Dare 2b + RootsRated present   An Insider’s Guide to the best Northeast Winter Resorts
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Loon Mountain

Lincoln, NH

Considered one of the most popular winter resorts in the Northeast, Loon offers great skiing and riding in a quintessential New England town setting.

Resort Skiing

The Toll Road Quad connecting South Peak to Loon’s main mountain.
The Toll Road Quad connecting South Peak to Loon’s main mountain. Rudi Riet

A strong case can be made for Loon Mountain being New England’s most accessible big mountain resort. Just two hours north from Boston and three hours from Providence, the mountain base parking lot is a mere three miles east of a major Interstate exit (Exit 32 off I-93 North, for Lincoln/North Woodstock), and it serves up a menu that includes 61 trails and 2,100 vertical feet for both skiing and snowboarding.

Lincoln, NH is the more commercial of the two adjoining towns straddling the interstate. With an assortment of strip malls and shops along Main Street, as well as a number of small locally-run eateries and ski shops, the town’s main drag is surprisingly bustling considering its modest size. Then there’s North Woodstock, just two miles away on the west side of I-93—a tiny mountain town with roughly 500 full time residents and an endless amount of quaint, New England charm.

Loon’s 61 trails—all with northeast exposure—are spread across a trifecta of separate and very distinct peaks. The mountain’s layout and terrain provide a host of unique elements to skiers and snowboarders of all abilities. Maybe most important, given recent winter weather fluctuations, Loon has invested heavily in its snowmaking, and is now considered one of the pre-eminent mountains in the East in that regard.

Snagging some air at Loon Mountain Resort Loon Mountain Resort

The 3,050-foot North Peak is the highest point on the mountain, sitting out on the resort’s easternmost boundary. While a bit off-the-beaten-path in terms of distance from the base, this is where you’ll find adventurous skiers heading out early in the day, especially on a day when there’s fresh powder.

A great way to jumpstart a day on the slopes begins by taking the gondola to the top; then, traverse over to the North Peak Express Quad. You’ll be able to do a short run over to Lower Walking Boss, which is a wide glade and a great warm-up, with room for plenty of gentle turns.

Expert trails like Upper Walking Boss and Upper Flume are where you’ll find some of the best snow on the mountain.

Another interesting run starts at Sunset and continues over to Haulback. Sunset may offer up some of the best panoramas of the surrounding mountains ringing Loon. Sunset to Haulback also offers a “bailout” of sorts, if you start down Upper Flume and realize your skills aren’t up to snuff for expert terrain.

Camp III at the base of North Peak is a log cabin-style lodge. It’s a great place to make a pit stop and refuel with an exotic sampling of bratwurst that happens to be made with alligator, bison, and other wild game, or perhaps a cup of their warm venison stew. During those halcyon spring skiing days with blazing sunshine, Camp III’s deck is the best place to cop a tan.

Loon Peak is the mountain’s colorful centerpiece. You’ll also find a family zone for skiers in the midst of this area. Intermediate trails worth visiting are Lower Picked Rock, Blue Ox, and Rampasture.

If you crave a more intimate skiing experience, then Loon’s new South Peak area might be perfect for you. With its own entrance, south of the main base area, this peak feels like your own private ski area.

Boarders cruising down the slopes at Loon Loon Mountain Resort

Once on the mountain, you’ll find a dozen newer, intermediate, and advanced trails, all served by a single, high-speed quad. This means minimal waiting, or none at all. In fact, with its own separate base area, South Peak offers longtime Loon devotees a new and very different skiing experience than they may have encountered in the past. This was developed by design, as access to this area of the mountain is available only by shuttle, or the Tote Road Quad.

It’s more than different for the sake of being different, too. There’s some fabulous terrain that offers challenges for skiers of all abilities. The trail lineup now at South Peak includes Boom Run, a great intermediate with a bit of a long outrun; Rip Saw, for experts, with a no-fall zone; Cruiser, with beautiful views; and Uppercut and Jobber, which are sort of in the middle-to-intermediate range.

Oh, and there are some spectacular views of Franconia Notch, too.

When you’re done skiing and craving a bite to eat, their lodge is utilitarian, but has some decent food options.

South Peak allows you to spend a good part of your day skiing, without ever having to hit Loon’s busier base area, where the larger crowds are likely to be. And from the top of Loon’s newest peak, you have the option of a connector lift, which allows you access to the resort’s other terrain.

With its varied terrain, trails for all-levels of skiers (and snowboarders), as well as peak-related diversity of experiences, Loon Mountain Resort offers the total package for anyone considering a weekend in the gorgeous White Mountains of New Hampshire. If you haven’t been in a few years, Loon offers a host of new features and perks for families, as well as hardcore ski rats and snowboarders.

 

Side-Country Skiing

White out in the Loon backcountry
White out in the Loon backcountry Loon Mountain Resort

Fans of tree-skiing and glades are overjoyed with Loon Mountain Resort’s commitment over the past few years to increase acreage and deep powder opportunities.

The 3,050-foot North Peak is the highest point on the mountain, sitting out on the resort’s easternmost boundary. While a bit off-the-beaten-path in terms of distance from the base, this is where you’ll find adventurous skiers heading for early, especially on a day when there’s fresh snow.

A great way to jumpstart a day on the slopes begins by taking the gondola to the top; then, traverse over to the North Peak Express Quad. You’ll be able to do a short run over to Lower Walking Boss, which is a wide glade and a great warm-up, with room for plenty of gentle turns. Additional treeline glades on this part of the mountain are Upper Walking Boss and Buck Saw Woods.

While Loon Mountain has strict policies against out-of-bounds skiing, there are places on Upper Walking Boss that offer ungroomed backcountry powder. Just be sure that your skills are at the upper end, and you have experience navigating expert terrain. (Rumor has it that locals even know about a secret ski trail that takes you all the way out to Black Mountain.)

Tree-skiing at its finest Loon Mountain Resort

Loon has other glade runs on the Loon Peak section of the mountain. Both Skidder Woods and Mike’s Way Woods are black diamond-level trails, and the latter serves up secluded skiing, which—with fresh snow—is treeline skiing at its finest.

Triple Trouble is a narrow, ungroomed, natural-snow trail for classic skiing. While not technically a glade, it remains a favorite, especially among longtime Loon fans, as their most challenging trail.

From North Peak, it’s an easy jaunt to South Peak, the resort’s newest, south-facing mini-area, on the people-moving Tote Road Quad. The chair doesn’t go vertically, but rather across a high valley from peak to peak, and it runs in both directions. There is some spectacular scenery to be enjoyed, including a lake and majestic Mount Washington to the north. There, you’ll find Loon’s newest glade run: Undercut. Interestingly, longtime Loon skiers have been hiking over from the Loon summit and secretly skiing Undercut, as well as Boom Run and Cruiser. Now, with South Peak finally open, it’s all part of your day pass, with transportation included.

While Loon Mountain doesn’t offer any backcountry options on its resort, fans of the sport don’t have to travel too far afield to find it. Along the Pemigewasset River, just north of Lincoln, NH is an ideal tour for anyone new to backcountry skiing.

Lincoln Woods Trail/Wilderness Trail, just a mere 3 miles away from the resort and 4 miles from the center of town, via NH-112 East (also known as the Kancamagus Highway) delivers nearly 11 miles of ungroomed adventure, traversing the winding riverbed.

Possibly the most compelling aspect of this trail is the logging history that predates its return to a wilderness state. During the late 1800s, lumber baron, J.E. Henry, was in the midst of laying waste to the natural beauty of the area. The entire Pemigewasset Wildereness—comprised of some 45,000 acres—was being systematically clear-cut. Massive erosion and forest fires followed. But the area has recovered nicely from the blight, mainly due to legislation and federal intervention, which returned the region to its wilderness state.

Follow the treeline and you’ll see an abundance of white birch, which thrives in recently logged areas. This is evidence of second growth forest. Along the Lincoln Trail, there is a mix of northern hardwoods interspersed with conifer, mainly red spruce, which eventually will reclaim its dominance in the region, as they were prior to logging.

The trailhead for Lincoln Woods will be off the large, well-marked parking lot on the left (headed east).

Another backcountry outing for experienced skiers with skins, which isn’t far from the resort, is the trek around the shores of Lonesome Lake in Franconia Notch State Park. Just 10 miles from the parking lot at Loon, the viewable twin peaks of the 4,000+ feet North and South Kinsman Mountains, along with drifting snow across the frozen lake, will make you think you are looking at a well-executed painting, one that you are in the center of.

The trail begins at the well-marked Lonesome Lake Trailhead. Snowmobilers use this paved path that cuts through the notch. There is winter camping available at Lafayette Place Campground, but there are no facilities.

Snowboarding at Loon Mountain Resort Alex Kehr

Just keep in mind that winter trail conditions vary daily. When off-resort, it’s best to plan ahead. Breaking trails can be exhausting. Whether on skis or snowshoes, weather, temperature changes, and less daylight are all things to consider. Higher elevations require certain equipment. Snowshoes with crampons or skins for backcountry skis are required. Water, some energy snacks, a guidebook (like one of the AMC guides), a map, matches or lighter, and a flashlight with extra batteries are essentials for your pack.

If downhill isn’t your thing, exploring Loon via snowshoes or cross-country skis is a great way to experience the scope of the mountain and resort. With 20 km of groomed trails (and snowmaking), there’s plenty of Nordic terrain to traverse.

Loon also offers guided snowshoe tours of the summit. These include snowshoe rentals along with a gondola ride up the mountain. Once at the top, you’ll get two hours of snowshoeing, shepherded by professional guides.

Whether you are looking for deep powder, treeline downhill options, or, if your outdoor adventure preferences lean to the Nordic side of skiing, Loon Mountain Resort has got you covered. And if you want to go off the resort for some backcountry skiing or snowshoeing, there are some great places not far from where you’ll be staying.

Family

There is something for everyone to enjoy at Loon.
There is something for everyone to enjoy at Loon. Loon Mountain Resort

Family fun at various resorts may or may not center on the slopes. At Loon Mountain Resort, they’ve diversified activities that extend far beyond the usual skiing or snowboarding. Of course, families still flock to Loon to ski and snowboard, as there are some excellent ski runs that are suitable for all levels. But the resort has also taken other slopeside family activities to the next level.

Loon offers up lots of terrain varieties for every level of skier. From its easy beginner slopes to the full progression of award-winning terrain parks and black-diamond steeps, Loon provides something for every skier and snowboarder to keep them from getting bored during their time on the mountain. While South Peak offers great expert and intermediate terrain on an entirely separate base area, the other two peaks at Loon—Loon Peak and North Peak—allow families access to a variety of thrills, all from the same lifts.

Snowboarding has gone mainstream and is now often a family sport. Loon’s two Paul Bunyan-themed terrain parks offer multi-generational shredding. This also includes two innovative parks for kids: the Burton Riglet Park and Lil’ Stash. Further up the mountain, more advanced riders in the family will find glades like Walking Boss Woods and Buck Saw, offering berms and rollers (and possibly a respite from mom and dad). And then there is the mile-long Loon Mountain Park, too.

There’s lots to love about Loon’s family-friendly ski options. Loon Mountain Resort

In fact, riders at Loon will be hard-pressed to beat the scale and variety of the mountain’s terrain within all the various parks. It’s why they were named one of the top 10 terrain parks in the U.S. by Freeskier Magazine in 2013, and ranked among the top three in Eastern North America, by Transworld Snowboarding.

Riders can shred to their heart’s delight, or experience the only Superpipe in New Hampshire, with 18-foot walls and a length of 425 feet. Loon is so bullish about their snowboarding that they released the “Loon Everyday” video, featuring the resort’s snowboarding team and locals that captures the park’s passion for the sport.

Loon continues to expand their learn-to-ski options as well. Beginner skiers who book the mountain’s First Class Learning Experience will be treated to an immersive weekend-long learning program that includes their own free pair of skis, bindings and boots (while supplies last), and a private, slopeside learning lounge.

A perk at Loon that families love is the on-mountain lodging, located right at the foot of the lifts—perfect for ski-in-ski-out convenience. Then there’s the Loon Mountain Club, a full-service hotel/base lodge, with rooms and suites, restaurants, parking, a swimming pool, and spa all under one roof within a few yards of the gondola loading point.

So what happens if you have a family member or members that are somewhat vertically-challenged when it comes to stepping onto the slopes? Or maybe they just don’t share the same passion for skiing or snowboarding as other family members? Not to worry—Loon’s got you covered.

With a beginning-to-end approach in providing activities on or near the mountain, they have taken the same approach to diversified non-skiing activities and various things to do, as they have with their slopeside events, trails, and terrain parks.

The Loon Mountain Adventure Center, also at the base area, offers an array of things happening all winter long in addition to the traditional downhill activities of skiing and snowboarding.

There is something for everyone to enjoy at Loon. Loon Mountain Resort

No longer are skis or snowboards prerequisites for having a good time at the mountain. While tubing may not demand the same alpine skill set, it does require being able to have fun. And just like terrain parks have now become fixtures at most mountains, families are now looking for groomed tubing lanes being available when considering a mountain resort for their families and making the most of their experience.

Loon’s trails deliver the thrills of bombing down a hill, without a steep learning curve. All you have to do is head over to the Little Sister Chairlift, directly across from the Octagon Lodge.

In addition to snow tubing, clip into a zipline, and you’ll be soaring more than 700 feet across the Pemigewasset River, and then back across to the Adventure Center. There’s also snowshoeing, cross country skiing, ice skating, as well as an indoor climbing wall with three routes. Guided snowshoe tours for various skills include one to the Loon Mountain summit with the option of returning to the base on the gondola or on snowshoes.

If that wasn’t enough, horseback riding at the base of the South Mountain at Loon Equestrian Center is also available.

And of course, in our “always-on” world of screens and devices, all base lodges have free Wi-Fi.

With its multi-dimensional skiing, snowboarding, as well as other activities off-the-mountain, Loon Mountain Resort offers the total package for families considering a weekend winter getaway in the gorgeous White Mountains. So don’t worry about centering everything around the slopes in making everyone happy. Loon’s got you covered with more than enough activities and things to keep even your fussiest non-skier happy.

Après Ski

Apres ski options about at Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery.
Apres ski options about at Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery. Jim Baumer

Loon Mountain Resort, located in Lincoln, New Hampshire, is only three miles from Exit 32 off I-93, a major north/south corridor capable of whisking skiers out of Boston (two hours) and other points, particularly from the south.

Lincoln is the more commercial of the two adjoining New Hampshire towns straddling the exit (the other being North Woodstock). With an assortment of strip malls and shops along Main Street, as well as small, locally-run eateries and stores, the town’s main drag is surprisingly bustling. And if you decide to take your après-ski adventures off the mountain, you’re bound to find something to suit your tastes in Lincoln.

Of course, you could choose accommodations at The Mountain Club on Loon, the only lodging on the mountain. This a 234-room hotel resort and accompanying spa. It’s nestled on a slope-side bluff with amenable views of the Pemigewasset River. Guests enjoy ski-on, ski-off access, the convenience of garage parking, along with the Viaggio Spa & Health Club. The club also features two heated pools (one indoor, one outdoor), a whirlpool and saunas, as well as a host of other fitness amenities. With so many things offered, you might be forgiven if you forget that you came here to ski or snowboard. The Black Diamond Bar and Grille features fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere.

Other Loon Mountain après-ski options feature a logging legend motif; the Paul Bunyan Room and Babe’s Blue Ox. The Paul Bunyan Room is located upstairs at the Octagon Lodge, at the base of Loon Peak. Babe’s Blue Ox can be found on the upper level of the Governor Adams Lodge. Both are renowned for their atmosphere, and food service. And Babe’s features live entertainment.


There’s always a party at Loon Mountain Resort Loon Mountain Resort

Off the mountain is an array of lodging and dining in Lincoln, and fewer places in North Woodstock, located on the west side of I-93.

A great place to start your day and fuel up with coffee and a bagel is White Mountain Bagel Co. They open at 6:30 and also serve deli sandwiches and wraps. Half Baked & Fully Brewed serves coffee all day if you need a caffeine boost after your day on the mountain. They also have breakfast sandwiches and baked goods.

Whether you are staying at Loon Mountain, at one of the ubiquitous condominiums dotting the mountainside, or at any other lodging in Lincoln, Black Mountain Burger Co. is within walking distance of most, or at the very least, a short car ride. And it’s a can’t-miss spot.

Hearty burgers come in several varieties. Want an adult beverage? There are rotating taps of local, craft beers, as well as a full-service bar. And if burgers aren’t your thing, then they offer numerous non-burger options too, including soups, salads, sandwiches, and a variety of other options. Black Mountain Burger Co. is a fun place with a great atmosphere.

Gordi’s Fish & Steakhouse, in the center of Lincoln, is another popular eatery for hungry downhillers after a day on the slopes. Many consider it the area’s quintessential ski bar, with race bibs hanging from the beams and mementos from the skiing careers of owners and former Olympians Gordi and Karen Eaton.

The Gypsy Cafe is a funky eatery in Lincoln with an eclectic menu. Try their bri and bacon grilled cheese fondue for an appetizer. Opt for a main course of Greek lamb chops over hummus, or Navajo pumpkin pasta with turkey meatballs.

For shopping and browsing, Main Street has shops like Lahout’s Discount Warehouse—the oldest ski shop in America. Lincoln isn’t North Conway, but upstairs at Lahout’s you can find apparel bargains to rival any outlet store. Lincoln has two bookshops, Innisfree and the Mountain Wanderer Map & Book Store.

North Woodstock is a small village with a walkable Main Street. It possesses a New England quaintness and charm that most people can’t resist.


Nothing better than a little live music after a day on the slopes Loon Mountain Resort

Contributing to that lived-in small town vibe is the Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery. Located in a former railroad station from the late 1800s, it’s a cozy place to have a drink and/or a meal after a busy day on the slopes. If craft beer is your thing, you’ll want to saddle up to the ample bar area for a sampler. Guests can mix and match their signature beers, including award-winning Pemi Pale Ale and Pig’s Ear Brown Ale, along with a number of seasonal brews—more than a dozen beers are always on tap.

Or if you prefer; grab a seat in the main tavern near the fireplace, especially when there’s live music.

The restaurant menu (available in the pub, too) is extensive offering fish, burgers, pizza, ribs, and other seafood options. Lighter fare is also available. And much like Black Mountain Burger and Gordie’s, you are made to feel like a regular on your very first visit.

There are pool tables in the upstairs of Truant’s Taverne in North Woodstock and live music most nights. Their menu isn’t anything fancy—mainly pub food, along with burgers, as well as flatbread pizza—but it’s delicious after a day on the slopes.

Compared to other bigger and more storied resort towns, Lincoln and North Woodstock might be characterized as “sleepy.” But together they serve up some seriously excellent options for après-ski fun and fare.

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