Basch: Uplifting start to the ski season

  • Snowmakers at Wildcat in Pinkham Notch lay down snow on the Lynx Trail in early November. Ski areas across New Hampshire and Vermont are planning for opening days as well as unveiling new improvements for the 2017-18 season. Courtesy

For the Monitor
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A few new lifts, upgraded ticketing systems and other enhancements await northern New England skiers and snowboarders.

Vermont’s Killington was the first Eastern ski area to open on Nov. 8 while Bretton Woods was the first in New Hampshire on Nov. 10.

New Hampshire ski officials are optimistic about winter, projecting a 4 percent increase in visitation and spending compared to last year.

Director of the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Victoria Cimino told a Ski New Hampshire sponsored media reception at the Westin Hotel that the DTTD expects 8.5 million people to spend about $1.25 billion in New Hampshire this winter.

“With the division’s strategic and nationally-recognized innovative marketing initiatives, paired with favorable economic factors, we are confident New Hampshire’s tourism-focused businesses and attractions will experience a strong winter season this year,” Cimino said.

New Hampshire plans to up its game during January’s Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month – a way to get new blood in the state’s official sport – with three themed weekends including Ski NH Weekend from Jan. 27-28, 2018.

“The weekend will celebrate New Hampshire’s skiing heritage and history,” said SKI NH President Jessyca Keeler.

Many ski resorts have purchased new snow guns, improved their grooming fleet, renovated lodges and added new programs.

Skiers will find a new triple chairlift at Pats Peak in Henniker. The triple replaces the old Peak Double, and will double the capacity of the lift from 800 to 1,600 people her hour.

Waterville Valley’s got approval from the U.S. Forest Service in September to replace the High Country double chair with a new t-bar. Lower down on the mountain, the Pasture J-bar’s been replaced with a couple of carpet lifts.

Black Mountain in Jackson is adding a backcountry skiing and riding program with trail maintenance done with partner Granite Backcountry Alliance. Look for a public warming hut on Mittersill at Cannon while Cranmore turns 80. Wildcat turns 60 and along with other Peak Resorts offers military personnel and dependents 40 percent off midweek non-holiday tickets and 25 percent off weekend holiday tickets with the new Military Program card.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology makes upgrades on both sides of the Connecticut River with the traditional lift ticket worn on the outside of a ski jacket getting the heave-ho. Instead, a card that fits well in zippered pockets will be read as snow lovers pass through chairlift portals in areas like Sugarbush in Warren, Vt., plus Gunstock and Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire. Waterville Valley will have one too, but a little different than the others as it’s a gateless RFID system.

Two new fixed grip quads replace older double lifts at Sugarbush. Good-bye Village Double and Sunshine Double. Hello Village Quad at Lincoln Peak and Sunshine Quad at Mt. Ellen.

Sugarbush, now part of the Mountain Collective alliance of 16 mountains across North America, is doing away with paper straws at its restaurants to be environmentally friendly.

“No more straws unless you ask for them,” Sugarbush communications supervisor John Bleh said at a Ski Vermont media event at the Seaport Hotel prior to the ski show.

Mad River Glen, which added two snow guns to its barebones arsenal, will undergo a $6 million capital campaign to keep the co-op “sustainable” and going for as long as it can, according to marketing director Eric Friedman.

In the Northeast Kingdom, Burke Mountains’s replacing the POMA lift on the Warren’s Way training hill while Jay Peak will have even bigger dramas this ski season with the opening of a 142-seat movie theater.

Though not for winter, Suicide Six is planning to have downhill mountain biking this summer. Smuggler’s Notch completed its indoor FunZone 2.0 with climbing tower, arcade and huge laser tag arena. Stowe, now part of Vail Resorts, took part in the popular Epic Pass program while the Audi FIS Ski World Cup returns to Killington over Thanksgiving Weekend, Nov. 24-26. Trapp Family Lodge turns 50 this winter and plans a week of celebration Jan. 20-26, 2018 which includes skiing with the von Trapp family and a special brew by von Trapp Brewing.

In Maine, Sunday River’s new $2.2 million Spruce Peak Triple replaces the resort’s original triple. There’s also the new beginner Bear Paw Trail on Locke Mountain to try.

So may the new season see a bounty of white.