Loon Mountain Resort in Lincoln, New Hampshire, is one of the easiest resorts to get to anytime since it is only 2.5 miles up the Kancamagus Highway from I-93’s famous exit 32. The short drive through downtown Lincoln past all kinds of snowsport shops, stores and eateries is a temptation for me to stop but I’ll wait until I am on my way back home because I like hitting the slopes as soon as the lift rope is dropped.
On the early ride up the Gondola, it is fun to watch the busy day begin. The cars are filling the parking area at a rapid pace. The groomers are off the mountain and the only tracks on the fresh corduroy snow below were just made by the ski patrol. The higher up the mountain the gondola travels, the mountain vista grows with first glimpses of the southern peaks of the Franconia Range of Flume and Liberty. The panorama from the summit promises to be grand today with views that include Mount Washington and beyond.
You don’t have to be a skier or a snowboarder to enjoy the ride up the Gondola. Tickets for rides up and back down are available all year around. Near the gondola’s summit terminus there is an observation tower and the Summit Café restaurant.
Click, click and my boots are secure in my bindings and I am skating off and gravity takes me away. The snow is fabulous and I make fun big turns all the way down to the North Peak Express and take the lift up to ski Walking Boss. The trail is named for Loon’s founder, a former walking boss in the logging industry before he went on to become New Hampshire’s Governor Sherman Adams. The black diamond run on the far edge of the resort is my favorite, it is steep and then it becomes steeper before mellowing its grade at the middle of the run and ending at the Camp III log cabin lodge. Camp III, a past lumber camp location, is a great place to take a break and grab a bite, breakfast or lunch. On warm days the picnic tables on the deck are hot properties, but the only thing hot this day was the hot chocolate and Jamaica Jerk Chicken soup!
Cold, rain, snow, sleet—Mother Nature has thrown a mixed bag at us this season but Loon Mountain has made snow, lots of deep snow, lots of very good snow covering their trails from edge to edge. They are very good at making snow. Loon has invested 3 million dollars in the last five years to dramatically increase their snowmaking capacity and efficiency.
I had the opportunity to meet Loon Mountain’s snowmaking manager Ken Mack. Mack was recognized by the industry by winning the HKD’s 2014 I am a Snowmaker Award over finalists from all over the country. He gave us a snowmaking tour and I learned some impressive and fun facts about snowmaking at Loon.
Mack and his crew work hard at night all over the dark cold mountain to make snow. There are 16 valve houses located across Loon’s three peaks. The main water and air pumps are located at the base of the mountain. New snow guns are becoming ultra-efficient and are easier to start and regulate. New technology has allowed them to make a third more snow for a third less energy, which is environmentally friendly!
According to Mack the ultimate snowmaking mix is dry air-low humidity, the temperature at10 degrees and warm water. Of course the temperature must be below freezing but if its warmer a smaller volume of snow can be produced. But here is the kick; colder temps cause the water to freeze where it shouldn’t such as in a pipe or at the end of the snow gun! We all know frozen pipes will break and so will a snow gun if its barrel is frozen shut.
Warm water now makes sense because he doesn’t want it to freeze until it leaves the end of the gun and then forms into snow. Water is pumped out of the Pemigewasset River to a containment pond located somewhere behind Clark’s Trading Post three miles away. Then the water is pumped back to Loon to make snow. The water has a chance to warm up during its travels along the three mile pipeline that is buried underground below the frost line. The pipeline traverses right under the center of downtown and there are a few fire hydrants connected to it too.
Mack and his crew work more than 600 towers guns, 150 auto hydrants, fan guns, miles of hose, miles of pipe for air and water, all to turn millions of gallons of water into snowflakes. Now that is something to think about when you’re having a good time skiing or riding when there is no snow in your backyard.
I think of Loon as the Disneyland of winter, something for everyone to enjoy. The skiing and riding is terrific, there are terrain parks for novices and Olympians, a public race course and snow tubing park. Their calendar is packed with fun events and parties. There is even the J. E. Henry Train, free to ride between the Octagon Lodge and the Governor Adams Lodge. Snowshoeing and cross country ski outings originate from the Adventure Center.
I end my day yo-yoing at South Peak where the lowering sun’s rays last a little longer in the day. I alternate between the peak’s easier and most difficult runs. South Peak’s Twitcher Trail rivals Walking Boss and RipSaw, the resort’s double black diamond, is nosedive steep. Boom Run and Cruiser are the nicest intermediate blue square trails and well worth taking the time to make it over to South Peak.
Apres ski there is a lot to choose to do right at the Mountain. A beverage in Babe’s Blue Ox Lounge or at the Paul Bunyan Room is slope side satisfying. Have Fun. Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: email@example.com.