Off the Clock: New Hampshire skiing -- Whatta deal
New Hampshire ski areas are in full swing, or ski, as the case may be. There are all sorts of discount passes and mid-week deals at the resorts, so if you haven’t hit the slopes yet, there’s no better time like the present. Karl Stone, marketing manager for Ski New Hampshire, which represents alpine and cross-country resorts across the state, said both the casual and avid skier will win this winter with the ski industry focusing on season pass price structures. “A season pass used to cost about $1,000. Now, they are maybe $350,” said Stone. “The average person can now afford to ski more often or spend a little more off the slopes.” Back again is the popular Threedom pass that covers Loon, Waterville Valley and Cranmore Mountains. For less than $500 (in some cases, substantially less, depending on package), you can ski anytime on any of these three mountains. The Threedom Pass also gives you discounts on food, lodging and other area attractions. See threedompass.com for details. American Ski Company, owners of Attitash in New Hampshire and Sunday River in Maine, along with other New England properties, offers an eTicket. Those skiing two or more consecutive days can save 10 percent. Wildcat Mountain has a second-day lift ticket for $25 - including weekends. And for something really different, Pats Peak has the Saturday night P.O.P. program, or “Pay One Price,” which gets you everything the mountain has to offer for just $23. That includes lift tickets, equipment rental, tubing, lessons - everything. Your aprés ski is on your own, though. Millions of dollars of improvements at the Granite State’s ski resorts are making the 2005 ski season better than ever. Loon Mountain installed a new high-speed quad lift and will be adding trails next season. Bretton Woods is in the middle of a multimillion-dollar expansion and has opened a dozen new trails and glades accessible from the Rosebrook Summit on their new quad lift. They also have added the “Cog Ski Train” - beginners and intermediate-level skiers can ride the Cog Railway to either the base of Cold Spring Hill or to Waumbek Platform, about a third of the way to the summit of Mount Washington, and ski down. Cannon Mountain also is in the midst of a multi-year expansion with improvements to its Mountain Station and has doubled snowmaking capacity on the Rocket and Time Zone Trails. Cranmore has revived its night skiing from the summit, and its base lodge has also received a facelift. Waterville Valley has updated the terrain throughout the park, and the Norsk Cross Country Center in New London is upgrading trails as well as adding new and improved grooming equipment and facility changes. Granite Gorge in Keene has relocated its tubing park, allowing for three chutes along with adding a new surface lift, lights and snowmaking. According to Stone, this season’s best-kept secret is Crotched Mountain. After a 10-year absence, Peak Resorts welcomed skiers back to the Bennington area in the 2003-2004 season, with a $10 million, top-to-bottom renovation. “They have all-new lifts, a new terrain park, rental equipment and a new base lodge,” he said. “However, the word hasn’t gotten out, apparently, because the crowds are still way down.” As the season hits its stride, the resorts have plenty of events planned for the whole family. Attitash is celebrating its 40th anniversary on Jan. 26 by kicking off “40 Days and Nights of Celebration.” A variety of events are planned culminating in the Attitash Aerial All-Star Show, March 5-6. On March 6, Nordic skiers will compete in Bretton Wood’s Great Glen to Bretton Woods back country race. For late-season fun, Stone suggested taking in one of the many “slush pit” competitions. At resorts throughout the state, this lighthearted sport combines downhill skiing, a penguin plunge and a costume party all in one as skiers attempt to skim over a slushy pond. The “winners” here are usually the ones that garner the most belly laughs with their belly flops. Say good-bye to winter and hello to spring at Bretton Woods’ 2005 BodeFest Golf and Ski Challenge in late April. Martha Wilson, spokesperson for Bretton Woods, said this pro-am tournament has local skiers, golfers and celebrities shoot the slopes in the morning, then the fairways in the afternoon. Proceeds benefit AbilityPlus and the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program. It’s never too late -- or too early —- to think about new equipment. Demo days are a great way to try before you buy. Representatives from such manufacturers as New England Telemark and EMS (Feb. 5, Wildcat Mountain), Burton Snowboards (March 11-13, Waterville Valley) and Salomon (March 12-13, Bretton Woods) are on hand to answer questions and help you “test drive” new skis, apparel or accessories. “View these as more like fact-finding trips than purchasing trips,” said Stone. “Do a little research before you go and come with questions. Call ahead as sometimes these events are limited to reservations.” While you might not buy directly from the demo tent, do bring your credit card because many times you will be directed to the local ski shops, often with great deals and special discounts from the manufacturer. For more information about New Hampshire’s ski areas, resort events and mountain conditions, visit www.skinh.com.