Active Outdoors: Mix up the routine by exploring a new ski area

  • The sun angle says it’s March, but the snow conditions are pure mid-winter. TIM JONES /

  • If you think there’s a lot of snow in northern New England, head for Quebec where they’ve had a great snow year. This was taken on the Gaspe Peninsular at Auberge Chic Chac in spring of 2017, a poor snow year, when they only had 6 feet of snow. TIM JONES /

For the Monitor
Published: 3/17/2019 3:14:52 PM

If you’ve been skiing or riding the same ski area or the same handful of ski areas all winter long, spring is the time to try something different. Even if you never leave New England, it’s a big, wonderful world out there and you owe it to yourself to try a new area once in awhile.

This has been an incredible winter for snowfall (there’s still well over 3 feet of settled snow in my back yard, more on the mountains surrounding me.) I drove the Kancamagus Highway over to Loon Mountain and back the other day (the skiing was superb) and the snowbanks along the road are 12 feet high.

Killington and Sunday River, both of which opened early this year, should be skiing well into May. I’m guessing Sugarloaf in Maine will still be skiing on the first of May, given the amount of snow they have. Others will close sooner – most ski areas will run out of skiers before they run out of snow. Tuckerman Ravine on the side of Mount Washington, should have skiable snow into July this year.

So, my recommendation is to just pick a ski area you’ve never been to and try it. It may or may not turn out to be your favorite ever, but you won’t know until you try.

If I were going to a ski area this weekend, because it’s mid March I’d choose one of New England’s three south-facing areas: Bromley in southern Vermont, Black Mountain or Cranmore in the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire.

Why south facing? Because the sun will soften the snow there earlier than at north-facing mountains and you are more likely to get buttery soft corn snow on south-facing slopes. These south-facing areas will be among the first to close, but until they do, they will offer wonderful spring skiing, so get to them while the getting is good.

After you’ve tried the south facing slopes, pick a smaller, out-of the-way area you’ve just never visited and try it. The list of possibilities here is long, even if we just list the mountains that are a little bigger than small and a little smaller than big.

In Connecticut, there’s Ski Sundown and Mohawk Mountain; in Massachusetts, Catamount, Butternut, Bousquet, and Berkshire East; In Vermont, Magic Mountain, Suicide Six, Middlebury Snow Bowl, and Burke Mountain ; in New Hampshire, you have Dartmouth Skiway, Ragged Mountain, Tenney Mountain (newly re-opened this year) and Black Mountain; In Maine, there’s Mount Abram, Shawnee Peak, and Black Mountain of Maine on the western side of the state, and Big Squaw and Big Rock if you ant to travel farther.

I doubt you’ve skied all of these mountains, but even if you have, have you skied them recently? Seriously, I can tell you from personal experience that every one of these mountains is perfectly capable of giving you a great day of skiing, usually for a lot less money than you’d pay at a larger area.

Once you visited a few of them, you’ll still have time to get in some turns at the bigger, more familiar areas that stay open later. There’s lots of spring skiing awaiting you this year. Just don’t stay home and miss it. Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

Mid-winter in March

I’ve skied a few times in recent days and the best way I can describe the conditions are “mid-winter in March.”

At Loon Mountain on March 8, the temperature was near zero when we started in the morning (it sure felt like mid-winter) but had warmed to the high 20s by the time we left. There hadn’t been any fresh snow for several days but the whole mountain was freshly groomed and the corduroy was soft and fast, We had a ball.

On March 12, the sun was shining at my house but it snowed all day at Bretton Woods and the skiing was nothing short of amazing on 3 inches or more of fresh powder.

On March 13 at Cranmore, the sun was shining but the temperature was still in the teens when we hit the slopes. Again, the slopes were freshly groomed and, except for the higher sun angle, it might have been early February. Fabulous skiing.

Escape to Quebec

The only place in the east that’s gotten more snow than northern New England is Quebec. If you can get away for a few days, there’s no better place to enjoy longer days on snow.

Just across the border from Vermont, Owl’s Head, Sutton and Mont Orford are all buried in snow and are close enough to do in a long weekend.

Up by Quebec City, Mont Sainte Ann and Le Massif are only a day’s drive but a world away. My spies tell me the skiing up there has been unbelievable: when we’ve gotten “mixed precipitation, they’ve gotten put powder.

But if I could be anywhere in the northeast in the next few weeks, I’d be out on the Gaspe Peninsula at Auberge Chic Chac in Murochville, Quebec for the cat skiing. When I was there two years ago, it hadn’t been a greast snow year for them and they still had over 6 feet of snow on the ground. This has been a great snow year for them and the skiing must be otherworldly.

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