Winter-Summer Pairings: Shoulder Season Multisport Days

As we head into spring, many outdoor people find themselves conflicted on which sports to pursue. Should they get a head start on their favorite summer activities? Or, should they wring the last bit of life out of their favorite winter sports? Around this time each year, I find myself torn between the desire to get back on the trails (or rock) and—with the knowledge that, once the snow melts, it will be months before I can ski again—my love for spring corn. Luckily, New England is full of great opportunities for those of us who can’t decide what we want to do.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. Bag a 4,000-footer and ski the resort

New England springs often offer cold nights and warm days. This means the snow is firm in the morning and soft in the afternoon, so the ski trails aren’t always in prime condition until later in the day.

Waterville Valley is perfect for days like this! With the Tecumseh Trail leading directly from the Waterville Valley parking lot to Mount Tecumseh’s summit, you can tag a 4,000-footer in the morning and ski in the afternoon. Being the shortest of New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers, Mount Tecumseh is one of the easier hikes to tick off your list (roughly six miles round trip and with 2,500 feet of elevation gain). This leaves you with plenty of energy to enjoy the steep runs located off Waterville’s aptly named Sunnyside Triple trail in the afternoon.

Cliip a Dee Doo Dah (5.3) at Rumney. | Credit: Tim Peck
Cliip a Dee Doo Dah (5.3) at Rumney. | Credit: Tim Peck

2. Ski and send

Over the years, Cannon Mountain has developed a loyal following of skiers and boarders more interested in amazing terrain than in on-mountain amenities. If you’re like me and consider a chairlift an amenity, they even offer an $8 uphill pass that allows you to skip the lifts and skin uphill on designated trails. Even better, in good seasons, the mountain will close for the year with an abundance of snow still on it, offering great skiing for only the price of the calories and sweat it takes to get you to the top of it.

Coming from south of Franconia Notch in the spring, I love to blend a morning of earning my turns at Cannon Mountain with clipping bolts at Rumney on the way home. With an abundance of crags close to the parking lot, many of which get great afternoon sun, this trip is the perfect way to bid farewell to skiing and usher in climbing.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Mount Wachusett, multisport playground

For years, I was lucky enough to live close to Mount Wachusett in Princeton, Massachusetts. While the mountain may be limited in terrain, it is in no way limited in opportunities for an incredible multisport spring day. Whether you’re skinning up the mountain before it opens, riding the lifts, or lucky enough to be getting turns after it has closed for the season, the skiing is almost always fun. As well, the mountain’s more limited terrain won’t have you feeling like you’re missing out as you leave to pursue other activities.

Much like Mount Tecumseh, Mount Wachusett’s summit is attainable simply by following trails leaving from the ski resort’s parking lot. Combining a morning on the slopes with a quick trek to the summit is a fantastic way to get your hiking legs under you without missing a chance to ski the soft spring snow. My favorite route has always been following the Balance Rock Trail to the Semuhenna Trail to the Harrington Trail to the summit.

Of course, as good as Mount Wachusett’s hiking trails are, the roads surrounding the mountain are basically tailor-made for cycling. After a morning on the slopes, I love to challenge myself with any number of loop rides that start in the ski resort’s parking lot and climb over the mountain. I like to descend Route 140 and hook up with Route 62. From Route 62, you can connect with Mountain Road to climb up and over Mount Wachusett.

If combining hiking or biking with skiing isn’t interesting enough for you, Mount Wachusett is also located only a few minutes down the road from Crow Hill, one of Massachusetts’ oldest and most notorious crags, and is roughly an hour away from some of New England’s most popular bouldering at Lincoln Woods in Rhode Island.

Although I am not big on playing in the water, one of my friends insists the ultimate multisport opportunity afforded by Mount Wachusett is the chance to play on frozen water in the morning and moving water in the afternoon. For those that don’t know, Mount Wachusett is roughly an hour away from popular surf spots in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

 

While spring is the season in which we say goodbye to our favorite winter sports and welcome in our summer activities of choice, there are a few magical weeks where your outdoor options are almost unlimited, making it perfect for the person who wants to do everything.


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.


Mount Washington Cog Railway: Ski It While You Can

Built in 1868, the Mount Washington Cog Railway has been a staple of the peak’s plentiful ski runs since skis first came to the Northeast’s highest point. But, recently, plans have come to light that could significantly change that three-mile run in the not-so-distant future.

In December, the Mount Washington Railway Company (MWRC) proposed building a new hotel and restaurant along the rail line just a mile below the mountain’s summit.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Mount Washington has seen more human impact than most peaks. It’s not hard to find the scars of actions made decades or even centuries ago, as everything from hotels, lodges, and huts to roads and railways dots the landscape. Between a multitude of buildings, an auto road, and a railway, Mount Washington has seen more than its fair share of development, both good and bad.

No matter how you feel about the existing infrastructure throughout the Whites, it’s hard to argue that there should be more of it. The most obvious reason we don’t need another building up there? Just look at the remnants of structures built in the past, both on Mount Washington and on the Whites’ other mountains—the impact will last generations. As outdoor enthusiasts, we can almost universally agree on one thing: We should be minimizing our impact on the environment.

But, if we can’t agree on that, then maybe we can agree to not ruin a favorite ski run.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The “Easy” Way

Skiing the Cog Railway might be one of the activities that leaves me the most conflicted about Mount Washington’s infrastructure. While in the summer the railway presents an easy path to the summit for those not wanting or not able to exert the effort in getting there under their own power, in the winter, the Cog offers the most accessible way to Mount Washington’s summit for skiers and snowboarders. Ascending roughly 3,500 feet in three miles, the Cog is the shortest route to the top and involves the least amount of elevation gain. Because it is graded to be suitable for a train, it is never excessively steep, making for quick ascents and even faster descents—especially when skiing! Even better, spring is the perfect time to make the trip, as winter’s cold and windy conditions begin to subside, and the days start to get longer.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Not only does the Cog offer an easier path to the summit, it also minimizes challenging route finding. Unlike many New Hampshire backcountry ski runs, skiing the Cog has no mysteries to unlock; simply follow the rail line from its parking lot near Bretton Woods to the mountain’s summit and back down. The simplicity is incredibly beneficial when considering Mount Washington’s fierce winter weather, with the railway serving as a handrail to the summit and back.

Skiing the Cog further simplifies the logistics by reducing the likelihood of an avalanche. Unlike the more notable and steep Tuckerman Ravine, the Cog’s lower slope angle, less snow, and less wind traditionally make the snowpack more reliable and less likely to avalanche than other Mount Washington backcountry ski lines. However, in spite of its tame reputation, it’s still smart to carry a beacon, shovel, and probe, even though you probably won’t need to use them.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Summit Optional

While the Cog provides a path to the mountain’s summit, there are plenty of good turns to be had on it at lower elevations. In fact, on most occasions that I have skied there, the best turns have come down low. At 3,800 feet (a little over 1,000 feet of elevation gain), the Waumbek tank is a good stopping point for newer backcountry skiers or those just looking to run low-angle laps. Just below treeline at 4,725 feet, Jacob’s Ladder marks the turnaround point for people more interested in skiing than summiting. At a 37-percent grade, it’s also here where skiers will tackle the steepest portion of the trail. From Jacob’s Ladder, the next natural stopping point is the summit.

That is, unless the MWRC get the okay to build their hotel and restaurant. Planned for Skyline Switch, it would sit at 5,200 feet, just 1,000 feet of elevation below the summit. While some might appreciate the brief reprieve from the wind the building could offer, it would also sit blocking one of the trickier sections of the descent, as well as blemish the unique alpine landscape.

Skiing from the summit has typically involved everything from linking snow patches together to wondering why I don’t just put crampons on and walk back down. The trek to the top is mostly just for that: to touch the top. However, on a few occasions, I have been lucky enough click in and make turns right from the summit sign.

 

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Skiing the Cog Railway is one of my favorite winter trips in the Whites. It’s straightforward, offers great skiing, and allows you to descend one of the region’s most iconic peaks. Those should be reasons enough to do it, but with the uncertainty of the Cog Railway’s current state (the MWRC wants to have their hotel and restaurant open by 2019), the best time to go is right now!

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Killington: Skiing The Beast of the East

At 4,241 feet, Killington is known as the “Beast of the East.” Featuring six mountain areas, 1,509 ski-able acres, 155 trails, 21 lifts, and a 3,050-foot vertical drop, it’s a giant, to say the least. For boarders and freestyle skiers, the mountain boasts six terrain parks and two half-pipes. It’s regularly the first to open and last to close in the Northeast, and you have the chance to rip down the same run where Mikaela Shiffrin won the 2016 Audi FIS Ski World Cup slalom race. She’s a badass, and so is this mountain.

Courtesy: Killington Resort
Courtesy: Killington Resort

Getting There and Renting Gear

Killington is in the heart of the Green Mountains, making it an accessible skiing destination for most of New England. As you drive north up U.S. Route 4, you’ll know you’re getting close when you see both a gas station and First Stop Ski & Bike Shop. This place is perfect if you’re antsy to grab rental gear or if you’re planning to take the lift from Skyeship.

If you’re traveling from VT Route 100, you’ll see Base Camp Outfitters, which also offers rentals. As a tip, if you’re into alpine tour, telemark, or cross-country skiing, BCO has all the gear and info you’ll need. As well, the Access Road itself has an abundance of ski and board shops.

Courtesy: Killington Resort
Courtesy: Killington Resort

Base Lodges

Killington’s vast area encompasses five base lodges, so don’t forget where you parked. Here’s the breakdown:

K-1

The main base area is home to the K-1 Express Gondola and is the quickest way to the highest terrain. K-1 is essentially the mountain’s home base, featuring Guest Services, Killington Sports, food options, a bar, and an outdoor patio with live music in nice weather. Speaking of weather, the Roaring Brook Umbrella Bar is a MUST in the spring, and let’s not forget the wonderful Waffle Cabin for everyone who has a sweet tooth. As a whole, K-1 is definitely the mecca of base lodges.

Snowshed

As the starting point for adult beginners, it has learning terrain, lessons, and designated slow areas. But, don’t let this intro stuff fool you; Snowshed still gives you access to the entire mountain and has the Double Diamond Demo Center for high-end equipment, a great starting point for groups of friends at all levels. As another tip, just this summer, they moved an Umbrella Bar to Snowshed for people-watching galore!

Ramshead

More family oriented, it has kids’ lessons and rental gear, childcare, and kid-friendly food courts, and is smoke free. With two magic carpets and an abundant amount of beginners’ terrain, this is the place to head with your little ones.

Bear Mountain

With plenty of advanced terrain, and the most likely place to find the sun on a partly cloudy day, it gets you to the steeps, bumps, and trees and has three terrain parks and one of the half-pipes. Bear Mountain is also known for its annual Mogul Challenge, open to anyone hoping to give their knees some work.

Skyeship

You can’t miss the bridge that crosses over U.S. Route 4. The Skyeship Gondola takes you to Skye Peak and provides access to the rest of the mountain. There will be much smaller crowds here, but you can’t rent gear. Food and drinks are available.

Just in case you end the day in a different spot from where you started, there is a shuttle service that runs between the base lodges.

Courtesy: Killington Resort
Courtesy: Killington Resort

Terrain

Now for the fun part: Know where to get those turns in! Pick your speed or ability, and get out there:

Advanced and Expert Trails

Start by taking the K-1 Gondola—you can get to pretty much anywhere on the mountain from there. If you don’t need a warm up, head right to the Canyon Area for some thrills on the steeps. Need to loosen the legs? Take a skier’s left to North Ridge Triple Chair for a few runs, or go skier’s right and cross over to Needle’s Eye or the Skye Peak Express quad.

No matter where you start, make sure to get some runs in on Bear Mountain. For park fanatics, Skye Peak and Bear are the most advanced places to get in your kicks and tricks. Here, The Stash was designed and built by Jake Burton and his team, and has 66 features that go in, out, and even over the trees, and is guaranteed to impress! You also can’t forget Superstar. A headwall starts off the run, and then, it just lets you rip and carve all the way down.

Credit: Amy Fuller Ahlberg
Credit: Amy Fuller Ahlberg

Intermediate

Ramshead is the place to start if you want to get those skis turning and under control. It also has the small- and medium-sized terrain parks. Next, take Caper to the Snowdon Quad, and enjoy that area for a few runs.

As you keep making your way across the mountain, find Skye Peak, which arguably has the most intermediate terrain of any mountain area in Killington. It would be easy to spend hours exploring and jumping around the many blue trails that are serviced by its six lifts.

Beginner

Enjoy what Snowshed and Ramshead have to offer: Snowshed Slope is short and wide and provides plenty of room to turn, while Easy Street and Caper on Ramshead are longer and narrower, with turns in the terrain that create a flowing feeling as you ski down.

Feeling lost? Great Northern trail traverses from the top and will bring you to the K-1 Base Lodge and Snowshed. Bear Trax and Bear Claw will take you to Skye Peak and Bear Mountain. If you’re feeling really lost, Killington has ski ambassadors everywhere, all of whom are knowledgeable, friendly, and always willing to lend a hand or lead the way if needed.

Credit: Robin Cox
Credit: Robin Cox

Fuel Up

Looking for a quick breakfast to take with you to the mountain? Stop by the Phat Italian, where they use Boar’s Head meats and aren’t stingy about it. Want to sit down for a bit? Venture off the Access Road and head to Maple Sugar & Vermont Spice in Mendon, or stay local and eat at the Butternut Inn and Pancake House. Either place is a win.

Sometimes, a late start isn’t always a bad thing, especially on the weekend, when The Foundry serves brunch starting at 11, with menu items like omelettes, crepes, breakfast burritos, and homemade waffles—is your mouth watering yet? Pair your breakfast with a mimosa or a Bloody Mary, and you’re on your way to a successful day!

Lunch can be found both on and off the slopes. Every base lodge gives you the option of buying food, but a favorite is always going to be the Peak Lodge. Don’t let the cafeteria-style restaurant fool you, though; the food is delicious. The Peak Bar has an amazing view, along with beers on tap and signature drinks. If you’re up for something different, try the Jerk Jamaican Mountain Grill at the bottom of Needle’s Eye.

Après ski needs to be at The Lookout. It’s the first bar on the left as you drive down the Access Road. It might be busy, but the crowd gathers here for a reason.

Credit: Stephanie Levin
Credit: Stephanie Levin

Spending the Night

In order to get everything in that Killington has to offer, it’s best to stay at least one night.

The Killington Grand Resort Hotel is the only mountainside full-service hotel. Preston’s restaurant and its proximity to Snowshed are huge bonuses for staying there.

Fall Line, Highridge, Trail Creek, and Sunrise are condo units that have shuttle access to the mountain and, if the snow is cooperating, ski-home trails.

Birch Ridge Inn, Summit Lodge, Mountain Sports Inn, and Chalet Killington are all on the Access Road and are only a five-minute drive from the slopes.

Looking to stay outside of Killington? About 15 miles away, Rutland has a Comfort Inn, Days Inn, and Holiday Inn.

 

It’s not hard to see why they call this place The Beast—it definitely can be a little intimidating! But, if you play your cards right, you’re in for one of the Northeast’s best days on the snow.

Credit: Amy Fuller Ahlberg
Credit: Amy Fuller Ahlberg

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

The Backcountry Skier’s Guide to Mount Moosilauke

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Anyone who has ever been to the summit of New Hampshire’s Mount Moosilauke in the summer knows that the mountain can be as busy as it is beautiful. With a plethora of trails for users of all experience levels and a lodge at the base owned by the Dartmouth Outing Club, along with being one of New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers and part of the Appalachian Trail, Mount Moosilauke sees a lot of traffic, especially during prime hiking season. Fortunately, a great way to beat the crowds is to ascend its Carriage Road in the winter—a trip made even better if you can do it on skis—because as good as it is to hike in the summer, skiing it makes it that much more fun.

Getting There

A ski up and down the Carriage Road begins and ends on Breezy Point Road, located off Route 118 in Warren, New Hampshire. The Carriage Road starts pretty much where Breezy Point Road ends, and how far it’s plowed varies from year to year. In any case, there has always been a prominent place for parking, and the times I have had to go a little farther down have been rewarded with extra skiing on the way out.

The Carriage Road

Regardless of how far down the road you park, the trail is officially 5.1 miles long, ascends roughly 3,000 feet, and almost always takes longer to complete than I remember. On its climb to the summit, the Carriage Road passes other popular trails as it wanders through the forest, such as the Hurricane Trail at 1.6 miles and Snapper Trail at three miles.

After passing the Snapper Trail, the Carriage Road sees its character change, as it becomes steeper and more exposed to the elements. The trail continues this way for a little over a mile and brings you to the split for Moosilauke’s shorter and less-traveled South Summit.

The South Summit trail split is an excellent place to bundle up for the above-treeline push. If it’s getting late in the day, the conditions above treeline are unappealing, or skiing is just more important than summiting, this is also a logical turnaround point. The snow at the South Summit sign is often packed down, thus making the transition from uphill to downhill easy, it’s somewhat sheltered from the elements, and the best skiing is typically found below this point. If summiting is on your mind, however, it’s a little under a mile from here, almost all of it above treeline.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Why You Should Go

If the idea of skiing one of the Northeast’s iconic peaks isn’t enough to tempt you, maybe thinking about a little over five miles of uninterrupted skiing might. That’s right: The Carriage Road on Mount Moosilauke is 5.1 miles long and, if conditions allow (which, granted, might be a big “if”), you can go from the summit to your car in the Breezy Point Road parking lot without ever taking off your skis.

It’s also worth noting that the trail climbs roughly 3,000 feet over those 5.1 miles (10.2 miles round trip), and I have seen a few ski partners, including one very angry girlfriend (now wife, no thanks to that trip), over the years bail before the summit, having not realized—or been misled—about the effort and time involved in skiing this peak.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

It’s Mellow

Although the Carriage Road wasn’t built with skiers in mind, you might think otherwise. Because it was originally constructed to lead horses and carriages to the mountain’s summit, the grade is never exceedingly steep. While this might disappoint some of the rowdier skiers in your group, it presents a fantastic opportunity for linking turns and taking in the mountain’s incredible views, and provides a pleasant alternative to some of the Northeast’s more extreme lines. Furthermore, the Carriage Road is reasonably wide in most places, giving less-experienced or less-comfortable backcountry skiers plenty of room for making turns.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Know Before You Go  

Just because Mount Moosilauke is a relatively southern peak compared to other popular New Hampshire backcountry spots, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an easy trip. At a little over 4,800 feet tall, Mount Moosilauke is the state’s tenth-tallest mountain—and, unlike many of those ahead of it on the list, it stands alone and is unprotected from the weather.

When you take into account that the last mile up the Carriage Road is almost entirely above treeline, anyone ascending should be ready to experience full winter conditions. On more than one occasion, I have left 50-degree weather in the parking lot and booted through a mile or more of mud before reaching the snow, only to find myself scrambling to pull on my puffer jacket, balaclava, and mittens as I climbed above treeline.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Summit Snowfields

Read any blog or search for photos of skiing on Mount Moosilauke, and eventually, someone will mention the summit snowfields. I, too, have been lured by the idea of opening it up on the mountain’s exposed flanks. Sadly, in spite of skiing it numerous times—in different months, and in various conditions—I have never actually seen this mysterious sight.

On the best days, I have encountered enough snow to allow for defensive skiing before getting to the good stuff below treeline. On the worst days, the upper mountain has been swept of almost all its snow, instead consisting mostly of rock and ice and necessitating the use of MICROspikes or crampons to summit.

 

Skiing from Mount Moosilauke’s summit should be on any New England backcountry skier’s bucket list. It represents the chance to reach a prominent and popular peak without the hassle of the crowds. Even better, thanks to skis, the descent back to the car has never been faster!

 


Comfortable Winter Camping: The AMC Huts

It takes a truly tough adventurer to go camping in the Northeast during winter. But, for anyone who wants to get out—but not spend a night lying in the snow—or for someone who just wants to switch things up for an easy weekend, there’s nothing more quintessential than sitting by a fire in a cozy cabin in the woods. And, in the White Mountain National Forest, that’s easier to do than you might think.

The Appalachian Mountain Club operates a series of huts throughout the Whites during the summer, and in the winter season, three of these backcountry outposts remain open for everyday hikers, thru-hikers, and anyone else trying to stay a little more comfortable during their overnights.

Credit: Jack Roberts
Credit: Jack Roberts

Lonesome Lake Hut

Getting to these huts requires a bit of a hike, with some longer than others, and none are a small task in the winter. The easiest to access is the Lonesome Lake Hut, located 1.6 miles from the Lafayette Place Campground in Franconia Notch on I-93. It is a relatively easy hike for experienced hikers, but it’s important everyone remembers snowshoes and crampons to effectively conquer the ice and snow that may be on the trail.

The Lonesome Lake Hut sits behind Lonesome Lake, offering a perfect view of Franconia Ridge: some of the most beautiful views New Hampshire winters have to offer. Caretakers light a fire in the hut after 4 p.m., and with plenty of games and books about the history of the mountains, it may be one of the most relaxing evenings you’ll find out here.

The Lonesome Lake Hut features bathrooms, running water, and a full kitchen with gas stoves to prepare food. Almost completely made from wood, the architecture and atmosphere will beat every hotel you could find. Even on the coldest winter days, they give you a warm, cozy, at-home feeling.

Credit: Jack Roberts
Credit: Jack Roberts

Carter Notch Hut

Carter Notch Hut, requiring a one-way 3.8-mile hike, is the next-most accessible, taking hikers up a beautiful trail through the Whites’ deep wilderness. Hikers pass the Carter Lakes, where you’ll find the massive peaks of Carter Dome and Wildcat Mountain in the background. This hut, like the others, will have some snacks available, and it also provides a pillow, so you still need to pack a sleeping bag and blankets in order to stay warm through the night. Additionally, two detached bunk houses offer more of a cabin experience.

For adventuring nearby, the trails close to the hut are a must for exploring and relaxing. Most hikers will continue—either the next day or after dropping of most of their heavy equipment in the hut—up Carter Dome. The huts are about 1.2 miles from the summit, where, on a clear day, the spectacular views are more than worth the trek.

Credit: Jack Roberts
Credit: Jack Roberts

Zealand Falls Hut

Zealand Falls Hut may not be the hardest to access, but it requires the longest journey. It is only about 2.8 mile miles from the trailhead, but during the winter, the Zealand Road is closed, which adds an additional 3.5 miles. While it’s certainly doable on foot or by snowshoe, cross-country skiing can speed it up.

Either way, the trail is a stunning trek that’s worth every second. For a hike in the Whites, the journey is relatively flat, so you can enjoy the frozen ponds and scenic backgrounds without having to think about every step, like most other routes you’ll take in winter.

After getting to the hut, one of the best ways to enjoy the evening is by continuing up about 1.3 miles to Zealand Cliff, where the lookout is often regarded as one of the top views in the entire White Mountain National Forest.

If you’re looking for something to do back inside, the hut’s sign-in books are a great source of entertainment. Caretakers store all of them on a shelf, each full of names, drawings, and stories from the hut’s visitors throughout the years.

Credit: Jack Roberts
Credit: Jack Roberts

Hut Etiquette

Even though these are relatively civilized spaces, visitors are still asked to adhere to standard Leave No Trace principles: Specifically, never leave trash behind in the hut and bunk houses, just like you wouldn’t want to leave waste at your campsite if you were tenting. Most people will bring a small plastic bag to store unwanted items until they get off the mountain.

It’s also important to be respectful of other hikers staying at the cabins. Many people come out here to get away from civilization, so try to keep noise levels down after sunset.

Prices

The comfort of staying out of the wind and cold costs $33 per night during the winter season ($27 if you are an AMC member), and in the process, you’re helping support the AMC’s work. The caretakers and hut “croo” members are some of the friendliest people on Earth, so get out the calendar and plan your next trip!

Credit: Jack Roberts
Credit: Jack Roberts

Women Who Crush It: Laura Drenen

Meet Western Massachusetts native Laura Drenen who is a true goEast gal at heart. Even after being seduced by the mountains of Colorado, Drenen found her way back East to the Green Mountains of Vermont. Through a balanced life, she manages to crush-it daily while being devoted to her career, husband, pup, and self.

Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen
All photos credit: Jennifer Langille

goEast: You are one of the busiest gals I know, crushing it from the yoga mat to the mountain, and every little bit in-between. Would you mind sharing with folks a little bit about what you do as a day job, the outdoor activities which inspire you the most to be outside, and your secret to finding the time to work and do what you love?

Laura: I am a Registered Nurse as well as a Nurse Practitioner, and have practiced in various settings including as an NP in orthopedics for almost 6 years. Currently working as a nurse at Copley Hospital in Morrisville, Vermont in the field of Oncology which I feel truly passionate about. I worked in this area previously and felt the desire to come back.

One of the reasons I love living and working in this area, I’m able to do the job I love while finding the balance to enjoy what really matters most to me. Unless I have the flu, you will find me outside playing. A typical day involves commuting to work on my bike, then returning home to fetch my dog Zoey. Depending on the time of year: mountain biking, skinning up any one of our local mountains, cross country skiing, and/or hiking. I practice yoga almost daily and when the weather is nice, I find a place to practice.

As for my “secret” – I’m very lucky to have an incredibly supportive partner in my husband, Noah. He supports my goals and visions for fitness. Shares the love of the outdoors. Luckily, we enjoy the same activities too!

Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen

goEast: Vermont was not always your home, in fact you lived out in Colorado for a bit and came back East. What drew you back?

Laura: Yes, I lived in Colorado for a couple of years but eventually made my way back East. Vermont was the natural stopping point because of it’s proximity to family and it being an outdoor enthusiast haven due to it’s natural playground. There are lots of little secret zones I love to bike and back country ski, each very close to my home. Feel like I could live here my entire life and never find all of the amazing places the Green Mountains have in terms of great hiking, biking, swimming, and skiing.

I learned to mountain bike in western Mass where, believe it or not, the biking is super rugged. There are so many exposed rocks and roots, it made me love difficult and challenging terrain with a lot of natural technical features. The White Mountains are an area I would love to explore more of. I drive through those craggy mountains on my way to Highland Mountain Bike Park  and think, “I’d like to do more hiking and camping in that area, so that’s on my list for next summer!” The coast of Maine is also pretty sweet and I’d like to do more weekend surf trips in the future.

Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen

goEast: Riding bikes and finding time to be on your bike is clearly important to your active lifestyle—so much so we met up with you at 6 a.m. to catch you on the way out the door to work one snowy morning! How do you stay motivated to hop on your bike and not into the car?

Laura: For me, I try to focus on how I will feel after I do something which initially may be difficult. Getting up to skin when it’s dark feels like, “why am I doing this, I could be sleeping in!?” But of course, the reward of watching the sunrise over the mountains and having early, fresh turns is always worth it. Biking to work is the same way (although with maybe a little bit less adrenaline). I often have a sense of gratitude that I am able to commute to work via bicycle, for my health, ability to afford a bike, and to live within proximity to work where bike commuting is even an option.

 

Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen

goEast: To make your commute more comfortable on a cold – snow – wintery morning, what are your must have pieces of gear?

Laura: Well, in short, bike commuting in the winter requires—at the very least—studded tires (or a fat bike which I do not have), and neoprene booties to keep your feet dry and warm. Fenders are also a must-have because they prevent the water from spraying you the entire way. Before I got the fenders, I would be soaking wet when I arrived to work! They aren’t cheap but these few things make a huge difference. Warm gloves and keeping all skin covered on super cold days is also necessary. I like to wear sunglasses to keep the wind from making my eyes water. I also suffer from a condition called Raynauds which is where there is very poor circulation to the extremities. This makes outdoor activities difficult in all of Vermont’s seasons, but most especially in the winter months. I am very prone to frostbite and painful fingers and toes. This requires a lot of planning: I sometimes take a hot shower before my activity, pack extra dry layers, hand warmers, etc.

Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen

goEast: We caught you mixing up something of a potion, collecting eggs from your chickens, as we trekked through your now snow-covered veggie garden—all clues your nutrition is equally as important to you. As a nurse, a pretty reliable source for information on the topic, could you share more?

Laura: Nutrition is a huge part of an overall healthy lifestyle for me. I try to start my day with either a super food smoothie or a bowl of warm cereal like quinoa or oatmeal to heat me up in the winter. I think the best snacks are the homemade ones but I have to admit I don’t do that as often as I should! In general, I’ve been trying to incorporate some principles of Ayurveda into my diet and have found it’s had a dramatic influence on my health. This includes something as simple as starting the day with a warm glass of water with lemon which I have really found to be helpful with digestion.

My husband is a lifelong vegetarian and we eat a vegetarian diet. I am super lucky that he loves to cook, and is really great at it! We both value healthy living and enjoy growing our own food when possible. We’ve also really love caring for chickens who give us delicious eggs. We are extremely fortunate to eat so well.

Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen

goEast: A part of your story which really blows me away, aside from gearing up and riding your bike to work in all sorts of conditions, is learning that you use to be an avid snowboarding until an accident on your bike. Though your passion to be on the mountain inspired you to take up alpine skiing/touring. Could you share a little bit about your experience of letting go of something you loved, and what it took for your to take up a new sport later in life?

Laura: Getting hit by a car has affected my life more than I guess I really admit to. Most notably, I did stop snowboarding because it bothered my back. But I don’t focus on giving something up, but rather how happy I am to have discovered skiing. Unlike most people in a ski town, I did not grow up skiing. In fact, when I moved to Colorado I had hoped to chase the good weather and try to mountain bike and race year round.  But I made friends and people convinced me to stick around and experience the Rockies in the winter. I had never liked winter before then. I was 29 and learned to snowboard- it was my first ever experience on a ski slope. Instantly fell in love.

Since I love mountain culture, learning to ski at 35 was just another challenge; one I readily accepted! It’s never easy being new at something, and it certainly affects the ego, especially since I feel that everyone around me has been on skis since before they could walk! I feel grateful that I found all of these sports and hope to continue to enjoying them into old age. And I hope to continue to learn new skills on my bike, skis and yoga. Yoga is great at teaching us to take things slow, realizing growth comes in time and cannot be rushed. My practice has taught me to be easier on myself, and enjoy the present moment.

Laura Drennen

Laura Drennen

goEast: You must tell us more about your adorable pup and the role she plays in your active lifestyle. From what I see she and your husband are your greatest cheerleaders in your crushing-it lifestyle!

Laura: Zoey is my constant companion on all adventures (except riding to work and the lifts at the mountain of course). We adopted her from an amazing no-kill animal shelter here in Morrisville and instantly fell in love with her. She loves bike rides and hiking, but skiing is her favorite—a true snow dog! Think she would’ve made an amazing sled dog, actually! I make it a priority to get out with her pretty much every day. A tired dog is a happy dog, which leads to a happy dog parent! I use to compete in down hill mountain biking, however gave it up because I didn’t want to leave her every weekend. It didn’t feel fair to her, but in the long run ended up finding more balance in my own life. That’s what it’s all about: doing what you love within reason.  I would never entirely stop something because of a dog, but in ending the weekly travel, I was able to enjoy my life here and find time for everything that I love!

Laura Drennen

 


Finding Backcountry Turns at Mount Cardigan

The fantastic backcountry skiing on New Hampshire’s Mount Cardigan is far from a secret. With an Appalachian Mountain Club-owned lodge at the mountain’s base, as well as an AMC-operated high cabin located a half-mile from the summit, Mount Cardigan draws an eclectic group of snowshoers, campers, and backcountry skiers during the winter. Further adding to the mountain’s popularity is its inclusion in David Goodman’s seminal book, Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast: 50 Classic Ski Tours in New England and New York.

It’s not uncommon to show up at the mountain, only to find the parking lot already packed with cars. But, don’t be discouraged; this has happened to me on more than one occasion, and once I was in the woods, I saw hardly anyone else…and still found some freshies!

Here are just a couple reasons it’s such a great spot:

1. It’s close

In addition to the AMC’s presence on the mountain, one of the main reasons for its popularity is its proximity to Southern New England. Located off exit 23 on I-93, it’s substantially further south than most other popular New Hampshire backcountry spots. Keep this in mind if conditions seem questionable, as the snow here is less predictable than its northern counterparts.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

2. It’s great for beginners

With relatively wide trails and nothing incredibly steep on Mount Cardigan, it’s no wonder that many backcountry skiers get their start here. Throw in trails protected by trees (it’s easy to enjoy great skiing below treeline if the weather isn’t cooperating), a lodge to get ready in, and a fire to sit in front of if you burn yourself out before the rest of your group, and Mount Cardigan is a great place to transition from skiing the resort to exploring the backcountry.

3. It’s great for experienced skiers

With its close proximity to the Northeast’s population centers, Cardigan is a great choice for skiers looking to spend more time skiing and less time driving. Also, the lack of steepness and shorter trails allow fit skiers to take multiple runs in a day.

4. It gives you options

Mount Cardigan has two trails designated for backcountry skiing, and a handful of stashes if you feel like poking around. But, even if you don’t discover the stashes, you’re sure to have a blast! The Alexandria Trail is the shorter and steeper one of the two main routes. Specifically designed for skiers by the Civilian Conservation Corps, this trail widens right when you want it to and gives you plenty of room to carve. The Duke’s Trail is a great run for first-time backcountry skiers, and although longer than the Alexandria Trail, its gentler terrain is perfect for getting new skiers comfortable away from the groomers.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

5. It has incredible views

Although both the Alexandria Trail and the Duke’s Trail are mostly protected by trees, both do ascend above treeline to a bare summit (the result of an 1855 fire) and deliver great views of Monadnock to the south, the White Mountains’ larger peaks to the north, and Vermont in the west. Because of the unprotected nature of the slopes above treeline, I have found everything from bare rock to snow piled high, thanks to the wind. You never know!

Now, just add snow!

With the beta in hand, now all we have to do is wait for snow. Keep in mind that, while there is a lodge at the bottom of the mountain, this is still backcountry skiing, and there is no ski patrol there to mark hazards or take care of you if you get hurt.

If you want to learn more about how to pack for a backcountry ski trip, take a look at our What’s In Your Guide’s Pack article to see what EMS Climbing School professionals carry with them when heading into the backcountry.

What’s your favorite part of skiing Mount Cardigan?

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

 


Newsflash: Killington's #BeastWorldCup breaks attendance records

For the first time since 1991, the East Coast played host to skiing’s FIS World Cup this weekend as athletes from all over the globe gathered at Killington for womens’ giant slalom and slalom events.

A raucous, record-breaking crowd of nearly 27,000 East Coast skiing fans between the two days of competition were treated to exciting racing, including a slalom win by hometown girl Mikaela Shiffrin. Shiffrin, 21, spent her formative years on the slopes of Vermont at the famed Burke Mountain Academy before going on to Olympic glory and becoming the games’ youngest slalom gold medalist in history.

According to U.S. Ski Racing officials, the large crowds made #BeastWorldCup, as the event was being referred to, one of the most well attended women’s skiing events in U.S. history and it’s attendance was on par with FIS events anywhere in North America.

“All of us would love to come back here,” said USSA’s Tom Kelly. “We’re going to take a serious look at it.  The World Cup calendar for next year will be determined in May at the International Ski Federation meetings, and we’re certainly going to continue to talk to Killington and talk to FIS to see if there’s an opportunity to come back here.  We just had a great opportunity to expose the sport to so many kids out here in the state of Vermont.”

Let us know in the comments: Would you like to see World Cup ski racing become a regular part of East Coast winters?

Courtesy of Killington/Facebook Photo
Courtesy of Killington/Facebook Photo