After a brief warmup early this week, the temperatures dropped, and snowguns fired up around the state. Ready or not, ski season is coming, and there are a slew of changes — big and little — at resorts across New Hampshire waiting for skiers and snowboarders this season.
From new lifts to big events, here’s a sneak peek of what to expect this ski season:
Several ski areas conducted lift work over the off-season, including upgrades to Cannon‘s iconic Aerial Tramway — celebrating its 80th anniversary this year — but the biggest changes come in the form of a T-bar and a gondola.
Waterville Valley has removed its circa-1966 High Country double chairlift, which often shut down due to high winds, which meant no skiing from the top of Mount Tecumseh. Taking its place this season is the new High Country T-bar.
Once common at ski areas everywhere, surface lifts are making a moderate comeback as ski areas realize their advantages; the High Country T-bar will be far less susceptible to winds. It’ll also be faster, whisking skiers to the summit in half the time the old double did.
At Bretton Woods, work continues on the much-anticipated eight-person gondola, which will run from the base area to just below the summit of Mount Rosebrook in under five minutes. The gondola will offer a sheltered ride with a killer view of Mount Washington and its namesake, fairytale-esque grand hotel.
The resort expects the gondola to open to skiers this winter.
Skip the line
Over the last couple of years, several ski areas have made the switch to RFID (radio-frequency identification) ticketing. This alleviates the process of lift attendants scanning tickets each time you take a run. Instead, you pop an RFID card into your pocket, scanners near the lifts read the card as you pass by, and you hit the slopes with ease.
Joining the RFID party this year is Ragged Mountain Resort, which has installed a gate access system. Passholders will get an RFID card, as will day-trippers, who can go online to “reload” cards with more skiing days. That means no waiting in the lift-ticket line on a powder day!
In its second year of RFID ticketing, Waterville Valley now allows skiers to add skiing days to their RFID card without visiting the ticket window (although they can add ski tickets there, too). Season passholders and regular Waterville skiers can also opt for a helmet sticker this winter, which means they don’t have to worry about misplacing that RFID card.
There are a few notable changes to the baselodge and ski area après scene this season — namely more room to boot up pre-ski and belly up post-ski.
Ragged Mountain has relocated its guest services department to a separate, centralized location — in the former and completely renovated Discovery Center — creating a one-stop spot for ticketing, check-in, and resort information. That means less time standing in line and more time on the slopes.
Loon expanded the deck off its popular Paul Bunyan Room in the Octagon Lodge by 700 feet, offering more space for après ski fun.
Waterville is nearing the end of a 12,000-square-foot expansion to its baselodge, providing direct slope access from the second floor and a complete facelift of the third floor — with a new Freestyle Lounge for enjoying après, extra room during the lunchtime rush, and a wall of windows slopeside to allow prime viewing of the hill when you’re not out there skiing.
The resort has also expanded snowmaking to cover 100 percent of its Green Peak expansion, whose last three trails come online this winter.
Cannon Mountain added a new ski-patrol hut at the summit and increased its shop space at the base area. But regulars are likely to be most excited about the expanded Cannonball Pub, with an addition of about 70 seats this winter.
Pats Peak also continues its base lodge renovation. This season, the center A-frame in the main lodge will undergo construction, with an eye toward a new post-and-beam entrance, new bathrooms and additional seating for next season.
Boston Ski Expo
From snowmaking upgrades and new grooming machines to big competition — including the U.S. Freestyle Championships and the U.S. Alpine National Championships at Waterville Valley — there’s lots happening this winter.
To find out what’s new at your favorite skiing spot and get the scoop on good deals, head to the Boston Ski & Snowboard Expo, running through this Sunday. For info, visit www.skisnowexpo.com/boston-expo.