By Kathy Bennett
The weekend before Thanksgiving is the time many spend to look up recipes, make shopping lists and gather the goods necessary for the turkey day to come. But snow came early this year to Mt. Washington Valley, so all the Thanksgiving duties got pushed aside as I spent both weekend days checking out the amazing early season skiing in and around North Conway, New Hampshire.
Bretton Woods opened for the season on Friday, Nov. 16 and conditions sweetened up overnight as light snowfall continued. The first thing visitors will notice is the new Gondola base being installed right in front of the base lodge. When complete, it will be the only 8 person gondola in the state.
With 7 trails open with 2 lifts operating, Bretton Woods had top to bottom runs ready for action. Skiing in mid-November usually consists of “the white ribbon of death” – a narrow swath of man-made snow down the center of the trail with no white stuff in the trees. Not so this year. Snowy views greeted skiers as one looked off to Mount Washington and closer, Mount Deception. An all natural snow trail – Granny’s Grit – offered a foot of ungroomed freshies which challenged my first-day-of-the-season legs. Watch out for the water bars and point your tips downhill!
I had prepared for the ski season by purchasing new boots at the annual Eastern Slope Ski Club ski swap the previous weekend, and followed up by having custom footbeds installed at the Ski Liquidators. What a difference. Do yourself a favor this ski season – invest in this personalized fitting and watch your skiing improve. I know I did.
Day two of the season saw me searching the basement for my skinny skis and cross country ski boots. With man-made snowmaking, pre-Thanksgiving alpine skiing is not unusual. But cross-country skiing? Now that’s a rare treat. Mt Washington Valley now has three cross-country skiing areas open – Great Glen, Bretton Woods and Jackson Ski Touring. Jackson’s Prospect Farm parking lot was completely full when I arrived at 10:30am on Sunday, so I was not alone in reveling in the early season splendor. My legs burned, but I made it up to the Orchard Trail, then enjoyed the long downhill before banging a hard right onto Quail. Remind me to work on cardio strength before my next day out. I made it back to my car out of breath and excited to have traveled 3 miles under my own ski power.
While I didn’t ski it personally, Cranmore reported their November 17th opening to be the earliest in their history. Hannes Schneider would be proud.
Thanksgiving week is predicted to be cold, a treat for snowmakers and skiers alike. Look for more areas to open with more terrain for the long holiday weekend.
I’m glad I skipped the Thanksgiving prep this weekend – I just hope I remember to pick up the turkey on Wednesday.