Crotched Mountain: "Out-of-this-World" Skiing

New Hampshire has a storied ski history. It was the first state in the nation to cut dedicated downhill ski trails and to have overhead wire-rope ski tows, a gondola, and an aerial tramway. It’s also home to the first downhill ski race in the U.S., a route you can still ski today. Still, almost a century and a half after the founding of the nation’s oldest continuously operating ski club, New Hampshire remains passionate about its skiing.

Small ski resorts across the Granite State keep the ski stoke high winter after winter. These ski areas might not compete with their bigger brethren in acreage, vertical, or glitz, but they are unrivaled when it comes to passion, thanks to their accessibility, comparative affordability, and community atmospheres. One such ski hill is Bennington’s Crotched Mountain.

Credit: Tim Peck

Why Skiers Love Crotched Mountain

The reason skiers love Crotched Mountain is simple: the skiing. From trees to steeps to parks to cruisers, there’s terrain for everyone at the mountain—and thanks to the single, small base area, groups can split up, take the trail that most appeals to them, and reconvene to ride the lift back up together. The mountain’s out-of-the-way location ensures that the crowds are typically thin and long lift lines are abnormal.

Crotched also has an amazing community. Before the lifts even start spinning, it’s common to see groups of skiers uphilling together, a practice that continues throughout the day thanks to the mountain’s liberal uphill travel policy. There is also a strong contingent of telemark skiers, and Crotched has even hosted the U.S. Telemark National Championships. It’s not uncommon on nice days to see families and groups gathered together in the parking lot cooking on portable grills or sharing brown bag lunches.

Credit: Tim Peck

Finding the Best Terrain

The crown jewel of Crotched Mountain is “the Rocket,” a high-speed, detachable quad that carries skiers to the resort’s 2,066-foot summit. From the top of the Rocket, skiers can access all of the mountain’s 100 acres of trails, plus the overwhelming majority of its glades. New skiers need to know that there is no novice trail from the summit; The easiest descent is via Moon Walk, a blue square.

Crotched Mountain has four other lifts besides the Rocket—a quad, a triple, a double, and a surface lift—but this high-speed four-seater remains the favorite for its efficiency and accessibility. In 2018, Vermont skier Scott Howard made the most of the Rocket’s speed, ticking 143 runs and 130,900 vertical feet in a single day at the mountain while on his way to set the record for most vertical feet skied in a season.

Credit: Tim Peck

Something For Everyone

Skiers of all abilities will find a trail to test their limits at Crotched Mountain—28% of the mountain’s trails are rated as novice terrain, 40% intermediate, and 32% expert. In general, the steepest trails are close to the Rocket, where Pluto’s Plunge and Jupiter’s Storm offer plenty of pitch for steep-skiing aficionados. Another expert-level favorite is UFO, which often features natural or manmade bumps. Trails on the ski area’s outer edges—Galaxy and Super Nova—offer more mellow descents.

In addition to groomers, Crotched Mountain has 80 acres of glades. Seasoned tree skiers will love the Darkstar Glade’s steep pitch and tight trees while those just getting accustomed to skiing in the woods will love the lower angle and widely spaced trees of the Final Frontier Glade.

Crotched Mountain also has a variety of parks to play in. The typical park progression for Crotched Mountain riders is to go from the NCC-1701 park to the Zero-G park to the CM Terrain Park. The NCC-1701 is a favorite with newer park riders thanks to its relaxed slope angle, small jumps, and relatively low-consequence rails, while the biggest, rowdiest jumps and features are in the CM Terrain Park.

Credit: Tim Peck

Under-the-Radar Runs

Like most small ski areas, much of Crotched Mountain’s skiable terrain is visible from the lifts, but there are few hidden gems too. A powder-day favorite is Big Dipper, which is tricky to connect with other steep trails and generally involves skating or shuffling back to the Rocket—both of which keep the crowds at bay and freshies untracked. The mountain is also home to a fair number of unmarked glades, so keep your eyes peeled for tracks leading into the woods or loosen the lips of a local with a beer at the Onset Pub & Lounge. (We suggest ordering a Rocket Fuel, which is brewed just down the road, especially for Crotched Mountain, by Henniker Brewing.)

Midnight Madness

Crotched Mountain’s defining event is Midnight Madness, which takes place every Friday and Saturday night. The mountain’s lifts spin until 1:00 AM—later than any other mountain in New England—during Midnight Madness, and the festivities include live music, bonfires, and other events.

Credit: Tim Peck

Getting There

Directions to Crotched Mountain elicit the classic New England response, you can’t get there from here. Although Bennington—home to Crotched Mountain—is located in south-central New Hampshire and just 70-odd miles from Boston, getting there is a bit of an adventure for the uninitiated. Unlike many of the state’s big-name ski areas, Crotched Mountain isn’t close to any major highway and requires travel on single-lane rural roads through small, unfamiliar towns.

Upon arrival in Bennington, you’ll find typical ski town amenities in short supply. The town does have a small general store downtown and a handful of local eateries, but those looking to venture outside of the mountain’s cafeteria and pub will generally want to head toward places like Peterborough, Hillsborough, or Manchester, all of which are about a half-hour away. But if this is what you’re coming for, you’re missing the point—Crotched is for skiing.

If you haven’t visited Crotched Mountain before, put a trip to it on your winter to-do list, as this small mountain delivers big smiles.