Truth is, it’s easy to discover the soul of skiing no matter where you go, that connection we experience in the outdoors that spurs us in our passion for the mountains during winter.
There are just some places though where the spirit flows more naturally.
Not to bemoan the five-star restaurants, posh lodging and gnarly après parties that help define the ski resort industry, but there are times when the simplicity of skiing and riding reminds us of our core reasons of being out there in the first place. These are places where the only boutique shopping you’ll find might include a $3 cheeseburger, and where the spa consists of a boot-warmer tucked away in the sparse base lodge.
At Wildcat Mountain (Route 16, Pinkham Notch, Jackson, New Hampshire, 888-754-9453, skiwildcat.com), there is the view that will always set it apart from any other ski area in New England. With Mount Washington looming in the background of nearly every trail, this ski area still maintains a rustic simplicity that has attracted generations. It can get cold here, in the face of the Presidential range, but that factor helps breed a certain hard-edge to skiers at Wildcat, those who deal with the elements in order to experience the multitude of them surrounding the slopes.
At nearby Black Mountain (Carter Notch Glades. 373 Black Mountain Road, Jackson, New Hampshire, 800-475-4669, blackmt.com), visitors will be greeted by the sight of grazing horses after winding their way through the quintessential New England village of Jackson. Don’t expect high-speed lifts; do expect classic skiing trails like the Carter Notch Glades — and lack of crowds — that will help keep Black as one of your primary options on a powder day.
With new ownership and much-needed financial stability, the fears that we’ve seen the last of Magic Mountain (495 Magic Mountain Access Road, Londonderry, Vermont, 802-824-5645, magicmtn.com) have evaporated. Those who have skied this place, particularly those who have experienced the deep joy of first chair after a storm, come away with a similar message of its simple greatness, developing a cult-like appreciation for Magic Mountain that, thankfully, won’t disappear anytime soon.
It’s a similar feeling 80 miles to the north, where Mad River Glen (62 Mad River Resort Road, Waitsfield, Vermont, 802-496-3551, madriverglen.com) has been a cooperatively owned ski area since 1995. There’s a strong sense of identity here, from the familiar image of the single chair to the ubiquitous bumper stickers that dare others to “Ski It If You Can.” Yes, you can bring your snowboard to Mad River Glen, but just know that you’ll have to leave it in your car, as its use is still banned on the mountain.
As far as approaches to the mountains are concerned, few can match the “Oh, my gosh” corner leading to Sugarloaf Mountain Resort in Maine, but Cannon Mountain (9 Franconia Notch, Franconia, New Hampshire, 603-823-7771, cannonmt.com) comes a close second, with its Front Four trails forever tempting motorists driving through Franconia Notch Park with their proximity to the highway. The craggy surroundings of the park translate to Cannon, where nature surrounds as far as the eye can see, and where the trails lead guests through an experience that is classic New England skiing.