OPENING DAY of ski season is like homecoming on the slopes. There’s excited anticipation, consideration about what to wear, and reconnecting with friends you haven’t seen in ages — at least since last ski season ended.
“It’s like a family reunion,” said Jenn Huntoon, assistant marketing director at Bretton Woods.
I watched it all play out last week on Loon’s opening day. Ski season friends yelled to each other across the snowy landscape, many lift-line hugs were exchanged and the regulars jumped back into the familiar routine of this season that runs from late November to mid-April.
Often, ski season opens on a lonely ribbon of white — a swath of manmade snow surrounded by bare ground. Not so this year, as November snowfall has turned the mountains into an early winter wonderland, bolstering snowmaking efforts and providing a scene that looks (and feels) like mid-winter.
Bretton Woods and Loon both started their seasons last Friday, as the week’s second snowstorm sifted flakes from the sky.
“Conditions were outstanding for opening day,” said Loon’s communications manager, Greg Kwasnik, who made note of the ideal snowmaking weather that led up to last Friday and the 6 inches of natural snowfall a few days prior. “We couldn’t have asked for a better setup for opening day.”
Wildcat, which opened for weekend skiing and snowboarding on Oct. 27, has already received more than 3 feet of snow this season and was 90 percent open last weekend.
Following recent tradition, Bretton Woods offered opening day lift tickets for free with a donation of a non-perishable food item, collecting 783 pounds of food to donate to local foodbanks.
Cranmore, in its earliest opening day ever, took advantage of cold temps and abundant snowfall to spin the lifts this past Saturday and Sunday.
“This is the earliest we have ever opened for skiing and riding. Typically, we open Thanksgiving weekend,” said Becca Deschenes, Cranmore’s marketing director, who noted a consistent investment in snowmaking as a game-changer. “We have a pretty strong focus on snowmaking and are becoming more aggressive with it every year.”
After having been closed this week from Monday through Thursday, Cranmore will reopen for daily skiing operations today, adding its tubing hill and mountain adventure park to the winter fun mix.
Several other areas are set to open — with considerable terrain and excellent conditions — this weekend and in the coming weeks. Cannon and Waterville Valley both come online for daily operations today. Pats Peak opens weekends-only today, with Sunapee, Gunstock and Ragged Mountain slated to join the ski season scene next week.
Cannon and Waterville Valley both come online today, with Sunapee, Gunstock and Ragged Mountain slated to join the ski season scene next week.
Cross-country ski areas are also reaping the rewards of early snow.
The Bretton Woods Nordic Center is open daily with about a dozen groomed trails and counting.
Great Glen Trails, in its earliest start to the season to date, was 100 percent open last weekend and will remain open only on weekends for now.
Ski Hearth Farm plans to open for Nordic skiing today.
Here’s hoping your opening day is fantastic and filled with snow — whenever, and wherever, it is.
Ski area events this weekend:
• Bretton Woods: Warren Miller’s “Face of Winter” movie. Pre-show party and bonfire in front of the base lodge from 4 to 5 p.m., doors open for movie at 6 p.m., movie starts at 7 p.m. www.brettonwoods.com/homecoming
• Cranmore: Warren Miller’s “Face of Winter” movie in Zip’s Pub. Tickets are $12. Doors open at 6 p.m., movie at 7 p.m. www.cranmore.com
• Gunstock — Black Friday Rail Jam — Registration at noon, rail jam from 1-3 p.m. Discounted entry with donation of non-perishable food item. www.gunstock.com
• Bretton Woods: Homecoming Barbecue and Brew Fest. Barbecue on the Slopeside deck from noon to 2:30 p.m.; Brew Fest (for those age 21 and older) from 2 to 6 p.m. www.brettonwoods.com/homecoming
• Cranmore: Winter Homecoming at Zip’s Pub with live music and Tuckerman Beer Tasting. Tickets are $20 and include lunch, 2 to 5 p.m. www.cranmore.com
• Loon Mountain: Cease and Desist under-the-lights rail jam for freeskiers and snowboarders. Skiers go at 5 p.m., snowboarders at 6 p.m. loonmtn.com/events
• Waterville Valley: 6th annual Cold Turkey Plunge into Corcoran Pond to benefit Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports, 1 to 2 p.m. www.waterville.com
• Waterville Valley: Santa visits Town Square at 3:30 p.m.; hot cocoa and cookies; tree lighting and fireworks at 7 p.m. www.waterville.com
• Wildcat: Getting Jibby at the Kitty early season rail jam; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Entry fee of three canned food items or a $3 donation. www.skiwildcat.com/event