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Dec 22, 2014







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McIntyre Ski Area
50 Chalet Court, Manchester
622-6159
Lessons range from $40 to $60 per hour without rental equipment. See mcintyreskiarea.com for more detailed pricing and lesson information.

Pats Peak
686 Flanders Road, Henniker
428-3245
Prices start at $32 for a group lesson, not including equipment, though many other packages that include rentals and/or lift tickets are available. Call or visit patspeak.com to find more detailed pricing and lesson information.

•    McIntyre Ski Area, 50 Chalet Way, Manchester, 622-6159, mcintyreskiarea.com, tickets range in price, $14 to $34

•    Crotched Mountain, 615 Francestown Road, Bennington, 428-3245, crotchedmountain.com, tickets are $28 to $59

•    Pats Peak, 686 Flanders Road, Henniker, patspeak.com, 428-3245, tickets $26 to $60

•    Gunstock Mountain Resort, 719 Cherry Valley Road, Gilford, gunstock.com, 293-4341, tickets $30 to $72

•    Ragged Mountain, 620 Ragged Mountain Road, Danbury, 768-3600, raggedmountainresort.com, tickets $31 to $71

•    Mount Sunapee, 1398 Route 103, Newbury, 763-3500, mountsunapee.com, tickets start at $23

 





Look Good, Feel Great
The Hippo hits the slopes for the first of its four-part series.

01/03/13
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



1/3/2013 - Don’t just meander into 2013 with a few half-baked resolutions; set some realistic goals to make the new year your healthiest, happiest yet.

In the next four weeks, The Hippo will offer you tips on how to look good and feel great. Stay tuned for talk about eating healthy, tips from experts on exercise and information on how to give some health and happiness to others.

This week, Hippo hits the slopes. Skiing offers a chance to get outside, get some exercise in the fresh air and make the most  of the winter months.  Luke Steere delves into the art of learning how to ski, for both kids and adult newbies. Kelly Sennott looks at local mountains and Cory Francer heads farther north with a rundown of New Hampshire’s biggest ski resorts. On flatter ground, Jeff Mucciarone covers cross-country skiing. And contributor Rick Ganley takes a look at the history of small local ski hills in New Hampshire.

So bundle up and get ready to start the new year with one of the season’s best forms of exercise, then stay tuned for more healthy advice from The Hippo.

Ski the North Country
Options aplenty in New Hampshire’s White Mountains

Wake up before the sun, set the cruise control, and head north on I-93. You join just a few other cars on the road, which probably look a little bit like yours. A rounded, bulbous box on top, plastered with stickers that show your travels to places like Loon, Cannon, Cranmore, Attitash, and Waterville Valley.

Some of the best winter memories can be made north of the Merrimack Valley. To get ready for this year’s season on the slopes, take a look at what some of the Granite State’s biggest mountain resorts have to offer.

Loon Mountain is one of the state’s busiest and most easily accessible ski resorts. The mountain’s trails are easily visible from Route 112, which features a string of restaurants and activities for before and after a day on the mountain.

For this season, communications manager Greg Kwasnik said one of the most exciting new additions to the massive mountain is a Burton Riglet Park. The park has been added to one of Loon’s already kid-centric terrain parks and aims to introduce some of the youngest visitors to the mountain to the world of snowboarding.

“A riglet is like retractable dog leash that you attach to the front of the board and tow them along,” Kwasnik said. “With a riglet, kids as young as three can learn faster and with less frustration.”

A benefit for the entirety of the mountain, Kwasnik said, are the upgrades made to Loon’s snow-making capabilities. With an addition of more than 600 high efficiency snow guns to its fleet since 2010, Kwasnik said more trails can be fully coated much faster.

“Over the last six years, we have invested $20 million in snow making and expanded terrain by 36 percent,” Kwasnik said. “If the last time you came to Loon was 10 years ago, you will notice a lot of changes.”

Twenty minutes further north, you’ll find yourself in New Hampshire’s famous notches. Franconia Notch is home to Cannon Mountain, a 4,000-foot peak with the longest vertical drop in the state.

Greg Keeler, director of sales and marketing, said that for first-time visitors, the mountain can look intimidating from the road because of its sheer size. However, he said Cannon is very family- and beginner-friendly with its strategically placed Tuckerbrook Family Area. Tuckerbrook has 13 trails and four chairlifts all on its own and is entirely separate from the mountain’s more advanced trails.

“You’re there with other people who want to be on that terrain,” Keeler said.

For those who have graduated from the beginner areas, Keeler said Cannon features some of the most challenging terrain in the region as well, with exceptionally steep trails.

Keeler said that for this year, Cannon also features one of the largest terrain parks in its history, with three park areas that range in difficulty. The Tossup Trail has gone through considerable changes with its new boxes, ramps and rails, and Keeler said that for skiers and riders that haven’t visited the mountain in a while, it will look quite different.

Traditionally, Keeler said visitors to Cannon have traversed over to nearby Mittersill Mountain for some woodland skiing, but last year Cannon gained ownership of the mountain and opened a new double chairlift at Mittersill. This year, the mountain will be open on days when there is ample snow and skiers will be able to hike their way over from Cannon.

“We’re calling it ‘side country skiing,’ because there is no snow-making,” Keeler said. “It’s really adventure skiing.”

Heading closer to Crawford Notch, Bretton Woods provides 464 acres of terrain, the most in New Hampshire. But despite Bretton Woods’ size, Craig Clemmer, director of sales of marketing at the Omni Mount Washington Resort, said groups can still manage to stick together throughout the day.

There are many ways down from the summit, Clemmer said, but the vast majority of trails all work their way back to a central lodge.

“The whole family can ride up the lift together and find ways down at various levels,” he said.

Clemmer said the mountain features trails for kids, and varying trails for those more advanced with some wide open cruiser trails and the narrower more wooded trails that Clemmer said provide a more New England feel.

And just last year, Clemmer said, 30 acres of new glades were added to the mountain’s already diverse trail system.

hough Bretton Woods is truly New Hampshire’s behemoth mountain, Clemmer said visitors end up evenly distributed throughout the trails, reducing long wait times.

“We have nine high-speed quad lifts and can disperse everybody throughout that acreage,” he said. “The nice thing is you don’t have the lines you might experience in other areas.”

After exploring the notches, work your way back toward Loon and head east on the Kanc, just be on the lookout for moose and hairpin turns as you approach your next cluster of mountains. Attitash Mountain in Bartlett and its sister mountain, Wildcat Mountain in Pinkham Notch, also offer top-notch skiing and breathtaking views of Mt. Washington — Wildcat in particular, said Laura Tuveson, the marketing coordinator at both mountains.

“Whether you’re skiing Wildcat for the first time or if this is your 30th season, the view is amazing,” she said.

While the view from Wildcat is its big draw, Tuveson said Attitash’s size keeps longtime visitors on their toes. With 67 trails to explore, even veterans of the mountain can discover new places on each trip.

“There’s a ton of variety,” Tuveson said. “You can keep finding new things and new trails.”

Nearby North Conway is one of New Hampshire’s most iconic, picturesque villages. A popular tourist location all year long, the town comes to life in winter when the slopes at Cranmore Mountain Resort open.

Kathy Bennett, Cranmore’s marketing director, said the mountain has made some upgrades for the 2013 season. Cranmore was once home to the oldest operating chairlift in the east, but that has now been replaced with a brand new million dollar lift, providing access to an additional 300 vertical feet.

Bennett said the new lift will provide access to more advanced terrain, allowing for longer runs and shorter wait times while ascending on the lift.

For the action sports minded, Bennett said Cranmore will have five completely redesigned terrain parks, which will feature a skier cross and rider cross course. That portion of the terrain park is built entirely with snow and will have a series of S-curves for skiers and snowboarders to navigate through.

For those just hitting the slopes for the first time, Bennett said Cranmore was ranked in Ski Magazine as the No. 1 mountain in New Hampshire for kids programs. She said the mountain even has its own lodge for beginners and new children’s center.
Cranmore also has a snowtubing park, a zipline and a mountain coaster, which Bennett said is similar to an alpine slide.

The Waterville Valley Resort, one of the state’s most popular destinations, has set its sights on remaining a family-oriented mountain. According to a press release, the mountain has added a kids adventure trail for kids to ski or snowboard. A new kids learning park is also open for the season, with small-size features for those just getting started in park skiing and snowboarding.

Waterville Valley has 52 trails and 11 lifts as well as a terrain park, glades and mini moguls. National Standard Race offers recreational racing with a giant slalom format. The course is open to the public and is designed for skiers and riders of all ages and abilities.
The King Pine Ski Area at Purity Spring Resort doesn’t share the same magnitude as  the others surrounding it, but for more than 50 years has still been a Granite State favorite. The mountain features something for everyone, with 17 trails, 44 percent of which are considered easy, 31 percent intermediate and 25 percent advanced. The mountain also features six lifts and is lit up for night skiing on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday until 9 p.m.

Jackson’s Black Mountain is another of the North Country’s smaller ski areas, but with views of Mount Washington and 143 acres of skiable terrain it remains a popular destination. The mountain has 45 trails and glades to choose from, four chair lifts and a 1,100-foot vertical drop. It’s a family-owned and operated resort.

It started with rope tows
Nostalgia prompting revival of some old ski hills
By Rick Ganley

Years ago while chasing my toddler around a small hillside park in Derry, I found a large chunk of iron. It was an odd site, this hulking engine block in the brush and undergrowth at the top of the hill. No mistake — it was a rusty motor of some kind. Putting aside any brief thoughts of lost alien space craft, I pondered how anyone carried this thing into the woods a couple of hundred yards away from the nearest road. And why.

Then I noticed the telephone poles. They were several feet back in the woods, overgrown relics left over from when the hillside here was obviously cleared. Two of the poles had wheel hubs; displaying just a hint of the yellow they were once painted. A thin wire bowed between two of them.

This was a rope tow. 

Suddenly the picture snapped into place. Standing at the summit of this little hill overlooking the rooftops of downtown Derry, I imagined a bustling local attraction with skiers in wool hats and socks dotted along the tow, pushing off for the quick run over the two bumps that make up the slope, and getting right back in line for another trip. Just another winter afternoon down at the hill.

It’s a romantic and quaint notion, but it was a very common sight in New Hampshire towns in the middle decades of the 20th century. In the days before interstate highways, getting to the large ski mountains in northern New England took some effort — a long ride by car or, early on, train. Heading up to the North Country for a weekend ski trip simply wasn’t possible for many.

At this point, you may be expecting a nostalgic trip to yesteryear, with perhaps some grumbling about how we’ve lost something in the march to The Future.

Curmudgeons, read on.

Skiing into the past
Meteorologist and author Jeremy Davis has been fascinated with lost ski areas for years. An avid skier, Davis runs the New England Lost Ski Areas Project, a website devoted to collecting and sharing stories and pictures of these once beloved but often forgotten places. Since starting the site in 1998 and posting some areas he explored himself, he’s assembled photos and remembrances from hundreds of people with fond memories of late afternoons and early evenings spent at their local ski hill. Davis has compiled so much history about old ski mountains, he’s written books. He’s the go-to guy on the subject.

Davis calls it an interesting slice of Americana.

“People started emailing me stories. They take digital pictures of these areas, scan old postcards and pictures and articles, and really [help to] start putting the history of some of these places together. The site really grows by people submitting information and stories and memories and really bringing these places to life. Some are so obscure that you think you won’t find anything about it, and then all of a sudden the grandson of the founder of the area or the people who used to own the land, we’ll hear from them,” he said.
Davis has spent many a summer’s day traveling to and documenting what those old areas look like now.

“It’s amazing when you can look in an area from 30 or 40 years ago and you have pictures of it. You see this thriving ski areas with everyone having a good time, you see the lifts, you see the lodge, the place packed, and then you go to it today; there’s hardly anything left, or there’s just a few relics. It’s amazing how fast the transition can be back into wilderness,” Davis said.

If you want to get a sense of New Hampshire’s place in the history of the sport, the New England Ski Museum at Cannon Mountain in Franconia is a great place to start. Among the paraphernalia of ski areas past and present, Bode Miller’s Olympic medals and huge assortment of historical pictures, there are glimpses into the birth of an industry.

“One of the things that got skiing more popular was the Boston and Maine Ski Trains, through the Appalachian Mountain Club,” said Jeff Leich, executive director of the New England Ski Museum. “They first ran in 1931, to Warner, New Hampshire. They picked a likely spot where the train was parked on a siding, served as a base lodge, people skied all day and went back home. As time went on in the ‘30s, the first rope tow in the US was built at Woodstock, Vermont, in 1934. People from other towns went and looked at it and said ‘we could do the same in our town’. And the effect of the rope tows was to spread the sport. It created what we call feeder areas. It certainly had an economic impact on the farmer who put up a rope tow in the field. Have a little money to help with the taxes.”

Many of these areas were on private or town land founded by local ski clubs, Kiwanis, Lions Club, or PTA groups. From the 1930s through the ‘60s, these areas provided an outlet for the community when not much else was going on. It was a vehicle for community involvement. These groups would often build the tow and install some lights for night skiing, and it would be staffed entirely by volunteers.

Davis says the rise of these areas parallel the rise of the sport in the middle of the century. 

“These really started popping up in the mid to late ‘30s, then there was a break during world war two, and they really came back after that in the ‘50s and ‘60s and started to decline after that. About 70 percent of the areas in New Hampshire were these smaller community ski areas,” Davis said.

Then the really big resorts started to develop.

“There were a few started in the late ‘30s, you had Cranmore start to develop with their Skimobile, you had Cannon Mountain develop with their Tramway as examples. And you had all these smaller areas as well. They all were breeding grounds for people to learn how to ski. They developed in conjunction with bigger resorts, as feeder resorts.”

Throughout the 1950s and into the ‘60s, the growth of the sport supported the growing resorts as well as the small community areas. By the 1970s however, the competition caused many of the local and smaller areas to start to falter.

It wasn’t just the competition. Community hills closed down because of a combination of higher insurance rates, fuel prices and easier access to larger resorts.

“You could now get on the highway and be at a major resort in two hours or less. In some cases, the interstate actually went through these areas; Mt. Eustis in Littleton was sliced in half [by] I-93. The Interstate was definitely not the best thing to occur for the smaller areas, but it was probably one of the best things to occur for the larger resorts.”

Keeping it local
So the tiny one-tow hills Davis has researched are mostly gone, but here’s the twist: a handful of small areas have survived, and others have actually reopened in recent years.

“Areas in Campton, Franklin [Veterans Memorial Ski Area], Wolfeboro [Abenaki], Lancaster [Prospect Mountain], and a few others around the state — they had infrastructure left over after closing down for a while, or were able to remain open.”

Kathy Fuller is the treasurer of the Franklin Outing Club. Her father was one of the founding members of the Franklin Veteran’s Memorial Ski Area, and the club continues running it today. She says the area endures because of generations of volunteers.

“With a lot of volunteer effort from businesses and people from around the community, that’s where it all started. That’s a lot of work, and commitments to groom the hills, cut the brush, and do the training that’s necessary,” Fuller said.

They do it, she says, because they love the fact that they can watch their kids learn to ski or ride on the same slopes they did.

Smaller areas like this have an interesting role in the industry because they’re usually more affordable tickets. Season passes are cheap, so a family can afford to ski more often.

Fuller says it’s a big draw, and one of the main reasons areas like Veteran’s Memorial will continue to exist.

“As long as you can maintain your mission. Because I think the mission of the Franklin Outing Club has always been to provide safe affordable skiing. It’s a wonderful opportunity for young families with little kids that are just starting out,” Fuller said.

Still, small areas are at the mercy of Mother Nature; during the winter of 2010 and 2011, bountiful snowfall meant Veteran’s Ski Area could stay open through March. Last season, with few storms and without the resources of snow making equipment, they were operating for just one weekend. That uncertainty makes it hard to plan ahead and pay the bills, but volunteers — and enough skiers — keep coming back to the community hills that are still going.

Davis admits it’s a small cry from what it once was.

“It’s just a fraction of the areas that once existed, but they’re treasured now by their communities. People know each other, the kids go to school together — it’s a great place for the community to gather, especially at a time of year when it’s a little harder to get outside. The burgers are usually $3 instead of ten. And nostalgia plays a roll. Often you’ll see grandparents at these areas, saying ‘I learned to ski here, and I want my kids and grandkids to have the same experience.’”

New life for old hills?
While the larger resorts have expanded operations into other seasons in recent years with the addition of zip lines, bike trails and other activities, some of New Hampshire’s mid-size ski mountains have also evolved, and somewhat ironically, the popularity of snowboarding has actually given new life to many smaller ski operations.

Leich says bigger was better, for a while. With the rise of snowboarding, that’s changed somewhat; half pipes and terrain parks don’t require huge vertical and widespread snowmaking capability.

“So some of these ski areas that shut down earlier, Whaleback for example, all of a sudden becomes viable again. So there’s been a little resurgence,” Davis said.

Davis and Fuller both say the small areas that continue to survive as ski operations are those with strong community support.

“You’ve really got to have that community support to keep things going. We’ve had some closed areas come back — Mittersill with Cannon Mountain annexing it, Crotched Mountain in southern New Hampshire coming back … so some closed areas have come back,” Davis said.

The one-lift town slopes have also evolved, with many becoming community parks, with trails and playgrounds for round-year use. Derry’s former ski hill is now a town park with the old ski slope used for sledding, and the former base lodge is often open with a snack bar and lots of families drinking hot cocoa on winter weekends. There are at least two surviving small one-lift hills: the Dublin School has reopened an area on campus in recent years and Mt. Prospect in Lancaster has operated occasionally.

“There are places that have survived, if you want a taste of what it was like to ski these lost areas from 30, 40, 50 years ago,” Davis said.

Rick Ganley is the host of  Morning Edition on NHPR, where a version of this story is slated to run.

Daunting, but not dangerous
Learning the slopes
By Luke Steere

A brisk cold and the excitement of rushing toward the bottom of a large hill combine, curiously, into one of the quintessential New England activities.

It’s curious because describing it that way seems daunting, yes, but dangerous? No. One of the most common misconceptions about skiing is that it is dangerous, said Ross Boisvert, vice president and general manager of McIntyre Ski Area in Manchester. But it isn’t risky, if you’re trained properly and keeping your abilities in check.

“If you are taught correctly, take lessons and taught a progression, it is much easier to grasp skiing or snowboarding. The worst thing someone can do is go out with a friend who brings them to a hill and says ‘OK go,’” Boisvert said.

McIntyre as a whole is a very un-intimidating mountain, he said, perfect for beginning skiers of all ages. With its 10 trails and a separate beginners area, it’s also conveniently located for a small start before tackling larger mountains the state offers.

McIntyre’s beginner’s progression starts with a stand-on conveyor belt lift. The Rabbit Conveyor brings skiers up to the top of a small bunny hill, and skiers then graduate to the Gopher Conveyor, which takes them a third of the way up the mountain, in view of skiers coming down from the summit.

“The experience is certainly very important to go through,” Boisvert said. “The second conveyor is a little bit higher, and students learn to control their speed and stop.”

Skiers are divided into nine different skill levels which were put forth by the Professional Ski Instructors of America in the 1960s. Even the most versatile, dynamic skiers can find a class to advance their skills at most mountain’s ski schools. Beginners are divvied up into the first four levels: those who have never done it (Level 1); those who have skied a little (Level 2); skiers with basic wedge turning ability (Level 3); and (Level 4) rhythmical skidded turners who can ride beginner chairs. McIntyre also features a J-bar tow lift skiers can get used to before the chairs.

“By the time they move on to a chair lift, it’s taking them higher on the hill. The further up, the more mileage,” Boisvert said. “They get a feel for longer trails and continue with turning, controlling their speed and stopping.”

Seven years after opening, in 1978, McIntyre began offering lessons and quickly became a destination for advancing through the beginning levels of skiing. By 2009, McIntyre Ski School Inc. came under the managing guise of the City of Manchester and has since benefited from improvements to the mountain and program. It’s short peak — with no black diamonds and only one intermediate trail — draws the beginner crowd and makes for an inviting atmosphere on a large part of the mountain, but, Boisvert said, McIntyre also features a terrain park and race course run for skiers looking for an added challenge.

At McIntyre, ages 3 and under can join the hands-on Parent & Tot Program, which is all about getting familiar with the sport. Little Macs (ages 4 to 6) begin turning and ski lift techniques. For ages 6 to 16, the Mighty Macs are on their way to becoming mid-level skiers. Adults can choose from a ladies program on Mondays or gen eral adult lessons, which are also available as corporate programs.

Pats Peak maintains the same philosophy on a bigger scale. Half of Pats’ 23 trails are novice and beginner and another four are intermediate, but most of them are accessed from the summit, allowing for long, easy trails populated by other beginner skiers fresh out of Pats Peak’s ski school.

“Our main focus at Pats Peak is to teach people to ski and snowboard, but we have a little bit of everything for everybody,” said Bertie Holland, guest service snow sports director.

“Skiers for a lifetime” is the goal of the classes, she said. Pats Peak is a family-oriented mountain that holds basic lessons on two intimate beginners slopes in the Valley Area, one with a rope-tow lift and, the other, a carpet lift. The carpet lift is free to anyone; beginner skiers can go any ticket window and request a Beginners Area lift ticket. It’s little extras like these that Holland says  encourages families to come as a unit and spend time in the outdoors together.

“We’re sort of a feeder area because we can’t compete as far as terrain goes, but the mainstay of our mountain has always been customer service and extra stuff for families,” Holland said. “Right now we’re in competition with video games and a lot of other different activities. For some, being outside in the cold  and getting all bundled up and strapping on equipment isn’t an idea of fun, but this is the New Hampshire winter sport.”

Aside from other distractions, Holland said that skiing is expensive, but there are “all sorts of deals you can find,” like starter specials or other ski packages at Pats that include a lift ticket, lessons and rentals.

“They’re reasonably inexpensive, and we try to give people a lot of bang for your buck around here. We aren’t a $92-ticket mountain,” she said.

They are a $60-ticket mountain, and that’s for adults, all day, on the weekends. It goes down from there with younger riders, weekdays and half-day ticket options. About half the mountain’s lessons are with school groups during five-week programs in January and February, said Lori Rowell, director of marketing.

“These lessons are in an environment where young skiers can be with classmates and friends. It’s comfortable for them,” she said.

Women’s Only Wednesdays is a seven-week clinic taught by women instructors and featuring a more in depth, off-slope aspects. Over breakfast beginning at 9 a.m., participants sit in on discussions about fear and risk factors, yoga and riding exercises, stance and balance, physical and psychological gender differences, confidence building and more, Rowell said.

“They are meant to be woman-specific to focus in on aspects of skiing that concern them. It’s a more intensive set of lessons tailored for them focusing on different shaped equipment and different techniques. Women learn differently and require a different center gravity and binding placement. They’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how it would be easy for women to learn and apply it to these products,” she said.

Even Burton Snowboards offers lessons on snowboarding featuring different shaped boards specific for women, men and first-time boarders, each who have a different center gravity and require specialized edges and binding placement. Pats Peak became the first New Hampshire Women’s Burton Learn to Ride Center in 2012.

Ski close to home
Southern New Hampshire’s closest mountains
By Kelly Sennott

One of the only downsides to a long day of skiing is having to travel for hours to get to the mountain and back. But you don’t have to drive far every time you have the urge to hit the slopes. Maybe you won’t get as much fresh, natural snow as you will in the big mountains, but there are some pretty good trails to slalom down in Southern New Hampshire, too.

We’ll start with McIntyre. This ski area has been Manchester’s “backyard for winter fun” since 197,1 according to the website, boasting a rental shop and tubing course. It’s one of the smallest ski mountains in the state, but it’s also one of the closest, perfect for beginner and intermediate skiers. Many elementary school ski club programs take place here.

“We’re designed to be an area where people learn how to ski and snowboard. Our staff trains to make your first experience a great one,” said Ross Boisvert, vice president and general manager.

The ski area is consists of mostly “green circle” (beginner) trails, with one “blue square” (intermediate) trail as well.

Pats Peak  is also in close proximity to the Nashua/Manchester/Concord area. This mountain is prime for skiers looking for more of a challenge closer to home. From the turbulence park to the black diamond trails that run down the middle, Pats Peak is still a family-friendly mountain but offers a bit more of a challenge than McIntyre.

“It’s a beginner mountain, in the way that we teach people to ski and snowboard,” said Lori Rowell, director of marketing at Pats. 

The mountain is host to over 100 local schools during the week, and features two carpet lifts, two triples and a few doubles, with 10 lifts total. Pats Peak is also a destination spot for adult recreational racing. Rowell joked that this adult racing league is sometimes called the “Beer League,” which occurs Monday to Thursday evening. If you’re skiing Friday or Saturday, you can enjoy the live music at the pub in between runs.

Recent upgrades at Ragged Mountain have enhanced its snow-making capabilities, and the slopes are more ready than they’ve ever been.

“Over the summer we invested $1 million and were able to add 175 new snow guns,” said Stacy Lopes, marketing manager at Ragged Mountain.

This means more snowmaking in less time.

“That’s helped us. For the first time ever, we were able to open both of our peaks at the same time,” she said.

What they’re not quite as well known for are the 11 trails of glade skiing, or tree skiing. These are great to ski on after a powdery snow storm, she said, because these are some of the few spots that their snowmakers aren’t able to reach.

Between your runs, you can hang out with the Ragged Mountain mascot, Murray the Moose, or search for Sweeps, the plastic flamingo that the Ragged Mountain ski patrol hide every day. Finding Sweeps is a very big deal; if you bring him to the front desk, you’ll be able to come back and ski for free.

Visit the lift ticket store at raggedmountainresort.com for reduced ticket prices that are 30, 50  or even 65 percent off, depend- ing on which day of the week you want to ski. Make sure that you book your ticket at least 24 hours in advance.

The state’s second busiest mountain is actually only about one hour away from Manchester. Mount Sunapee in Newbury is making some additions to the mountain this year, including a new gladed trail, and is installing a 50-foot by 50-foot Acrobag for skiers and snowboarders to practice new jumps and tricks, landing safely on the inflatable bag.

Bruce McCloy, Sunapee’s director of sales and marketing, said over the summer, a new adventure park was installed at the mountain, including a canopy treetop zip line course. Throughout the winter, adventurous visitors to the mountain can still take a ride on the zip lines during weekends and holidays.

Two aspects of Sunapee that McCloy said have consistently brought skiers and riders to the mountain year after year are both the quality of the snow and the views from the summits throughout the resort.

McCloy said that each year, Ski Magazine does a reader survey on a variety of winter sports related topics, and for the past 13 years, Sunapee has averaged a third-place ranking in the East in the snow quality category. And while snow sports enthusiasts are appreciative of the snow quality, McCloy said before they make their way down, visitors are treated to breathtaking scenery.

“The nice thing about Sunapee is the view from the top,” McCloy said. “When you look to the north, Lake Sunapee is right in front. On a clear day you can see Mt. Washington and if you look to the west on a clear day you can see the whole spine of the Green Mountains, from Killington to Okemo, to Mount Snow to Haystack.”

Because Sunapee prides itself on being a family mountain, there are beginner classes for kids and parents to take together, but also more challenging terrain, including nine gladed trails and three mogul courses.

While just about every mountain now features terrain parks for the action sports minded, McCloy said Sunapee’s Bob Skinner’s Ski & Sport 603 Terrain Park uniquely features a 4,000-watt sound system, with speakers positioned throughout the park. In addition to pumping tunes into the park, McCloy said the sound system has also helped increase safety on the ramps and rails.

Gunstock is one of the larger mountains within reasonable driving distance, with 20 trails, six lifts, a zine lining course, racing and snow parks. While it’ll have more for advanced skiers, beginners can find their niche here, too; beginners start with their “Mountain magic” program for first-timers, which includes Head BYS System rental skis or Burton LTR snowboards, lift tickets and group instruction. The younger crowd will get a kick out of some of the events that Gunstock offers in coming months, too: the Radio Disney Get Out & Play Winter Ski tour, for instance, is on Saturday, Jan. 5, and Sunday, Jan. 27, and features a celebrity deejay with Disney music.

Gunstock.com is updated daily with ski conditions, featuring maps and reports on the temperature, amount of snowfall, the type of snowfall, and information regarding open and closed trails. Gunstock also offers a tubing hill, which is open Tuesday through Friday nights and all day on Saturdays and Sundays. A two hour ticket costs $18, and a “last hour only” ticket costs $11.

Crotched Mountain has something for everyone. Beginners can start without with a Discovery Lesson, which gives new skiers all of the time and attention they need to master the beginner slope terrain. All skiers can squeeze in more runs at Crotched Mountain this year; its new, lightening-speed quad, The Rocket, is Southern New Hampshire’s only high-speed detachable quad chairlift, shipping skiers up the mountain in just four minutes.

The mountain has also expanded its skiable terrain for the 2012-2013 season, having added more than 25 acres (two new trails, one glade area) this year, according to Chris Hudnor of the Crotched Mountain  marketing department.

Unique to Crotched Mountain are its Midnight Madness nights. Every Friday and Saturday night during January and February, the mountain is open until 3 a.m. Midnight Madness is New England’s only late-night ski and ride session. During this time you can enjoy a band,  a bonfire and six hours of uninterrupted skiing. Midnight Madness costs $42 per night or $189 for a season.

Cory Francer contributed to this story.

Glide through winter
Cross-country skiing a great way to stay in shape
By Jeff Mucciarone

The air is crisp and the ground is (maybe) covered with snow. It’s time to strap on cross-country skis and experience the winter wonderland from a new perspective, while also getting a full-body, aerobic workout.

Cross-country skiing uses muscles in the shoulders, back, chest, core, buttocks and legs, with the skiing motion providing a more complete workout than running or cycling, according to new-fitness.com. Cross country skiers burn 600 to 900 calories per hour, depending on effort level.

“With all due modesty, it’s the best sport in the world,” said Peter Breu of the Bedford Cross-Country Ski Club. “You’re out in the fresh air and you can take it at any pace you want.”

 The advantage of cross-country skiing is that the impact on joints is minimal compared to running. Breu said a lot of runners cross-country ski in the winter as a way to rest their joints.

“You’re engaging more muscles, but you’re not getting the specific impact problems that come with running,” Breu said.

Breu emphasized the importance of just getting outside and breathing fresh air, rather than spending cold months inside at a gym on a treadmill.

To get started, cross-country pros suggest going to a commercial area to rent skis and ski on groomed trails first, rather than buying gear first.

“You’ve got to do that first before [you] decide to spend the money,” said Al Jenks, owner of Windblown Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in New Ipswich.

Jenks said Windblown has a variety of trails, from easy to very steep and challenging.

“I’m always amazed with the number of people who have just gone in to a ski shop and they get sold gear that just doesn’t suit them. The only way, really, is to come to a ski area where you can try a variety of gear and talk to people who have experience and know what works and what doesn’t.”

Jenks said equipment has changed considerably in the last 30 years. On top of that, grooming practices have changed a lot to. The result is that skiing is easier today than it once was, he said.

Experienced skiers cautioned against purchasing skis online without input, since buying the wrong gear will result in a frustrating, likely one-time experience.

Take a lesson, Jenks said. At most commercial places, skiers can get some kind of a discount if they opt for a lesson. Jenks figured people would typically get a lesson, a ski rental and a trail fee for 10 to 30 percent less than if they bought those three items separately.

It’s more than a monetary benefit though, Jenks said. With a little instruction, people can get the hang of it quickly, he said.

Everyone is different. Plenty of people will take a lesson and just take off after that. Others will still struggle a little. Jenks suggested trying to stay on flat terrain to get the motion down first. People need to get used to balancing on skis, since each step is a weight shift while sliding.

“You want to be comfortable on flat terrain before you head for the hills,” Jenks said.

The problem for those looking to try out cross country skiing in the Manchester area is that there are not areas particularly close by where people can rent gear. There are places to ski locally for free on groomed trails, but not places to rent, Breu said. The Bedford Cross-Country Ski Club offers five kilometers of groomed trails with free access, but not rentals.

People can go to outdoor stores like L.L. Bean, REI or EMS and buy a beginner package of skis, boots and poles, “without spending an arm and a leg,” Breu said, adding that cross country skis are much less expensive than alpine ski packages. Breu figured a beginner package would cost roughly $250 to $300. Getting a boot that fits is paramount. Boots don’t have to be super tight, Jenks said, but they should be snug, since a loose boot is likely to result in blisters.

New skiers can try out trails at Lake Massabesic or Bear Brook State Park, or the Beaver Brook Association in Hollis, Breu said. People often ski on the Derryfield Golf Course as well. Gould Hill Farm in Hopkinton and Carter Hill Orchard in Concord both offer free, groomed, cross country skiing. The Derryfield School in Manchester and the Dublin School in Dublin will be grooming their campuses for the first time this year.

Groomed trails make for easy and fast skiing.

“It’s fun because you can move along easily and you can do 50 kilometers in a day,” Breu said. “You couldn’t do that on an unprepared backcountry trail, where it’s much slower.”

Cross-country skiing is broken into two different disciplines: classic skiing and skate skiing. Classic skiing is likely what most beginners think of when they think cross country skiing: skiers gliding along in a straight line. Skate skiing is more advanced and couples a stiffer boot, slightly shorter skis, and a skating motion.

“Most people should stick with classical skiing,” Breu said. “Because skating is more exercise, and you would need some help, some lessons to get started. Classic skiing, you can literally walk on skis, as you would snowshoes. I would advise someone who is a real beginner to stick with classic skiing.”

Skate skis are shorter, stiffer and skinnier. When skiing, skis are in a “V” position, similar to skating. Skate skis are faster, both up and down hills. Jenks figured skate skiing makes up about 10 percent of the skiing crowd.

“It’s very aerobic,” Jenks said. “Usually, I wouldn’t recommend [skate skiing] for people’s first time, unless people are in very good shape.”

Depending on a person’s physical condition, a new skier might be able to ski for five miles or so on their first day. Jenks said people should expect to be able to cover more ground than they would if they were walking.

“If someone could do a five-mile hike, then they could probably do seven to 10 miles on skis,” Jenks said. “If they can do a one-mile hike, than they could probably do 1.5 to two miles on skis.

Cross-country skiing or snowshoeing are aerobic sports, so it’s important to have some kind of moisture wicking materials next to the skin, as opposed to cotton. For the average skier, dressing in layers will help control body temperature.






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