Loon Mountain: Exit 32’s Big-Mountain Skiing

One of the best things about visiting Loon Mountain is that it offers something for everyone. Whether it’s chasing pow, cruising corduroy, skiing trees, sessioning the park, aprés activities, or just poking around Lincoln’s bustling Main Street, the mountain is high on entertainment. And, if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself wanting to do a bit of everything.

With a reputation for delivering accessible (located right off of I-93’s exit 32) big-mountain skiing, Loon is a popular spot for daytrippers. However, if you’re like most people, you won’t be ready to go home after one day, so, if you can, plan on extending your stay to explore all of the mountain and the fun little town at its base.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Pre-Ski Fuel Up

When it comes to exploring its three different peaks, I often find it difficult to break for lunch, and you can’t expect to go bell-to-bell without a decent breakfast. Fortunately, there are a few great options between the highway and the mountain.

In my opinion, you can never go wrong with a breakfast sandwich from the White Mountain Bagel Co., but if I’m in the mood for something different, I’ll head to Half Baked and Fully Brewed. While they also serve breakfast sandwiches, it’s their baked goods and coffee that lure me.

I’d love to tell you that every time I go to Loon, I leave myself enough time for a real breakfast and still make first chair, but that would be a lie. Luckily, you also pass a Dunkin’ Donuts and a McDonald’s on your way through Lincoln if you only have time for something from the drive-through.

Fresh powder on Angel Street. | Courtesy: Loon Mountain
Fresh powder on Angel Street. | Courtesy: Loon Mountain

The Gondola

Taking the Gondola from Loon’s base lodge to the 2,733-foot summit is the way I like to start a day of skiing or riding. While some of my more-ambitious friends will head right for Angel Street, an iconic black diamond run that passes underneath the Gondola at its steepest point, I prefer to warm my legs up on one of the mountain’s more moderate runs before tackling the steeps.

Speaking of moderate, Loon is a great place for intermediate skiers and riders, with 60 percent of the terrain being blue squares. Normally, I will take Flying Fox or Upper Pickled Rock to one of the lower mountains’ numerous blue square runs that lead back to the Gondola. After my warm-up, I’ll head back up the almost-1,800 feet of vertical to tackle the aforementioned Angel Street.

Get a great view of the town below from Ripsaw. | Courtesy: Loon Mountain
Get a great view of the town below from Ripsaw. | Courtesy: Loon Mountain

South Peak

Loon Mountain’s South Peak can be accessed by either the Tote Road Quad, which runs across a ridgeline on the upper mountain, or taking a shuttle to the Lincoln Express Quad at the bottom of South Peak. Advanced skiers flock to Loon’s southern slopes to tackle the mountain’s first—and only—double-black diamond run, Ripsaw.

At 45 degrees, Ripsaw provides plenty of challenges for skiers and boarders looking for steeps. For people who love skiing in the trees, Undercut offers some of the mountain’s best glade skiing and is a must-do if there is plenty of snow. Those looking for something a little less rowdy and a bit more mellow will love the aptly named Cruiser for making easy turns while enjoying stellar views.

Getting some air on Upper Flume. | Courtesy: Loon Mountain
Getting some air on Upper Flume. | Credit: Michael Riddell

North Peak

It’s far from difficult to spend nearly entire days riding the North Peak Express Quad and lapping Walking Boss and Flume, the peak’s two primary runs. Long, wide, and never crowded, and with just the right amount of steepness, Walking Boss and Flume are great places to open it up if you have the need for speed.

North Peak is Loon’s highest point at 3,005 feet and is often the place to find the best snow on the mountain. It can also be the windiest and coldest lift ride, perhaps explaining the lack of crowds.

If the snow is good and you enjoy tree skiing, Walking Boss Woods and Bucksaw are awesome glade runs. Beginners and intermediates should beware: North Peak is short on intermediate terrain, with Sunset being the peak’s only blue square run from the top.

Big air in Loon's Superpipe. | Courtesy: Loon Mountain
Big air in Loon’s Superpipe. | Credit: Loon Mountain/Gus Noffke

Parks

One thing you’ll notice when cruising around the mountain is the proliferation of terrain parks. Loon is home to six different ones and the only superpipe in New Hampshire. Designed to offer something for everyone, Loon’s will satisfy anyone, from the person looking to ride their first rail to pros wanting to keep their skills sharp. Although I don’t ride the park myself, I do like to stop and admire how talented those skiers and riders are.

Mountain Eats

For anyone skiing bell-to-bell, it usually takes some grub in between to elevate your energy levels. Like any other big mountain these days, Loon has plenty of options. But for me, if I’m going to stop, it’s almost always at the Summit Cafe, located—as you might have guessed—on Loon’s summit.

Offering Caribbean-inspired fare, the Summit Cafe delivers hot food and conjures warm thoughts on cold winter days. And, during the sunny days of spring, it’s a great place to stop for a refreshing Red Stripe on the back deck, take in the incredible view of the White Mountains, and pretend you’re someplace tropical…if only for a moment.

After-ski drinks in the Paul Bunyan Lounge. | Courtesy: Loon Mountain
After-ski drinks in the Paul Bunyan Room. | Credit: Dan Brown/Kapitol Photo

The Paul Bunyan Room

Coming in a close second to my love of skiing is my love of aprés activities, and Loon Mountain’s Paul Bunyan Room is one of New Hampshire’s finer places for the latter.

With 24 beers on tap, it guarantees the right brew to complete a great day on the slopes. Plus, the Bunyan Room features live music, giving you the chance to tune out for a few minutes after big day of making small talk on the lifts. When the weather is nice, take the party out to the deck, enjoy the sun, keep an eye out for your friends, and, as the Bunyan Room’s deck sits just above Loon’s base lodge, watch skiers wrap up their days.

Not Ready to Head Home?

Gordi’s Fish and Steak House is conveniently located in Lincoln on the way back to I-93, and is the obvious choice for those looking to keep the day going. Skiers will feel right at home with the place’s theme and the knowledge that Gordi’s owners were both members of the U.S. Olympic ski team. Gordi’s knows what people fresh of the hill are looking for and has awesome aprés specials on drinks and food, as well as an enormous menu if the breakfast sandwich from the morning is a distant memory clouded by non-stop skiing.

After a short drive through Lincoln—past the highway on-ramp into the town of Woodstock—you’ll find the Woodstock Inn, Station & Brewery. Featuring a huge menu and a nice variety of their own beers, the Woodstock Inn Brewery is a great way to end an epic day on the slopes. Can’t decide which beer to get? The Pig’s Ear Brown Ale is one of my favorite post-skiing beverages.

Stay More than a Day

Conveniently located right off of I-93 and roughly two hours from Boston, it’s no wonder Loon Mountain has become an incredibly popular destination for New England skiers. With its vast and varied terrain, there is truly a trail for everyone. And, although Loon’s proximity to Boston makes it a favorite for daytrippers, with the lively town of Lincoln at the mountain’s base, there is no reason to go home after just one day.

Don’t forget to gear up at Eastern Mountain Sports before hitting the slopes, and if you’re taking I-93 south home, be sure to stop in our Concord, New Hampshire location right off exit 14 to grab that piece of equipment you wished you had at Loon for your next visit.

I think what John Muir meant to say was the slopes are calling, and I must go.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck