I’ve always felt a bit badly for the non-skiers out there. Winter is a long season to endure if you don’t love flying downhill or gliding through the woods on skis. And I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a non-skier in a skiing family, stuck in the lodge while the rest of the crew hits the slopes.
Well, luckily for those unlucky non-skiing types, many resorts around New Hampshire offer mountain thrills that don’t require skis. So, if you’re a non-skier — or you’re just looking for a change of pace — get out of the lodge and check out these super fun activities.
Zipping through winter
One of my childhood buddies had a backyard zipline when we were growing up. We’d grab the wooden handle, pick up our feet, and slide along the line from one tree to the next. But the ziplines noted here are not of the backyard variety.
The Canopy Tour at Bretton Woods is, simply put, awesome. With nine ziplines ranging from 120 feet to 830 feet in length and as high as 165 feet off the ground, the tour brings zipliners through the forest and across ski trails at the alpine ski area – at speeds that may reach up to 30 miles per hour. www.brettonwoods.com
Ziplining at Loon Mountain’s Adventure Center is shorter, but super sweet. Participants climb a 30-foot tower, then zoom a distance of 750 feet over the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River below. Once they get to the other side, of course, it’s time to take a deep breath and zip back across. www.loonmtn.com
At Cranmore, the zipping is done strapped into the Soaring Eagle, which flies 700 feet through the winter air. The Soaring Eagle is a two-seater, so bring a friend. And if you’d rather swing than fly, check out Cranmore’s Giant Swing, which is akin to a carnival ride, swaying passengers back and forth, high into the air, for a screaming good time. www.cranmore.com
Cranmore and Gunstock Mountain both have mountain coasters, which are sort of like low-tech roller-coasters. Riders control the speed of the two-person carts, which can get going as fast as 25 mph, which is fast enough for some thrilling downhill fun.
Cranmore’s mountain coaster is located in the Mountain Adventure Park, with the Giant Swing and Soaring Eagle.
The mountain coaster at Gunstock features more than 4,000 feet of swooping turns and banked corners. Each ride lasts about six minutes, and a two-hour ticket for the tubing hill (see more below) includes unlimited Mountain Coaster rides, too. www.gunstock.com
If you’d rather glide upwards than fly downhill, check out Cannon Mountain‘s Aerial Tramway. Although it’s generally packed with skiers during the snowy months, non-ski-toting sightseers are welcome aboard anytime the tram is open (generally Friday-Monday). The tram takes passengers from the Valley Station to the Summit Station, which sits at an elevation of 4,080 feet. Try to snag a spot by the windows for views of Echo Lake, Eagle Cliff and Mount Lafayette, and the ski slopes of Cannon. www.cannonmt.com
Once limited to backyard hills, snowtubing — on inflated, innertube-inspired sleds — is now a main feature at many areas. And this isn’t your grandma’s tubing (although my kids’ grandma has an awesome sledding hill). Groomed lanes make for some speedy sledding, and at some areas, you can hook the tube onto a lift for a free ride back up the hill to do it all again.
Many of these tubing hills are also open under the lights some nights. So, pick the one closest to (or at) your favorite ski hill, grab a snowtube, and get sliding.
Gunstock claims the longest tubing run — the Thrill Hill Tubing Park is 1,068 feet — in the state, with six lanes to choose from, and a handle tow to get back to the top.
The Cranmore Tubing Park, also part of the Mountain Adventure Park, serves up 10 lanes of tubing with uphill passage available by both a handle tow and a magic carpet lift.
The hill at Bretton Woods is short, but steep and sweet — and located adjacent to the Nordic Center by the Mount Washington Hotel. You’ll have to earn your thrills here — no lift service to the top of the hill, but the views are pretty spectacular. www.brettonwoods.com
Great Glen Trails also has a walk-up tubing hill. www.greatglentrails.com
Snow-sliders at Granite Gorge will find a 950-foot-long tubing hill, with uphill access on a magic carpet lift. They even have mini tubes for the littlest sliders, and double tubes for those who want to go with a friend. On Saturdays, there’s Cosmic Tubing, with neon lights illuminating the track until 9 p.m. www.granitegorge.com
Ride the chairlift just outside the Octagon Lodge to get to the top of Loon Mountain’s tubing park. www.loonmtn.com
The Pine Meadows Snow Tubing Park at King Pine has three tubing lanes and a handle-tow to get back to the top. www.kingpine.com
With eight lanes measuring 600 feet long, there’s plenty of space to tube at McIntyre, and a magic carpet to bring you back to the top. www.mcintyreskiarea.com
Pats Peak also offers 600 feet of snowy fun — and lift service — to the top of its tubing park. www.patspeak.com