Spring Skiing – Sunshine & Snowtime

Sharon standing on top of the ledges that are a short hike from the top of West Mount (aka Mount Oscar).
Sharon standing on top of the ledges that are a short hike from the top of West Mount (aka Mount Oscar).

by Amy Patenaude
Weirs Times Outdoor/Ski Writer

My summer golfing-hiking and winter snowbird friend, Sharon, came all the way from Florida to ski a few days with me last week. We had talked about meeting up in Utah but I convinced her to come back home since we have had the best snow all winter.
Weather in March is unpredictable. Will it be sunny and warm or will it be cold and snowing? We experienced a little of both last week and we had a great time.
Sharon beat me to the slopes at Sunapee, she lives close by in New London. She wanted to find her “legs” without me. I thought this was pretty funny but she was serious. She somehow didn’t manage to go skiing once last winter so she wanted to make sure she remembered. Yes, skiing is like riding a bicycle; you don’t forget how to do it. Sharon is a beautiful skier and I still find it hard to believe that her confidence in her abilities ever waned even for a moment. But she claimed it took her a few runs to find her legs and she was pleased I wasn’t a spectator.

Sharon LaVigne of New London, a winter Florida snowbird, and yours truly enjoying the sunshine and Mount Sunapee’s snowy slopes.
Sharon LaVigne of New London, a winter Florida snowbird, and yours truly enjoying the sunshine and Mount Sunapee’s snowy slopes.

Mid-week skiing is the best, not only is lift ticket pricing better but there are little to no lift lines and the slopes are wide open! The day was lovely at Sunapee. The weather was hovering just above freezing and the sun was shining in the Sun Bowl. We zipped up and down the mountain enjoying the silent snow conditions; just soft groomed snow was under our skis as we made big hero turns all the way.
From the top of the mountain we could see Mount Washington, the Franconia Range and Cardigan looked white and bright too. Snow covered Lake Sunapee was doted with a few bob houses and we spied some snowmobiles racing around its surface too.
We skied a few hours and Sharon was happy with the results of her test outing. The next day we would be heading north to a few resorts that she hadn’t visited in many years.
Day 2, our first stop, a morning of skiing at Loon Mountain in Lincoln. We began our day at Loon’s South Peak for almost first tracks. I know it seems like South Peak opened yesterday but it first opened with just a couple of trails way back in December of 2007. Now there are more choices of trails that range from moderate to super steep Black Diamonds. We stuck to the more moderate blue square rated slopes of Boom Run and Cruiser; welcoming wide open trails with nice terrain features and big sweeping turns.

Sharon on Cannon’s Tramway Trail where Mount Lafayette feels like it’s only an arm’s length away!
Sharon on Cannon’s Tramway Trail where Mount Lafayette feels like it’s only an arm’s length away!

The sun was out and the vista was certainly pleasing. I pointed out the pointy peak of Flume and just a little left and further north, Mount Liberty. We recalled the tough steep hiking up the Flume Slide Trail and using a fallen birch tree to cross the brook on the Liberty Spring Trail.
We made our way across Loon Peak to North Peak via the Tote-Road lift, rode the J.E. Henry steam powered train to the gondola and lastly up the North Peak quad. We skied Walking Boss twice! Even though a few folks were sitting outside on the Camp III Lodge’s deck, we didn’t think it was warm enough to join them. We savored the warm hot chocolate from inside the lodge.
We skied our way back to South Peak’s Pemi Base Camp and we packed up to leave at lunch time. We did a lot of skiing and we decided we needed to rest up a little before heading to Cannon Mountain by doing a little shopping in Lincoln.
We grabbed a sandwich in town at Half Baked and Fully Brewed. They have excellent chicken salad among other tasty things. Then we headed to Lahout’s because Sharon wanted to replace her scratched up goggles so she could see. We had to laugh at the young saleslady at her pronouncement that she had to be really smart to master all the choices in lenses for their many brands of eye protection. By the time she made the selection I realized she wasn’t joking.
We arrived at Cannon a little later than we planned but we decided a couple of hours would be plenty. We rode the lifts to the summit and right away we noticed that the temperature was dropping and the wind was picking up. A sure sign that weather was moving in. We enjoyed the clear close-up view of the Franconia Range from our new vantage.
Our first run from the summit was down the fun squirrely narrow Ravine Trail back down to the Cannonball quad. For our second and last run from the summit we conquered Vista Way to the Cannon Trail back to the Peabody Lodge.
For the rest of the afternoon we stuck to the Quad and the Zoomer lifts skiing the middle mountain and the trails just above Echo Lake. Gary’s and Rocket were well protected from the wind and we had a good time making lots of turns.
Après in the Cannonball Pub we staged a photo of ourselves doing our best impersonations of the actors in the Cannon “Cannon is Mine” advertising campaign. Donna, the bartender told us she has seen quite a few people snap their photos at the bar for the same reason.
Day 3, we awoke to four inches of nice new fluffy snow in Franconia. The temps were only going to reach the high teens. We had planned to head to Burke but tired legs and new snow suggested we should head to Bretton Woods.
Bretton Woods was sweet! We didn’t exactly show up in time for first runs but I knew if we headed to the far edges of the resort we were sure to find untouched snow. On West Peak, we had the Waumbek Trail all to ourselves. Plumes of light fluffy cold snow fluffed into the air after each turn. We made figure eights with our tracks.
After a half dozen runs we had to go back to the lodge to warm-up. Sharon’s Florida thinned blood didn’t keep her toes warm enough to stay out longer.
We enjoyed another lovely White Mountain day. At first the clouds were hiding Mount Washington and all the other mountains in the Presidential Range but during the day the clouds lifted and hung out just on the summit of Mount Washington. We didn’t get to see the towers on the tippy top until the very end of the day. The bright red roof of the Omni Mount Washington Hotel shined bright down below and it was surrounded by the snow blanketed golf course crisscrossed with cross country ski tracks.
We skied all over! Waumbek was hands down our favorite trail, admittedly mostly due to the perfect pitch and easy fresh tracks. Another favorite was Granny’s Grit’s rolling terrain as it weaves through the trees.
On the other side of the resort on Mount Stickney, Sharon was thrilled to ride the Telegraph T-bar and see the Stickney Cabin. She couldn’t remember the last time she had ridden a t-bar. This is only the third season it’s been open and it is a favorite hideaway for taking a break while sitting next to toasty warm woodstove.
We had fun right in our own backyard. Sharon returned to Sunapee the next day while I reluctantly returned to work.
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:  amy@weirs.com.

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