80s crew

This crew coordinated their ‘80s day apparel for a day on the slopes, equipped with a working boombox.

With the quick onset of the pandemic last March, the ski season was drastically cut short.

Many wondered if they would even get out on the slopes this year. But resorts adapted, making this unusual winter a memorable one.

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I enjoy visiting ski areas all throughout New Hampshire, but I spend most of my weekends at Loon Mountain Resort in Lincoln with my crew, a blend of skiers and snowboarders.

Our shared obsession with frozen days outdoors has brought us together like a family. The experience is really about sharing the stoke with friends.

Although we may not have been able to partake in the usual weekend getaways at friends’ condos or enjoy aprés entertainment in the famed Paul Bunyan Room until sundown, we adapted, too.

Group picture

Skiers and snowboarders, author Jill Armtrong’s “winter family,” pose for a group picture at the Summit of Loon Peak.

When we arrived each morning, we all knew to park near one another. Sipping coffee and munching down the final bites of breakfast sandwiches, my boyfriend, Matt, and I would pop the hatchback of the Subaru and start shoving our feet into our snowboard boots.

Others did this from the comfort of camping chairs, the tops of coolers or in the front seat with the heat blasting on really chilly days. At noon, we’d stroll back to the lot for lunch around an open tailgate, sharing stories and laughs, many times remaining fully geared with jackets zipped to our chins, and mittens warming our hands.

“It was definitely a different vibe,” said Renee Sisson, a longtime patron of the mountain from Weymouth, Mass. “But to be with my friends again was good for the soul amongst the craziness.”

One friend brought the parking lot hangout scene to another level. Kyle Bergevine, a Loon local from North Woodstock, renovated his Suzuki Carry — a slim, compact truck with a low, wide bed— by constructing a canopy shelter on the back, providing a comfortable place to hang out and gear up in the morning.

Parking lot hang

This trio enjoys a game of Yahtzee during an afternoon break from the slopes.

As a snowboarder, I can’t quite empathize with the difficulties of forcing stiff, cold ski boots on in the parking lot. Although the task was a challenge, Bergevine said it brought back childhood memories of booting up at the car and heading straight to the lift lines.

All in all, he was grateful for what the ski season provided. “You have the resorts dealing with a complete unknown, evolving in real time to make a season happen,” Bergevine said.

Loon, like many resorts I visited, was adamant about keeping skiers on the slopes for the entire season. The employees ensured masks were worn properly in lift lines, they offered a variety of outdoor dining options, including a food truck in the main lot, and they reinforced the lift-line mantra “Arrive together, ride together.”

The Vadeboncoeur family will remember this season for a different reason. They spent afternoons on the bunny hill with their 2-year-old daughter, Nora, for her first year snowboarding.

Nora on her snowboard

Nora Vadeboncoeur, 2, snowboards on a warm spring day at Loon.

They quickly discovered Nora’s mountain favorites: warm, fluffy waffles, Flynn the Flying Fox (Loon’s mascot), and base-to-base train rides at the end of the day.

As the season comes to a close, the days grow longer, the sun appears more often, and the hard-packed snow softens. The chances for powder turns become increasingly unlikely, but skiing in the spring offers its own perks.

Skiers and riders shed their insulated jackets for sweatshirts (I’ve even seen a few make their way down the mountain in bathing suits), and trade their goggles for sunglasses. It’s also the time of year that some become more fearless hitting jumps and jibs in the terrain parks.

“I always look forward to some warm spring riding,” said Jason Vadeboncoeur. “Falling doesn’t hurt as much, and a nice cold beverage on the Bunyan room deck is just more enjoyable with the sun on your face.”

This may not have been a chart-topping winter, but this season brought us together. For that, I am thankful.

Winter Notes appears Fridays during ski season. Contact Jill Armstrong at jaarmstr1@gmail.com. Beginning in April: Outside NH, a new feature focusing on outdoor recreation.

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