Outdoor Adventures: A sweet spring skiing sampler
Ready to ride?
Hold off on the bicycle just a little bit longer and head for the notches where hardcore snowboarders and skiers are downright giddy about the spring snow.
A recent spring sampling of ski areas – Wildcat, Cannon and Bretton Woods – found a rich array of bountiful offerings.
Dust on crust, powdah on chowdah , healthy heaps of mashed potatoes and sumptuous sides of corn were all served up during the course of the days, as is the case during the ski season’s waning (and also extended) days. Fast and firm, soft and slow.
Wildcat is looking to stay open well into April, open daily through April 14, closing 15-17 and reopening 19-21. It could open April 27-28, too.
More than 200 inches of natural snow at the Pinkham Notch area tells why as it battles for New Hampshire’s last man standing bragging rights for the sixth consecutive year.
Wintry packed powder and soft, easy butter was the norm at 4,000-foot plus Cat. The morning was springlike, copious sun, but not the afternoon as gray returned and a sense of winter as a big upper level low moved in to the neighborhood, making winds pick up a bit.
The Cat’s one of those places where it’s best to search for those silky and winding connector trails not spotted from the lift. Sure, we did the wondrous Lynx from top to bottom, zipped down wide Cheetah, marveled at the view from Polecat and sneaked down Alleycat, but we also had fun on the corduroy – Caturoy – on the playful Wild Kitten side, even taking the beginner lift to give our legs a break.
Cannon’s extending its season a week longer to April 14 with two-for-$70 tickets. Winter was evident at the 4,000-foot summit, the scrubby trees still cloaked in white. There was sumptuous powder and windswept boilerplate on the wide Tramway trail. The tram is done for the season.
One of the glory runs was linking Upper, Middle and Lower Ravine from the summit down to the base. The upper section was in full winter as the trail wound its way down through the mid section before emptying out by the base. What was noticeable was the fine amount of corduroy on the other side of noon. That’s the thing about spring skiing. It’s a time for adjustments. Later start to let the snow soften and fewer people so when the groomers can get out, their handiwork lasts longer.
Another blast was the straight shot of the Taft Slalom trail and its outstanding vistas. Of course, the trail is a key piece of Cannon culture from its history as the first racing trail in North America to “The Rock,” a not-so-secret trailside spot for chilling and grilling.
At Bretton Woods, increasing clouds cloaked the Presidential Range view as the day progressed, but it did nothing to dampen the sultry feel of packed powder underfoot along what had to be miles of corduroy, even in the afternoon.
With plans to stay open until April 15 with $29 lift tickets, the time was right to finally try the new Telegraph T-bar lift, an old school lift to the new Mount Stickney cabin and access to skiing in the glades, including a groomed bailout for those not wanting twisty and tight.
Accessed from Two Miles Homs, the trees certainly had well-traveled lanes, but there still were pockets of powder in which to play before we returned to the groomers making our way across to West Mountain flying down Waumback, Starr King and Jacob’s Ladder.
Those three ski areas aren’t the only ones still going. Gunstock, Ragged and Attiash had today as their projected closing dates. Sunapee and Waterville Valley are targeting April 14, while Loon plans to hold on until April 15.
Of course, that’s just the Granite State. In Vermont, look for Killington and Jay Peak to battle it out into May. Sugarbush wants to go for as long as it can. Ride Vermont says April 7 is the last day for Bolton Valley, Magic (maybe April 14) and Mount Snow. Burke, Stratton and Smuggs look to April 14. Stowe and Okemo (extended from April 14) want April 21.
In Maine, Saddleback is holding on until April 14 and Sunday River perhaps longer.
“Historically we’ve closed between mid- and late-April,” the River’s Darcy Morse said.
Then there’s Sugarloaf.
“Based on the amount of snow we still have, it’s definitely looking like it will be sometime in May,” the Loaf’s Ethan Austin said.
Okay, you can get the bike out before then.
(Marty Basch can be reached through onetankaway.com.)