Nestled in the town of North Conway, New Hampshire, Cranmore Mountain is home to over 170 skiable acres and 1,200 vertical feet, making it a great, less-expensive option to other White Mountain resorts.

What makes Cranmore stand out is its wide-set layout serviced by three lifts to the peak, which keep lines at bay. While some might be drawn in by the high-speed quad, avoid crowds and poor conditions by hitting the skier’s right of the mountain for more difficult and left for intermediate terrain, both serviced by triple lifts. Take the North Conway trail to visit Cranmore’s signature glacial erratic boulder and catch noteworthy views of Mt. Washington.

 

What separates these smaller locations is, the surrounding towns did not grow up around them, but rather, the resorts developed out of these communities. The mountains might be missing some of larger resorts’ bells and whistles, but you are sure to have a skiing experience steeped in New England culture, community, and charm.