Behemoth ski resorts like Sunday River and Killington get all the hype, marketing, and attention for good reasons, but it’s easy to overlook plenty of other ski areas in the region, where the skiing and riding experiences may be just as rewarding. Here are six of the more underrated spots in New England.
How many times have you passed by on your way to Sunday River and not turned left into Mt. Abram? According to a piece that ran in the Globe earlier this month, Abram will be the first ski area in the country to team with Mountain Riders Alliance, a new organization whose long-term goal is to collectively market a network of member mountains where the focus is on quality skiing and affordability, harkening back to pre-1990. “That was the time when the ski industry was rapidly changing,’’ co-owner Mark Hancock said. “There was this chase, and everybody jumped into it. You had to have high-end real estate. Sushi bars. Starbucks. Water slides. Hundred-dollar lift tickets and $20 burgers. As an industry, this is not economically sustainable.’’ There’s just something inherently comforting about that statement. – 308 Howe Hill Road, Greenwood, Maine
I learned how to ski at this small New England ski area nearly 30 years ago, and was thrilled when I returned a couple years back to discover little had changed, from the pokey double chairlift to the simple lodge. It’s a welcome lack of progress, especially in an idyllic town like Jackson, where time can seem to stand still. Family and price-friendly (adult lift tickets are only $49 this season), Black doesn’t skimp on the terrain, with a healthy dose of groomers for everybody and gnarly glades for the more adventurous. With little traffic, this may be THE place to go after a big storm, but you didn’t hear me say that. – 373 Black Mountain Road, Jackson, N.H.
While nearby Sugarloaf is on its way to becoming the largest resort east of the Rockies, Saddleback offers a quieter alternative to big-time resort life without sacrificing terrain or atmosphere. The Kennabago Steeps offer some of the most unique lift-serviced trails and tree runs in the Northeast, the ski school is top notch, with low student-to-instructor ratios, and the views spectacular. It’s 4,120 foot summit is among the highest in New England, and is among the most affordable as well ($59 adult lift tickets on Saturdays, $49 Sunday through Friday). It’s a haul from Boston, but it’s an experience every local and skier and rider should aim for at some point. – 976 Saddleback Mountain Road, Rangeley, Maine
Think Massachusetts skiing, and Eastern Mass. May not think past Wachusett, Blue Hills, or Nashoba Valley. But some of the state’s finest ski destinations lay in the Berkshires, with Berkshire East, the legendary Thunderbolt trail, and Ski Butternut making the grade. At Butternut, you’ll find 22 trails in a family-friendly environment, including terrain parks. It’s a relatively small mountain that skis bigger than it looks, and it has a homey feel lacking at too many places these days. – 380 State Road, Great Barrington
So many people have recently fallen in love with Magic that it’s somewhat difficult to call it “underrated’’ any longer. Nevertheless, it’s easy to not say enough about the challenges and simplicity at Magic, the once cash-strapped mountain that is now on more solid footing thanks to becoming a partnership with shareholders dedicating resources to help usher the mountain into the next stages of its development. This is a place that has seen a tough road, just one of the reasons it’s so endearing. If people care that much to save something, you know it’s worthwhile to visit. – 420 Magic Mountain Access Road, Londonderry, Vt.
After a 15-year absence, I returned to Bolton Valley last winter, and was immediately reminded why this mountain is among my favorites in Vermont. It is an unassuming atmosphere, but this is a mountain with bite, often thought of as a Burlington commuter mountain, especially with Stowe, Sugarbush, and Smuggler’s Notch in the vicinity, but Bolton holds its ground in the area with some fabulous tree runs on Timberline Peak and Wilderness Peak. And it all comes at a fraction of the cost. – 4302 Bolton Valley Access Road, Bolton Valley, Vt.
Where are yours?
Do you have a favorite ski area that you feel is significantly underrated? Share with the class.