Winter Notes: Spring brings The Beach to Sunapee Blue skies, tailgating and goggle tans

By MEGHAN McCARTHY McPHAUL March 15. 2018 8:46PM
There are plenty of great places to work on the goggle tan, including the snowfields at Cannon Mountain. (MEGHAN McCARTHY McPHAUL)

All hail the goggle tan, that harbinger of spring skiing, soft snow, and sunshine. While it may seem impossible with all the snow we received these last several days, spring starts next week. And with sunshine expected to accompany the cool temperatures forecast for this weekend, it’s time to get the spring skiing — and that goggle tan — started.

There are innumerable ways to enjoy skiing with a side of sunshine: leaning back to catch some rays on the chairlift, stopping by a locally known hideaway along the edge of a trail, or hanging out on the ski area’s deck, perhaps with a refreshing beverage in hand.

But nobody does slopeside sunshine quite like the die-hards of The Beach at Mount Sunapee.

“It’s an Olympic sport, really,” said veteran Beach-er Paige Totman. “If it’s a nice day, even in December, there will be people at The Beach.”

For the uninitiated, The Beach is the stretch of slopeside parking running between Spruce Lodge and Sunapee Lodge. And this is not your average tailgating party. There are inflatable couches and throw rugs covering the snow. There are flags blowing in the breeze and flower arrangements on the tables. And when the sun’s out, there are lots of happy people.

Totman, who is a weekend ski instructor at Sunapee, has been skiing here for 25 years and has seen The Beach evolve over that time. It started when folks would show up to watch the annual cardboard-box race and do a little après-ski tailgating. Now, Beach-goers plan their weekends around what will happen — and what food to make — on this stretch of snow.

“It’s our living room for the day,” Totman said. “We have met the best people on the Beach. These are friends we may not see from the beginning of April to the first of December, and we just pick up where we left off.”

Her husband, Neil, is part of what Totman calls the “10 by 10” crew: they ski 10 runs before 10 o’clock, then fire up the grills at the Beach. And we’re not talking simple hot dogs and burgers here. These folks take the tailgating to a whole new level. They have not just grills, but portable ovens and stove tops. They make eggplant Parmesan and crab cakes, bake cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies, serve up chili and — a Saint Patrick’s Day special — corned beef sliders.

Skiers stop by between runs. Kids play football in the snow. For the afternoon, all is right with the world. And when they go back to work on Monday, the Beach-goers are likely to be sporting some pretty sweet goggle tans.

Winter Notes is published on Fridays during ski season. Contact Meghan McCarthy McPhaul at

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