Didn’t plan ahead? You can still hit the slopes during vacation week


School vacation week is here and you’re the person who forgot to make ski and ride plans for at least one day.

You’re no failure, busy person. You can get out and have a great ski day on a whim, even during super busy holiday weeks.

The key is understanding the how but also knowing the where. Because there is a pattern to how people ski over vacation weeks. Understanding it and bobbing when the others are weaving can bring you a great day on snow, even in crowded times.

This year in the Northeast, some heavy rain has somewhat limited total terrain open (no worries; cold is coming back and our resorts know how to turn things around). But this gives us even more reason to think carefully and plan accordingly.

Consider these tips for New Hampshire ski days this holiday week:

Ski the smaller spots: It seems counter intuitive: wouldn’t a smaller spot be more crowded? But with the power mega resort season passes have over where folks go now, the bigger spots tend to draw more crowds.

The same goes for the easily accessible areas. A few miles away from where you may usually go is often the best choice during a holiday week, and it’s usually not more than a few minutes longer than those sites you may normally head to.

Take the Mount Washington Valley region, a super popular spot during school vacation weeks. First, if you want to ski the central spots, it’s doable.

Cranmore Mountain Resort (https://cranmore.com/) has long been a family favorite and for good reason. With their strong ski and ride school, manageable size (not too big but also big enough to make things interesting) and their easy access (you can walk from North Conway’s quaint downtown should you wish), they are a magnet for family skiers.

Your best bet for a popular spot like Cranmore is to book ahead (lessons, rentals and particularly tubing, which is very popular holiday weeks), and to get up the main lift and then ski off the back side and over on less directly accessible lifts.

Another plan is to head to other nearby smaller spots. King Pine Ski Area (https://www.kingpine.com/) in Madison sits only 15 miles from the center of North Conway, a less-than-half-hour drive that feels like a minute because because of the scenery.

King Pine is a smaller yet super fun spot, a bit of a throwback with classic cut trails. But it’s modern too. The lifts run well (and quickly) and the base lodge has lots of fun and food. Head there for a less busy vibe, and then you can still zip back to where all the action is in the Valley. Even a day trip can include a full day of skiing and a meal in the Valley.

About the same distance north of Mount Washington Valley’s center you’ll find Black Mountain Ski Area (https://www.blackmt.com/), which gets fewer crowds. You may wait in line a bit – one of their main lifts is a classic red double – but you’ll find plenty of terrain and a friendly, warm and affordable setting.

Over on the Route 93 side of New Hampshire, pass by the busier spots this week and head to the less visited. Ragged Mountain Resort in Danbury (https://www.raggedmountainresort.com/) skis big and beautiful, and yet doesn’t bring in the crowds of other nearby spots most days.

Their base lodge is massive, meaning even on super busy days you’re sure to find a place to warm up or eat lunch and their apres scene is kicking.

They have a robust ski school – but do book lessons ahead of time.

Get night fever: Night skiing is always less crowded, and yet it’s just as fun in its own way.

Gunstock Mountain Resort (https://www.gunstock.com/) in Gilford (which limits its daily tickets sold so as long as you get a ticket ahead of time, you know it won’t be overcrowded) has a fantastic night skiing program. Click into your bindings at 3 p.m. and you can lap their Panorama lift for the last hour of daylight skiing. Then, the lights come on across 22 trails until 8 p.m. Tuesday- Thursday nights, and until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights.

Their magnificent base lodge has many food offerings, a crackling fireplace and plenty of room to spread out as well.

King Pine has night skiing as well, as does Crotched, Bretton Woods, Cranmore, Waterville Valley and others. You can find more information at www.skinh.com.


Tubing at Cranmore Mountain Resort is particularly popular during vacation weeks. (Photo courtesy Cranmore Mountain Resort)


Ragged Mountain Resort is a big, gorgeous experience for skiers, but doesn't feature the crowds of other nearby resorts most days. (Photo courtesy Ragged Mountain Resort)
Ragged Mountain Resort is a big, gorgeous experience for skiers, but doesn’t feature the crowds of other nearby resorts most days. (Photo courtesy Ragged Mountain Resort)



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