Nothing scares me more than driving on the highway. All those strangers speeding by, combined with my boyfriend’s propensity for road rage, render me white-knuckled the whole way. Although my GPS works overtime to keep me on course, the perilous journey through Boston en route to New Hampshire might still include a detour through Government Center because I can’t get out of the exit lane in time. Fear notwithstanding, I still spend eight months of the year ardently anticipating the first opportunity to head northbound on the interstate with one goal in mind: skiing.
The Northeast is endowed with a multitude of alpine ski resorts. Sugarloaf, Smuggler’s Notch, Killington and Sunday River all get top marks from a downhill enthusiast’s perspective. But when we made the decision to call one mountain our second home, the deciding factor was easiest drive.
Six years later, we’re still exuberant every time we pack up the car and head to our condo at The Mountain Club on Loon in Lincoln New Hampshire. With 370 acres of skiable terrain, a vertical drop of 2100 feet and one of the most powerful snowmaking systems in New England, Loon is on a par with the best ski areas in the region. Moreover, the resort is an easy three and a half hour drive from Woods Hole.
Once you try ski in ski out accommodations, it’s hard to ever go back to driving, parking and schlepping your equipment. When we arrive at The Mountain Club, our skis go into our locker, our bags go into our condo, and we go into the pub just above the lobby for après-ski festivities. You can waste the better part of a Saturday waiting in line to get on a lift, so we use that day for travel instead. By Sunday afternoon, the mass exodus begins and by Monday, we all but own the mountain.
The condos in our building are compact one-bedroom, two-bath units, with two Murphy beds in the living room – close quarters when filled to their eight-person sleeping capacity. The balcony in our unit provides a view of the North Peak in the distance, and a “freestyle” terrain park in the foreground. We have access to the pool, spa, health club, hot tub, game room, restaurant, bar, and parking garage without ever leaving the building; and often we don’t, except to go skiing.
Although we enjoy dining in our building where it’s perfectly acceptable to show up in ski gear (or sleepwear for breakfast) an off-island getaway is incomplete without some culinary indulgence. We like to join the flock that swarms a local favorite called The Common Man. The regional chain doesn’t take reservations, but if you call ahead to put your name on the list, wait time may only be fifteen minutes. And lounging by the fieldstone fireplace, with complimentary cheese and crackers, before being ushered to your table by a remarkably enthusiastic and efficient staff, is all part of the experience.
We never leave town without a visit to Flapjack’s Pancake House. This family run breakfast spot is every bit as charming as the brown bear (in apron and chef’s hat) flipping pancakes on the sign outside. Each item on the menu is a valid reason for the line at the door. Endure the wait; you’ll soon be rewarded. The two homestyle dining areas are circled by a model freight train which rides on a track overhead. The food is outstanding, servers are quick-witted and everything comes with maple butter.
Dining in New Hampshire is relatively inexpensive, but skiing is not. Adult lift tickets at Loon are $79. Yet deals are so ubiquitous that hardly anyone pays full price. Most mountains offer multiple day, and on-line purchase discounts. We buy the “frequent skier card” which is valid at Loon, Sunday River and Sugarloaf. The card costs $99 and includes one free day of skiing, $25 off lift tickets on weekdays, and $15 off on weekends.
When we want a change from our familiar terrain, our favorite nearby ski area is Waterville Valley. On Mondays and Fridays adult tickets are only $43. We keep our eye on local papers and slidingonthecheap.com for last minute bargains. In recent years we’ve found $17 lift tickets on St. Patrick’s Day and $1 lift tickets on April 1 (no joke)!
Cannon Mountain is a quick 20 minute drive up I-93 to Franconia Notch. Conditions can run the gamut on this old school mountain, but if Mother Nature is on our side, Cannon is the place to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays when lift tickets are two for $70.
Inviting friends to our condo always increases the fun, but when we gather larger groups we require more space. South Peak and Forest Ridge have some beautiful three- and four-bedroom units with shuttles to the mountain. Lincoln is thoroughly saturated with lodging options from economy to luxury. Vacation Rentals by Owner (vrbo.com) is an excellent resource for finding a perfect private home to rent.
Our greatest challenge is making time to enjoy all the area has to offer. In addition to the amenities at the Mountain Club, there’s a wealth of activities available both on and off the mountain. Right outside our door is a snow-tubing slope for the young and the young at heart. The Loon Mountain Adventure Center provides cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and zip-lining. For more advanced zip-lining, try the canopy tours at Alpine Adventures on Main Street. It’s spectacular and exhilarating! SledVentures is the place for snowmobile rentals. They offer guided tours and sled and stay packages. The New England Ski Museum at Franconia Notch State Park has an inspirational collection of stories and artifacts, documenting the development of skiing from its prehistoric roots to the career of Bode Miller.
Warming up by a fire with a cup of cocoa or a glass of wine is the perfect way to unwind after a long day of invigorating snow sports. But the ideal conclusion to my northbound escape is returning to the place I love the most: home on the Vineyard.
For more information:
Loon Mountain, Lincoln, NH: loonmtn.com