OK, so all of us had those friends in school that would go away for winter vacation, or spring break, and come back with all kinds of cool swag from the Rockies. They would rave about the unreal powder—it’s so deep, dry, fluffy, and blah, blah, blah. Right?
All that talk might make a person who has only skied the Appalachian mountains of New England think they’re missing out. But, that’s so wrong! New England’s peaks may not be as high as their western cousins, but they are far more accessible, and affordable. Maybe that’s why your parents only took you as far as Smugglers Notch in the winter.
And don’t let anyone dissuade you with claims that New England doesn’t get snow. Two years ago, the Rockies were met with the same predicament due to prevailing weather conditions. We can make snow when the weather permits, but we can’t control Mother Nature!
Best coast? Nay, try the “Beast Coast” when it comes to your next ski vacation. But, when it comes down to it, certain ski resorts are better at some things than others. Looking for the best snow? Or, the most family-friendly option? Need a challenge? Here’s the ultimate guide to skiing in the region, on your terms.
5. Cannon Mountain
(Franconia Notch State Park, N.H., 603-823-8800, www.cannonmt.com)
Cannon Mountain is one of the oldest ski resorts in the country, and uniquely is also state-owned and run. Unlike many of the other resorts in an arms race for the newest additions and state-of-the-art amenities, Cannon retains a sense of country charm, and a rustic vibe. Sure, there’s no lodging on-site, the dining options are casual, and the snow-making is spotty, but Cannon veterans love that about this tiny resort.
No surprise here that the extra activities are a bow toward history. Cannon is the site for the New England Ski Museum, and the first North American passenger tramway. The tram is a must for every Cannon newbie; it reaches the 4,180-foot summit at 1,500 feet per minute. From the top, enjoy jaw-dropping views into Franconia Notch, and the Cannon Mountain Range. Good thing too, because depending on how well Mother Nature has covered Cannon with snow, you may need to fill some time off the slopes.
Full day adult tickets at Cannon are available for $75, while half day tickets are $50. Teens and college students pay $62 for a full day and $49 for half. Seniors (ages 65+) and juniors (ages 6-12) pay $53 for a full day, and $39 for half. Kids 5 and under ski for free.
(Saddleback, Maine, 207-864-5671, www.saddlebackmaine.com)
Break away from the masses and plan a trip to the underrated Saddleback, with 66 trails and glades, including the bone-shaking double black diamond, Kennebago Steeps. This is a laid-back, simple resort offering a big mountain experience. With a summit of 4,120 feet high, with a 2,000-foot vertical drop, the views alone are worth it.
Sooth your soul at a huge mountain with a holistic heart. They say that “almost everything about Saddleback is different,” and it’s true. The ski lodge houses all of the resort’s main services, plus a genuinely friendly staff, a gorgeous fieldstone wood-burning fireplace, more views, and no commercialization.
Sign up for lessons at the ski and ride school there, which has the lowest student to instructor ratio in North America. It’s also one of the only places where all lodging has ski-in and ski-out access to some of the best hills in New England—that’s like everyone at the ball game having the best seats in the house!
Day Tickets at Saddleback cost $59 Sunday-Friday, and to up to $69 Saturday and Holidays. Plus, they offer special rates for juniors, kids, seniors, college and military personnel. Every Wednesday at Saddleback there is a $10 Bring a Friend Ticket event where every adult who pays for a $59 ticket is eligible to purchase a ticket for their friend at a $10 price.