Outdoor Adventures: Uplifting experience at Bretton Woods
Usually the hoopla is for a space age-looking, multi-passenger, high-speed detachable lift that transports skiers and snowboarders to an enchanting summit in record time.
But not this time.
It about a retro staple associated with skiing – the simple T-bar.
Long on nostalgia, Bretton Woods on Wednesday cut the ribbon on its new 2,000-foot-long Telegraph T-bar on Mount Stickney to provide access to the steeps, cliffs and trees of a natural snow area and a new solar-powered 600-square foot cabin.
As ski areas have a surge in backcountry and sidecountry access, manicured Bretton Woods is adding “a little bit of spice, a little bit of edge,” says Director of Ski Operations Chris Ellms.
There’s an Alpine feeling to the cabin, with vistas over to Mount Rosebrook and trails like Bode’s Run.
The cabin has food service and tables, with portable rest rooms coming soon.
“There’s a retro feel, a throwback to the ’50s and ’60s,” Ellms said.
The lift takes skiers to the cabin where they’ll be able to access a series of glades increasing in steepness and challenges from west to east. It being Bretton Woods, there will be a groomed bailout in the glades for the non-experts in the bunch.
Cross-country skiers can use it, too – this season using the lift for about a 3-kilometer loop that incorporates trails like Mountain Road.
“Next summer we’ll add another three to five kilometers of Nordic at about 3,000 feet,” Ellms said. “It will hold early- and late-season snow.”
Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Janice Crawford was on hand for the ribbon-cutting, at which the assembled were shuttled to the cabin on ATVs due to a dearth of natural snow.
“This takes you back to the nostalgia of historic skiers,” she said. “This feels a little European.”
Crawford said the lift and cabin add to the Bretton Woods and Mount Washington Omni Hotel experience.
“We’re in an era where people get jaded quickly,” she said. “This adds a little lift to the experience.”
Ski New Hampshire Executive Director Alice Pearce said the alpine additions provide a different perspective.
“Being able to stay on ungroomed trails, and have a lift and cabin in the woods adds a refinement to the backcountry experience,” she said.
Plus, parents and grandparents have a chance to show their children how they got to the top of a run back in the day.
“I guess everyone will have to learn to ride T-bars again,” Pearce said.
The T-bar lift isn’t the only new mode of transport for skiers and riders this season across New Hampshire. North Conway’s Cranmore replaced the historic East Double Chair with a triple designed to increase uphill capacity and add 300 feet of vertical. Pats Peak in Henniker added a small magic carpet lift from its rental shop to the snow, while Wildcat in Pinkham Notch installed a surface lift. Crotched Mountain in Bennington unveiled the Crotched Rocket, a high-speed detachable quad chairlift.
Also Wednesday, the non-profit Maine Huts and Trails cut the ribbon on the fourth of its 12 planned backcountry lodges across a developing 180-mile long trail in western Maine.
The Stratton Brook Hut is slated to open Friday and is accessed by a nearly 3-mile long trail from a Route 27 parking area just north of the Sugarloaf Access Road in Carrabassett Valley.
The hut contains a main lodge, bedrooms, hot showers and meals. The 10-room lodge can sleep 44 people.
With some 80 miles of trails now constructed, the network is used by free-heel skiers, snowshoers, hikers and mountain bikers.
Executive Director Nicole Freedman said the hut allows hikers access to Alpine hiking on the Appalachian Trail, has stellar views and allows guests a chance to mix and match activities by allowing them to downhill and cross-country ski at Sugarloaf, and mountain bike and hike in summer and fall.
The views extend to Sugarloaf and the Bigelow Mountain Range.
“The trail to the hut is a little bit flatter and is fantastic for families and senior citizens,” Freedman said. “They aren’t scrambling up rocks.”
She said hikers can now undertake a five-day, four-night trip among the huts.
She also believes construction of a fifth hut could be two years away.
(Marty Basch can be reached through onetankaway.com.)