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Best of New Hampshire skiing

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November 22, 2007

Looking for a few inside tips? The Globe has surveyed the scene from top to bottom and taken notes:

Best trail to make a novice fall in love with sport for life

At Wildcat, often misunderstood as a relentless expert area, the Polecat Trail is one of the finest novice runs in the East. At nearly 3 miles, the run offers mild meanders and pitch changes, and rarely draws the kinds of hotshots who can intimidate newer skiers and riders. This run also has some of the most spectacular mountain scenery anywhere, with close-up views of Mount Washington.
- TONY CHAMBERLAIN

Best steep adrenaline rush

Avalanche at Cannon. See that speck way down there at the bottom? That's the aerial tramway house and base lodge. This old-school black diamond is steep, fast, and often icy; a true badge of courage test whose successful navigation marks a turning point in the progress of advancing skiers and boarders. Even seasoned snowsports veterans who can "point and shoot" precipitous drops with confidence attempt this one with respect, although you can exit stage right (an escape cut-through to an easier trail exists a third of the way down on the gondola side) in case you decide Avalanche is not for you.
- T.D. THORNTON

Making noise: Let's hear it for the earplug concession

Over the summer, Mount Sunapee installed a 4,000-watt sound system to play for the head-bangers in the terrain park. The speakers will create a corridor of pure noise called the SoBe Freeride Zone, aimed at inspiring freeriders. Sunapee managers declare this the most powerful sound system in the East. Yikes!

- TONY CHAMBERLAIN

Best nighttime deal

Families seem to eat up the Pay One Price program at Henniker's Pat's Peak on Saturday nights where lift ticket, rentals, mini-lessons, and tubing are included in the price. Not only can skiers land switch, but change between skis and snowboards during the night as part of the deal.
- MARTY BASCH

Midweek price meltdowns

Every midweek day is covered by a 2-for-1 lift ticket somewhere in the Granite State. The usual litany of holiday and vacation-week restrictions applies, and some resorts have similar promotions, but this is the skinny on larger mountains: Mondays and Fridays, Waterville Valley (2 for $61); Tuesdays and Thursdays, Cannon (2 for $60); Wednesdays, Wildcat (2 for $59). These are great deals, but here's a perpetual gripe: Resorts need to better clarify whether "2 for 1" equates to "half price." It's a hassle when you show up by yourself or with an odd number of people, only to be told you have to wait around to match with another single to get the discount.
- T.D. THORNTON

Most adventurous kids ski and snowboard camps

Waterville Valley's Kids' Venture Kamps has offerings for all ages. From the Mogul Mites (3 years old) to Twilight Zone to the Psycho Glades, all the levels allow kids to earn achievement pins. There's even a pin for kids who make it all the way to the 4,000-foot summit. Kids Kamp includes child care in the base lodge area.
- TONY CHAMBERLAIN

Best trip worth the drive

The Balsams Wilderness. There aren't any high-speed quads, but there's plenty of opportunity for afternoon corduroy on trails such as rollicking Mohawk and smooth Cascade. It's home to the easiest double-black diamond ever, the narrow winding Notch trail. And there's that grand hotel and Nordic skiing, too.
- MARTY BASCH

It's not spring, but barbecue ribs are barbecue ribs, right?

The Flyway trail at Sunapee is one of the most natural outdoor picnic spots in ski country. Known as "The Beach," this flat 1,000-foot stretch of land between Sunapee and Spruce Lodges would do a Gillette Stadium tailgate party proud as the SUVs and pickups back up and get out the cookers. In spring, sunbathers strip off the snow clothes and bask in beach chairs.
- TONY CHAMBERLAIN

Best Bloody Mary bar

Waterville Valley's Sax & Swizzle Sunday Brunch, which understands a good bloody is all in the nuanced detail. Imbibers here can choose from 21 ingredients - eggs, shrimp, pepper, pepperoncini, Slim Jims, pepperoni, sun-dried tomatoes, five kinds of olives, bacon, horseradish, and a variety of tomato juices.
- TONY CHAMBERLAIN

Best places to hurry up and slow down

The best places to beware of Granite State speeding tickets: 1) Interstate 93 between Plymouth and Franconia Notch State Park; 2) Bridge abutments north of the tolls on Interstate 95; 3) The Route 16 corridor between Wakefield and Tamworth.
- T.D. THORNTON

Finding the best trail to play downhill racer

Bretton Woods is New Hampshire's king of the blues, and despite some terrific new challenging cruising terrain on West Mountain and Rosebrook Canyon, sometimes it's worth looking back to the old stuff. Granny's Grit is a long, narrowish, old-fashioned New England classic that begins rolling about halfway down, and continues its undulations to the bottom. This trail just invites you to let her rip. Just don't let the ski patrol catch you in that tuck.
- TONY CHAMBERLAIN

Best way to see where Bode Miller learned his stuff

Always known as a "skier's mountain," probably because of the need to know how to set an edge on ice, Cannon has plenty of fast blue cruising with some old-world, cranky challenge and definite ghosts of New England past. One of the best runs is Taft Slalom to Upper and Middle Hardscrabble, to Red Bull for the finish. And don't forget Zoomer and Polly's Folly.
- TONY CHAMBERLAIN

Looking out for the best views of Mount Washington

See it before you ski it from a host of northern New England ski areas, but close-up in-your-face while riding one of the most scenic trails around: Wildcat's Polecat. The mountain, as well as the neighboring Presidential peaks, are prominent at the onset of gentle Bigger Ben at Bretton Woods. Catch it again at Attitash while cruising Northwest Passage. There's nothing like making the spring trek to Tuckerman Ravine when the mighty mountain is a festival of incredible athletic endeavors and stupid human tricks.
- MARTY BASCH

Best rainy-day activity

It's hard to find an hour of the day when the traffic is not plugged tight along Main Street, North Conway, but sometimes that's the point. Go shopping with the crowds, and check out the factory outlet stores (including L.L. Bean, L'eggs, Eastern Mountain Sports). North Conway comes this year with a trolley service (actually a motor coach) that lets you relax and eat finger food while it sits in traffic. Some terrific restaurants in town, too.
- TONY CHAMBERLAIN

Ski area of champions

Dartmouth Skiway, home of the reigning NCAA champion Big Green, who beat Denver last March for their first national title in more than 30 years. Often overlooked, the Skiway also happens to be in times of natural snowfall one of the best medium-sized (700 feet) ski areas in the state. And the McLane Family Lodge is nothing short of spectacular.
- TONY CHAMBERLAIN

For night owls only

Open for action until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Crotched Mountain bills itself as having the latest closing hours of any resort in the East. A variety of price breaks accompany "Midnight Madness" weekends under the lights from Dec. 29-Feb. 24, and the mountain offers a $55-per-person group package that includes a two-day/overnight lift ticket, camping in the base lodge, and a breakfast buffet.
- T.D. THORNTON

Best solid block of weekly promotions

Mount Sunapee features meaningful price breaks five days weekly: Monday lift tickets are $39. Tuesdays feature "Ladies' Day" tickets for $44, including a complimentary luncheon buffet in Goosefeathers Pub. Wednesdays are a 2-for-$60 day. On Thursdays, all adult lift tickets are $49, with $10 off ski and snowboard rentals. New Hampshire residents get a break on Sundays, with $30 tickets. The only catch is these specials don't start until Jan. 6.
- T.D. THORNTON

Appetizing options for food and drink

The funky Red Parka Pub in Glen is celebrating 35 years of fun, frivolity, and ribs since first firing up Nov. 2, 1972. The Mount Washington Valley institution is the quintessential ski bar with hearty ribs, spicy Bloody Marys, and an Alpine atmosphere that invites chilling out. Rally 'round the concrete bar at North Conway's Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company for those eclectic nachos and pizzas downed by frosty creations such as the smooth Cathedral Ledge Lager or sturdy Smoke House Porter. Skiing owner Dick Delaney is a Red Sox nut, and he's got the goods on the walls of Delaney's, where the Cajun chicken Caesar wrap augments carving the valley's slopes.
- MARTY BASCH

Looking for the best day trip that is less than 100 miles

If you want to keep the road trip under 100 miles from the city, here are two appealing options: Gunstock (97 miles from Boston) is worth the drive for the spectacular views of Lake Winnipesaukee alone. Pat's Peak (81 miles) is an underrated mountain whose terrain seems much more expansive on skis than it appears on a map. Both are open for night skiing.
- T.D. THORNTON

Best trip under two hours

Overlooking a frozen jewel of a lake, Mount Sunapee is under a two-hour drive, and serves up a handful of trails more than a mile long, including the friendly 2-mile long Ridge Trail. Rack up the runs in the Sun Bowl. Snowboarders will hear a new $20,000 sound system in the SoBe Freeride Zone.
- MARTY BASCH

Best place to hop on board

Though the buzz at Loon is about the trio of new trails at the long-awaited South Peak expansion, boarders like big Loon Mountain Park. Located on what old-schoolers remember as Lower Flying Fox, it's home to the 450-foot superpipe and loads of elements such as the signature wall ride and triple line of jumps. Not ready for going big? Get courage up and kinks out at the Burton Progression Park on Little Sister, where elements change bimonthly.
- MARTY BASCH

Best Nordic skiing

It doesn't get much better than on the trails at the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation. Ski from inn to inn, compete, or just glide about on the approximately 100 miles of Nordic trails. The waterside Ellis River Trail gets much of the traffic, but the rolling Eagle Mountain Fields, the Wave, and Hall Trail are all worthy of exploration. Serious backcountry skiers can do the challenging Wildcat Valley Trail down the backside of Wildcat from Pinkham Notch when the snow's right.
- MARTY BASCH

Best pampering

The Balsams in Dixville Notch is one of the plushest destinations in ski country. When guests check into the landmark classic hotel, they can pick activities such as exercise and fitness classes, or even cooking instruction. In their spare time, the guests can enjoy free Alpine and Nordic skiing. Monday night is a good arrival time to take advantage of the free cocktail hour.
- TONY CHAMBERLAIN

Most awe-inspiring approach to a mountain

The sheer granite cliffs of Cannon Mountain, as seen from the highway about 10 miles south, are absolutely daunting. Then when you round that final curve on Franconia Notch Parkway, the blindingly white "Front Five" trails suddenly appear as if sliding straight off the face of the mountain into Echo Lake below. The immensity of this view triggers both an intense rush of anticipation and a humbling respect for nature.
- T.D. THORNTON

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