Wildcat Mountain And A White Wildcat Wedding

Charlie is keeping warm while skinning up Wildcat Mountain’s Polecat Trail on the way to the summit.
Charlie is keeping warm while skinning up Wildcat Mountain’s Polecat Trail on the way to the summit.

By  Amy Patenaude, Outdoors / Ski Writer

Did the Bride have cold feet? No she didn’t have cold feet. She had quickly snapped back a reply to my inquiry that her feet were quite warm. I asked again if she was sure she didn’t have cold feet. This time the reply was laughter from everyone in the wedding party.
I am a Justice of the Peace for the State of the New Hampshire. I’ve married a few friends and family members but I most often declined when asked if I might do the trick. I just can’t commit to a date so far out in advance at some location I probably wouldn’t be thinking about visiting (and it is more fun being a guest at a wedding). Brides and Grooms make plans. How do I know what I am going to be doing next July? So when Thom and Kathy told us that they wanted to get married on top of Wildcat Mountain, I confessed I was a JP and I would make the effort to clear my calendar.

Amy (left) officiates as Justice of the Peace near the summit of Wildcat Mountain.
Amy (left) officiates as Justice of the Peace near the summit of Wildcat Mountain.

Not that I was completely trusted, as the date approached I was asked a few more times if I was certain I was going to be there. Yes, I wouldn’t miss your wedding and a chance to ski Wildcat!
So last Wednesday the plan was to meet at the summit of Wildcat Mountain at 11am sharp. A small group would be in attendance and then we’d all ski down the Wildcat Valley Trail to Jackson. Oh! But plans can change like the weather.
We have enjoyed fabulous winter weather, too snowy and too cold! Weather that is perfect for skiers and snowboarders! The weather trend continued and we found ourselves on a windy mountaintop inside a snow cloud. After a taking few more perfect ski runs down Wildcat’s super soft powder snow covered trails, the bride and groom had a brief discussion. They decided that the ceremony site would be moved just off the summit to get out of the wind and blowing snow and down to the intersection of Upper Wildcat and Catapult!
Kathy’s veil, thankfully, was well anchored to her helmet and survived the ride up the zippy Wildcat Express Quad to the summit. Everyone was bundled up from head to toe and it was a good thing. I looked up the weather at this time at the Observatory on Mount Washington and from their summit they reported wind gust nearing 60 mph and a temperature of 3 degrees. We were more than 2,000 feet lower so it was slightly warmer, less windy and happily not a complete whiteout!
With cold hands and warm hearts, vows and rings were exchanged. The ceremony was complete after the couple skied through a tunnel we formed for them with our raised ski poles. They had taken the leap and we chased them all the way down the Catapult Trail to the base lodge.

Thom Perkins and Kathy Bennett tied the knot on Wildcat Mountain on February 4, 2015!
Thom Perkins and Kathy Bennett tied the knot on Wildcat Mountain on February 4, 2015!

Instead of skiing off the back side down to Jackson we made our way up to the Wildcat Pub to enjoy a hot chocolate mixed with our favorite concoction (just a little Peppermint Schnapps for me please). Toasts and smiles were further exchanged and it was a perfect wedding for a pair of skiers!
But wait there’s more wedding fun! For the non-skiing & snowboarding friends we did it all over again in front of the fireplace at the Snowflake Inn followed by a dinner at the Shannon Door in Jackson.
Before moving down to Jackson, Charlie and I decided to pass the time by skinning up the Polecat Trail and then stomping our way up to the actual summit of Wildcat D (#37 on the White Mountain 4,000-footer list). Wildcat’s Polecat Trail is a popular route for winter hikers/snowshoes/skiers to make their way up to the Wildcat Ridge. The Polecat Trail length is 2.75 miles and is the longest summit to base novice trail in New Hampshire.
When we had arrived that morning we met two men gearing up and planning to snowshoe the entire ridge. The mountain requires the purchase of an uphill pass ($10) if you haven’t purchased a lift ticket.
We easily kept warm as we made strides up the mountain while the wind and snow whipped our faces. We were even taunted by the wedding party as they schussed past us. A few curious skiers stopped to ask us what we were doing. “Going up and coming back down” answered Charlie before he further explained how the climbing skins on his skis kept him from slipping.
We clicked off our skis behind the Ski Patrol hut and floundered through the deep powder drifts of snow as we made our way up the short steep section of the Wildcat Ridge Trail to reach the high point and the observation tower. We were still in a snow cloud and we were not able to see Wildcat’s award winning scenic vista of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range (on Wildcat’s trail map there is a view guide of the mountains). There was barely a trace of the windblown snowshoe tracks that the men had made a few hours earlier.
On the windswept tower platform we put on all the extra clothes we carried in our packs to try to keep warm for the trip back. The trip down the trail to where we left our skis was easy sliding fun. We clicked back into our skis and pushed off. I didn’t go anywhere. We’d both forgotten to take off our climbing skins! Now that was funny.
Valentine’s Day Fun
Saturday is Valentine’s Day and there is fun to be found on the trails! For single skiers and snowboarders go to Black Mountain in Jackson (celebrating its 80th year) where they will be hosting their 8th annual Chairlift Speed Dating Event. Ride the “lift of love” a double chairlift ride with another single and perhaps you’ll meet the person of your dreams. If not head back to the lift line and give it another go!
Wildcat will be celebrating Valentine’s Day with a torchlight parade.
Bretton Woods Nordic Center is offering a self-guided ski or snowshoe tour for sweethearts to visit trailside fires to roast marshmallows and make s’mores.
They’ll be fireworks at Cranmore and at Waterville Valley too!
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:

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