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Diva Safari, Day #9: Wildcat

This weather. What can I say.

The Diva Safari has seen it all. We started out in the ice box, braving temperatures well below zero, and now we’re into spring skiing. In January.

Last night we had freezing rain. Then today it went into the 40’s, with plenty of fog.

No one can call the Divas quitters, though we are down by one. RachelV had to head back to Colorado. Sniff. G’bye, Rachel. It’s been soooo much fun.

So that leaves us with three. Three Divas, three more mountains: Wildcat (today), Mount Abram tomorrow, and Saddleback on Friday. And then we head home.

First, a word about last night’s accommodations. Attitash (another ski resort in New Hampshire) and Wildcat are owned by the same company, who kindly put us up at the Attitash Grand Summit Hotel. (We didn’t ski Attitash, but it looks like a great mountain. I’ll definitely come back). This is a huge resort hotel right at the base, and looks like a great place for a family vacation, no matter what time of the year. We had comfortable accommodations in connecting rooms and a great dinner in the pub. Thanks, Attitash!

But our heart was set on skiing Wildcat, so Wildcat is was. After all, Wildcat is consistently rated by SKI Magazine as one of the most scenic ski areas in the east.  The mountain is located in the famous Pinkham Notch, with views of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the east, and the snowy Tuckerman’s Ravine.

If only it wasn’t entirely socked in. Sadly enough, this was how the mountain looked when we pulled in this morning:

And this is how the trails looked, once we got up the mountain:

But we are intrepid. We stuck it out, anyway. And am I glad we did! Even with limited terrain and fogged in views, Wildcat is amazing. I’d love to be here when the weather’s better, because we still had a wonderful time. The trails are classic old school New England — narrow and winding — and they’re nice and long. Just the way I like them.

Occasionally we got a hole in the clouds and the fog lifted a bit, and we were able to catch a glimpse of the rugged White Mountains around us. Truly, it almost looks like you’re skiing out west:

But this is how the view is supposed to look, on a clear day:

Another view from today, in a different direction:


Here are some stats, for those who are interested:

Skiable Acreage: 225 acres includes wide groomed trails, glades, bumps, steeps and tree skiing
Trails and Terrain Parks: 49 trails, 1 terrain park
Summit Elevation: 4,062 feet
Elevation Base: 1,950 feet
Vertical Drop: 2,112 feet
Average Annual Snowfall: 200 inches
Snowmaking: 90% Coverage

I loved Wildcat. It’s an old school sort of place. No slopeside lodging, so sushi bar, no fancy-schmantzy anything. Just terrific skiing on great terrain. One concession to modern times that I do like: the lightning fast Wildcat Express quad, which takes you to the summit in only 6 minutes. There are three other lifts, but these are pretty slow. In fact, only one of them was open today. I don’t blame the mountain for that, though. Other than a few other hardy souls, it was pretty empty.

Wildcat has a reputation as being a challenging mountain, but don’t let that keep you away. There’s plenty here for all abilities, with plenty of charm to burn.

Tomorrow (unless we’re totally rained out): Mount Abrams.


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Diva Safari, Day #8: Bretton Woods

After a solid week of excruciatingly cold weather, we’re finally out of the ice box And what a relief. I never thought the 20’s could feel so tropical. When you go from -20 to postive 20, it’s paradise. Seriously, where are the palm trees? On top of that, we had about 4 inches of snow overnight. The result: Four happy Divas!

Today we skied Bretton Woods. I was here a couple years ago with my husband, and we had a fantastic day. It was dumping snow and we had a blast in the trees. In fact, I wrote about it here.

So of course I had to come back. And am I glad I did, since it proved that my last visit wasn’t  a fluke. Once again, a fabulous day.

Bretton Woods isn’t the biggest ski area around, nor the gnarliest. But the groomers here are a blast, and the glades — ah, the glades. There’s tree skiing here for all abilities. Since my last visit, the mountain has expanded to include the Mount Stickney Glades, 30+ acres of tree skiing served by a T-bar with a sweet little warming hut.

Here we are at the warming hut, with our guide for the day, Alexa, the mountain’s assistant general manager:


Here’s a better view of the hut’s exterior. A great place to stop on a cold day:


And here’s SkiSailor, in the glades. See the smile? That pretty much sums it up, for all of us.


The views from the mountain are amazing. Here’s what you see, pretty much from everywhere at Bretton Woods: Mount Washington, the largest mountain in the northeast:


Bretton Woods has some other cool stuff, too, which we didn’t have a chance to do. There’s a zip line canopy tour which descends over a thousand feet of elevation. And yes, it’s open in the winter (we did see someone zip by overhead). And there’s a slopeside indoor climbing wall, also open year round.

Once we were done skiing, we took a side trip over to the magnificent Omni Mount Washington Hotel, which is right across the road. The hotel was built in 1902, and has to be seen to be believed. It’s gorgeous!

And inside the hotel:


And this, from the hotel’s back porch. I’d love to unwind here, at the end of the day:

Okay, back to the mountain. For those who want to know, here are some stats for Bretton Woods:

Vertical drop – 1,500 feet
Base elevation – 1,600 feet
Trails and glades – 102 total, including 71 trails and 31 glades
Skiable acreage – 464 acres, with 25% Easiest; 29% More Difficult; 30% Difficult; 16% Expert
Annual snowfall – 200+ inches on average
Snowmaking – on 92% of trails
Exposure – East/Northeast
Terrain Parks – 4

I love this place. Bretton Woods is so, so, so much fun. I will definitely be back.

Seven mountains down, three to go. Tomorrow, Wildcat!




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Diva Safari, Day #7: Cannon Mountain

We’ve crossed the border into new territory.

Today we entered New Hampshire. Live Free or Die, Baby. And even though we don’t need passports, I’m glad we have GPS.  The White Mountains are terra incognito to me. And I’ve never been to Cannon.

Lord knows why not. I love ski history, and this place reeks with it. Cannon is one of the country’s oldest ski areas, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The first aerial tramway in North America was installed at Cannon in 1938. Heck, the New England Ski Museum is located at the base of the mountain.

This is also Bode Miller’s home turf. He grew up skiing here, and as we all know, he’s no slouch. Each year he hosts BodeFest to benefit  The Turtle Ridge Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting innovative and progressive environmental initiatives and youth athletic opportunities throughout the US. This year BodeFest takes place on April 6.


Vertical Drop; 2,180 (the longest in NH)
Total trail mileage: 23 miles
Longest run: 2.3 miles
Ski area acreage: 264
Snowmaking: 97% on Cannon
Annual snowfall: 160 inches
Highest ski area summit in NH: 4,080′
Interesting fact: Mount Cannon was home to the Old Man in the Mountain, a rock formation that appeared to be a jagged profile of a face, and the symbol of New Hampshire. Unfortunately, it collapsed in a rock slide in 2003.

Cannon is spread across two mountains: Cannon and Mittersall, which were combined into a single area in 1983. Mittersall wasn’t open today, but really, we didn’t mind. Cannon is a blast.  There are lots of winding groomers that start from the top of the mountain. Fav of the day: Upper Ravine, a twisty trail that actually caused us  to whoop with delight. Even better, the weather finally cooperated. At last it wasn’t crazy cold. And it snowed. All day. I think we’re due.

Some pics from the day. No, we didn’t see Bode (sigh). But a great day, nonetheless.

Here’s the tram coming into the tram house at the bottom:


Docking in the tram house at the summit:


Extra Safari bonus: A visit to the New England Ski Museum at the end of the day.

We got to see Bode’s medals:


And lots of skis from long ago. Look at the size of these things!


If you love ski history, it’s definitely worth a visit.

From here, we go to Bretton Woods. It’s dumping snow. Tomorrow is going to be a great day.







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Ode to Joy

I just had one of the best ski days of my life. And it wasn’t at the gnarliest hill on the planet, nor one that’s particularly exotic or remote.

It was at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.

For those of you who don’t know, Bretton Woods is a mellow, modest-sized ski area tucked in the shadow of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States.  The area is known for the magnificent Mount Washington Hotel, site of the historic Bretton Woods conference of 1944, which established rules for commercial and financial relations among the world’s major industrial states (To find out more, go here. But since this is a ski blog, let’s move on.).

Here’s the hotel:

Impressive, isn’t it?

The ski area, not so much. Though the sign to at the entrance to Bretton Woods proclaims  “The largest ski area in NH,” it’s really fairly small. The vertical is only 1,500 feet and it’s a mere 464 acres. But the size of the place — or lack thereof — wasn’t the reason we chose to come.

We came on account of the trees.

For those of you who don’t know me, let me confess: I’m a bit of a wuss. You know that risk gene that causes people to huck cliffs and hurtle down 90° precipices? I don’t have it. I’m a decent enough skier, but let’s just put it this way. I know my limits. And skiing in densely packed trees is one of them.

For me, Bretton Woods was perfect. There are glades for all sorts of abilities. You want steep and dense? Check. Prefer something tamer ? Check on that, too.

At Bretton Woods, I became a tree fiend. Plus conditions were amazing. It was absolutely dumping snow. Our tracks filled in almost as soon as we made them.

We were giggling. Howling, Chortling with glee.

In short, we experienced pure, unadulterated,  joy. One of the best ski days I’ve ever had.

As I said before, size isn’t everything. Don’t turn up your nose if a ski area isn’t the biggest one around. You may have your own Ode to Joy.


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