New England has a wide variety of ski resorts, but some mountains offer a distinctly unique experience to boot.
By Cathryn McCann
Feb 13 2018
A bundled-up skier on Mad River Glen’s iconic single chair lift.Photo Credit : Jeb Wallace-Brodeur/Mad River Glen
From Connecticut to northern Maine, skiing and snowboarding in New England is an iconic, distinct experience. But with so many mountains and resorts to choose from in each state, sometimes it’s tough to decide where to go. There are many tried-and-true options throughout the region, but if you’re looking to ski New England and enjoy a unique adventure, here are some fun and one-of-a-kind ski mountain experiences.
The Yeti, a monstrous, furry, white creature said to live in the forest and roam the mountains, has found a home at Sunday River in Newry, Maine. The resort’s Yeti, however, is less fearsome and more magical — “Eddy the Yeti” is a huggable, friendly creature who can be found greeting visitors at the base area. Skiers and boarders can even visit Eddy’s “special home” on the Enchanted Forest Trail on North Peak. He’s also been known to pay a visit to reserved Family Dinners at the mid-mountain Peak Lodge. Catch him while you can, because as legend has it, Eddy is a rather shy character and doesn’t stick around for long.
As the only East Coast ski area with an ocean view, Camden Snow Bowl in Camden, Maine has appropriately taken on the mantra “Ski the Sea.” When one thinks of skiing in New England, the seacoast and Atlantic Ocean aren’t typically what come to mind, which is what makes this small, family-friendly ski area so fun and unique. 90 minutes north of Portland, Camden Snow Bowl has 20 runs on Ragged Mountain, a 1,100-foot summit (with the best ocean views), and a toboggan chute. The 440-foot chute is two feet wide, and has a vertical drop of more than 70 feet, propelling toboggans at speeds up to 45 mph. It’s the only chute of its kind left in New England, making it a worthy non-skiing adventure.
Some mountains have toboggan chutes, others have rollercoasters. Okemo Mountain Resort, located in Ludlow, Vermont, is one of the larger Green Mountain State resorts, with 121 trails, 20 lifts, and 667 acres of open skiing area. It’s known for smooth conditions and trails for all skill levels, making it a great destination for the family. Lesser known, however, is Okemo’s winter rollercoaster experience — the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster. Riders in the two-person, sled-like cars control the speed of the scenic trip through the forest and along the mountain, with its 375 vertical-foot descent and 3,100 feet of tracks. Speeds can reach up to 25 mph. Take a break from the slopes to enjoy an exhilarating ride.
Sugarloaf Mountain, located in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, is one of the largest ski areas east of the Rockies, and includes trails across three mountains (including Maine’s second-highest peak), 1,240 acres of skiable terrain, 162 trails (with one lengthy, 3.5-mile run from summit to base), three terrain parks (including a super and mini-pipe), and 13 operating lifts. Additionally, Sugarloaf Mountain serves up the only lift-serviced, above-treeline skiing in the East. Skiing along the trees is special, but skiing above them is a truly unique experience.
Located in Warren, Vermont, Sugarbush Mountain Resort offers a wide variety of skiing experiences, with two mountains, three terrain parks, six peaks, 16 lifts, 28 wooded areas, and 111 trails. The 2,000-acre Slide Brook Basin offers off-trail and backcountry skiing beyond the resort boundaries. But for those who have always dreamed of being the very first skier down the mountain, Sugarbush created the “First Tracks Cabin Cat” adventure, which takes 12 passengers in the “Lincoln Limo” — a luxury cabin with a flat screen TV and cozy seating — to the best terrain, before the lifts have even started operating (available for advanced skiers and riders only). They’ll even provide hot coffee and granola bars!
Wildcat Mountain in Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire, claims to be “Purrfectly Wild in Nature,” and the panoramic views are pretty “purrfect” too. Located within the White Mountain National Forest, the 4,062-foot summit offers spectacular views of Mount Washington, Tuckerman Ravine, and a vast display of the Presidential Range. When you’re done taking in the views (which might take a while), you can enjoy 225 acres of skiable terrain — including 80 acres of glades — with 48 trails, a terrain park, and five lifts.
Located near South Egremont on the Massachusetts/New York state line, Catamount Ski Area allows you to start your run in Massachusetts, ski into New York, and finish back in Massachusetts again. You can also summit mountains in both states. Catamount, which first opened in 1939, is one of the oldest original family-owned ski areas still operating in the Northeast, and one of the largest ski areas in the Berkshire/Taconic Mountains. Totaling 2.5 miles, Ridge Run to Upper and Lower Promenade is the longest trail in the Berkshires, and Catapult — rated a double-diamond — is one of the steepest trails in the Northeast.
In the event that you’re headed to or from New York City, Woodbury Ski Area in Woodbury, Connecticut, is the ideal destination for a little skiing. The small mountain is the closest Connecticut ski area to the Big Apple, and offers the largest tubing park within striking distance of Manhattan. Despite its southern location, the ski area prides itself on being one of the first to open and last to close each season, allowing visitors to enjoy the mountain from late October until mid-April, even on holidays. Its location in a valley and a sizable investment in snowmaking technology is what makes that possible. (Note: Woodbury Ski Area is closed for the 2018 season.)
For history buffs who also enjoy hitting the slopes (and a challenge), Mad River Glen ski area in Fayston, Vermont, is the place to go. Mad River Glen, which first opened in 1948 on General Stark Mountain, is the only ski area in the nation on the National Register of Historic Places. When it opened, its iconic single chair lift was the fastest in the world. Based on the original vision of founder Roland Palmedo (that the objective of a ski area is sport, not business) the Mad River Glen Cooperative was formed in 1995, creating the first and only cooperatively owned ski area in America. Today, Mad River Glen has more than 1,800 individual skier-owners, making it a unique business operation and even more unique ski experience — including upwards of 120 skiable acres of naturally contoured terrain.
For an alternative to the classic skiing or snow tubing experience, there’s a new winter sporting invention called Airboarding. Most easily described as a snow bodyboard, the Airboard is an inflatable sled with an A-shaped frame, perfect for a speedy cruise down the slopes. The lightweight design of the board offers easy control and maneuverability, but the mountain does require a short instructional clinic, and users must be at least 12 years old. Smugglers’ opens up trails specifically for Airboarding at certain times throughout the week, giving guests a safe, exclusive experience. Hit the slopes before or after to enjoy the three interconnected mountains, over 1,000 acres of beautiful terrain, and 76 trails (including the only Triple Black Diamond in the east).
For what it’s worth, Cannon Mountain in Franconia, New Hampshire, has the state’s highest beer tap at the Tram Summit Lodge. Cafe 4080′ offers the unique opportunity to sip a brew… then ski at a 4,080-foot altitude. The cafe has a full bar, plus other snacks and beverages. Stop by to warm up or for some unique, 4,080-foot beer bragging rights (all while enjoying some pretty spectacular views from the summit). In addition to the highest ski summit in New Hampshire, the mountain has 95 trails and glades, 11 lifts, a 2,080′ vertical drop, 282 acres of skiable area, and a variety of terrain across two mountains for all skill levels.
For those looking to ski in New England, the northern states are typically the target. There is, however, a ski area in the southern region of Rhode Island that cannot be overlooked. Yawgoo Valley Ski Area in Exeter is the one and only Rhode Island ski experience, with almost entirely man-made snow. With 36 acres of skiable terrain and two chair lifts, this is a smaller mountain, but well worth the trip if you find yourself in southern New England.
Mount Snow in Dover, Vermont, is within the Green Mountain National Forest and was one of the first ski resorts on the East Coast. In 2008, Mount Snow opened the East Coast’s first All Park Mountain Face (one face of the mountain entirely dedicated to a terrain park) called Carinthia at Mount Snow. The park system, with ten parks in all, has nearly five miles of trails, complete with almost countless jumps, pipes, rails, and a superpipe. With 589 acres of skiable terrain, 20 lifts, four mountain faces, and a 3,600 foot summit, this mountain offers something for everyone.
If you’re looking to ski New England, many mountains and resorts are great destinations for enjoying both the slopes and alternative, fun adventures. What’s your favorite unique New England ski experience?