The good old M.A.X. Passes we bought are turning out to be a helluva good deal. Already in the gravy zone, and finding ourselves in New England for a weekend, we had plenty of ski hills to choose from where the MAX Pass was accepted. We punted for Loon and Sunday River. Both had good on ground conditions, pleasant forecasts, and well, we’d never been to either. And the skiing was ‘free’.
In fact we were New Hampshire ski virgins, and Loon is such a silly name, it was completely irresistible for so many reasons. Luckily, the skiing added another reason. The groomers were truly fantastic – grippy and fast, holding an edge easily. The trees were a little sketchy lower down, but in general were classic hard pack New England woods. Bumpy. Tight. Kinda solid. Wonderful fun.
We started on South Peak, and picked off all the runs, from lookers left to right. With a fast chair and light crowds, this was fast vertical accumulation. Ripsaw, a classic New England steep groomer, was the pick. Hit runs like these early before they get scraped off, and it is high-speed corduroy heaven. The weather even cooperated, revealing surprisingly mountainy views to the north. The White Mountains do deserve their moniker.
Loon – views from South Peak
Loon – North Peak
Loon – Walking Boss glades
Loon Peak and especially North Peak also held delights and surprises. Walking Boss (weird name!) had a steep groomer and two pitches of woods to the skier’s right that were excellent riding. Mike’s Way and Skidder were slightly less challenging but equally satisfying excursions in the woods. And it was hard to beat long, top-to-bottom groomers on runs like Flying Fox and Northstar. 2100 feet of high speed carving always brings a smile to my face.
Next stop was a couple of hours around the White Mountains in Maine. Sunday River is a place I always fancied skiing. With some of the most expansive terrain in New England, it has a reputation for reliable snow (ok – it’s New England!) and lots of variety spread across its 8 ‘peaks’ (New England, remember).
Again, the skiing did not disappoint. The snaking, winding, crisscrossing runs took some time to get our bearings, but by mid afternoon we kinda knew where we were going. A favorite was White Heat, a formidably steep groomer with a solid slab of exposed ice on its steepest pitch. Hit it first thing in the morning, and the ice is a cinch. Hit it late in the afternoon, and it’s a slightly more scary proposition. To add to the fun, two excellent glades, Hard Ball and Chutzpah, surround the groomer. Chutzpah especially was kinda steep and gnarly. I survived!
Sunday River – White Heat
Sunday River – Vortex
Sunday River – Flying Monkey
Sunday River – Maine lunch dining
Sunday River – Blind Ambition
At the other end of the resort, Jordan Bowl has more approachable terrain and fabulous views in all directions. Excalibur is one of the best groomers around – rolling and winding. Wizard’s Gulch is fabulous, tight tree skiing. In contrast, Blind Spot is fabulous, wide open, gentle tree skiing. Both runs are rippable and worthy of many laps.
Between these two extremes lies an immense amount of some of the best skiing in New England. Super steep groomed runs like Vortex, scary tight trees like North Woods, and perfect pitched smooth blues and blacks like Nothern Lights, South Paw and Top Gun ensure that only the most hardened snobby Vail skiing type would get bored in a week. The locals were hoping for another foot of snow to completely cover up all the woods and ‘natural’ areas, but the bottom of my skis suffered less damage than the truth does in a Sean Spicer press conference. In fact we had a ball. And as I write 6 days later, they got 18 inches. The local will be happy.
I’d head back to Sunday River any time.
Loon 10,200m vert
Sunday River 9,500m, 9300m very
Season totals 32 days, 265,300m vert, 8 powder days