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New lifts, beginner terrain - and expanded snowmkaing/Ski areas rebound from tough season by upgrading facilities

CONWAY — New lifts, expanded snowmaking and more beginner terrain — that's what skiers and riders will find in Mount Washington Valley this ski season.

The improvements to local snowmaking systems follow a natural snow-challenged 2011-2012 season, when alpine and ski touring centers suffered with warm early season temperatures, a lack of natural snowfall throughout the season, and summer-like temperatures for more than a week in March that brought the season to an early end.

The increased snowmaking is more efficient and able to churn out snow in very marginal conditions.

Accuweather.com's chief long-range forecaster Paul Pastelok was quoted by CBS this fall as saying we can expect a snowier winter compared to last.

Not the snowiest, but snowier — which comes as good news to those in ski country.

World record snow dance?

Helping to get the snow gods in the mood for this season is a Mount Washington Valley Snow Dance World Record Attempt, set for Nov. 17.

Black Mountain in Jackson and the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce are hoping crowds will join them and pay homage to the snow spirits on Saturday starting at 4 p.m.

Leading the expected crowd in the attempt will be Carlene Sullivan of Symmetree Yoga in a tribute to the snow gods. There will be live music by the Revtones, dancing, a bonfire and food and drink available in the Lostbo Pub. The snow dance attempt is set for 4:45 p.m.

For more information, visit mtwashingtonvalley.org. or call Black at 383-4490.

Local ski area and ski touring representatives will then meet with the public at a social winter warmup gathering at the Red Parka Pub (383-4344) in Glen, scheduled for 7:45 to 9 p.m.

Upgrading snowmaking - a necessary task

Despite last winter's warm weather and natural snow drought, New Hampshire’s resorts hosted more than 2 million skier, snowboarder, and snowtubing visits last season, according to data  released by Ski N.H., the statewide marketing consortium of alpine and cross country resorts.

Alpine ski areas recorded a total of 1,883,591 alpine skier and snowboarder visits, down 13.4 percent from the ten year average. Cross country areas also had a difficult winter, hosting 96,234 visits, down 29 percent from the ten-year average.

Areas with snowtubing parks reported 91,614 snowtubing visits. This number is down 13.5 percent from the 10-year average, according to Ski N.H.'s Karl Stone.

The United States ski industry as a whole experienced its worst winter for skier visits since 1991-92 with the country down 15 percent from the 2010-11 winter; Northeast ski areas were down 20.2 percent. New Hampshire by comparison was down 20 percent from the 2010-11 winter, which was one of the best winters on record for state skier visits with 2,355,100 alpine visits.

“Fortunately,” says Stone, “the last time the United States experienced a decline of more than 15 percent or more in one winter, the following season saw business levels increase by 22 percent. The last time New Hampshire saw alpine skier visits dip below 2 million alpine visits (2006-07), the following season set the all-time record for N.H. skier visits at 2,366,000.”

Business impact

New Hampshire businesses rely heavily on the ski industry, according to Ski N.H.

An economic impact study conducted after the 2009-10 season showed a total of $910 million spent by guests visiting New Hampshire ski areas. Of that total, only 12 percent was spent directly at ski areas, with the remaining 88 percent spent on ski visit-related expenses such as lodging, restaurants, gas, tolls, retail, and other.

Last year, snowmaking was the answer — this year,  most local Mount Washington Valley areas have bolstered their snowmaking arsenals.

“We have been on an outstanding run of successful winters here in New Hampshire, with eight of the last 10 winters being in the top ten seasons in terms of alpine skier visits,” notes Alice Pearce, Ski N.H.’s president.

“We’ve got a great deal of momentum for skiing and riding in the state. We are excited to see such a steady trend of strong winters following challenging ones, and we expect that pent-up demand to result in an exciting 2012-13 ski season,” said Pearce.

Here's a look at what's new at local areas in terms of capital improvements as the new season got under way with the opening of a trail at Bretton Woods Nov. 16.

Attitash free beginners' terrain

Attitash and Wildcat Mountain are both now owned by Peak Resorts and offer interchangeable lift ticket and ski programs.

Peak Resorts has committed over $500,000 in snowmaking improvements and hardware for both ski areas. A total of 101 tower guns has been installed at the two resorts.

At both areas, improvements have been made to the mountain network of pipe that moves water and air continues to improve efficiency and support the increased snowmaking capabilities.

Attitash has installed 40 new tower guns adding to its snowmaking system.

Wildcat Mountain has increased its snowmaking output with the addition of 61 tower guns added to its arsenal for the 2012-13 season that will be installed on the Bobcat and Cheetah trails.

Learning terrain added
At Attitash, new learning terrain is being added on the Bear Peak side of the resort. Two new lower-mountain beginner trails are being added to skiers’ right of Bear Peak, according to general manager John Lowell.

Most notable about the new beginner terrain is the addition of a renovated, handle tow, surface lift. Attitash will make this learning area and lift available for free, notes Lowell.

“We are committed to beginner skiers and snowboarders,” said Lowell. “This new, and free, learning area [at Bear Peak] is just the start of a Learn2 branded initiative between Attitash and Wildcat that includes related terrain, surface lift, and snowmaking improvements for the coming season, as well as new, affordable all-inclusive ski school instructional programs valid for use between the two ski areas that are designed to be inviting and easy when introducing beginners to a lifelong sport.”

Lowell added that over $50,000 has been invested creating the trails, adding snowmaking enhancements, renovating and installing the new free surface lift at Bear Peak, and also relocating the conveyor belt surface lift on the Attitash side to better enhance the experience for novice skiers and snowboarders using the learning slope there. New rental equipment has also been purchased to enhance the beginners’ experience.

Relocating and developing the “Abenaki” terrain park at Attitash is the next step for Peak Resorts to utilize a crew of park groomers and cutters and central fabrication shops to develop and maintain freestyle terrain areas and parks that are appropriate for each resort, according to Lowell.

The move of the Abenaki park to Bear Peak will also allow for expanded intermediate terrain on the Attitash side opening up Thad’s Choice for all skiers and snowboarders.

The new Abenaki terrain park will be situated on Lower Myth Maker and Kachina trails and can be accessed from the Abenaki Quad chair mid-station.

Attitash will not be offering lift-serviced skiing or riding for the Thanksgiving Weekend, but the Nor’Easter Mountain Coaster will be open Friday and Saturday, Nov. 23 and 24, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., weather permitting.
For those days, Attitash and Wildcat invite all of its season passholders to enjoy one free ride on the Mountain Coaster when they show their season pass at the Attitash ticket window. Attitash also plans to have its Season Pass office open in the main base lodge from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. if people wish to pick up their season pass or purchase gift cards and other available seasonal products.
Attitash is prepared to begin its snowmaking efforts when conditions become more favorable for a productive and long-term push, notes marketing director Thomas Prindle. Visit attitash.com for the latest trail condition reports.
Looking ahead, the six-person per team, two-run, nine-week Attitash Race League GS series returns to the Spillway Trail Jan. 8, sponsored by Tuckerman Brewing Company.

Wildcat adds beginner lift

Wildcat Mountain, already well-known as an expert skier’s mountain, is adding a new $70,000 conveyor belt surface lift.

“The legend of Wildcat Mountain is that it’s a super, challenging mountain,” said Josh Boyd, general manager of Wildcat Mountain. “The truth is that it has excellent learning terrain, including New Hampshire’s longest, summit-to-base, novice trail, but we’ve lacked a surface lift for new skiers and snowboarders; one that would aid our ski school teaching beginner adults and children. I’m happy to say we will have that surface lift this season.”

Benefiting from its higher elevations, Wildcat Mountain began its initial snowmaking operations Wednesday evening, Nov. 14, and has continued to do so with the desire to open as soon as possible. If weather and conditions remain favorable, Wildcat Mountain may try to open as early as Thanksgiving Day. If not then, weather and conditions permitting, Wildcat Mountain is hoping to open the Friday or Saturday of the Thanksgiving Weekend.

Snow and weather permitting, Wildcat Mountain will host a jib session with a rail and box set up at the base of Wildcat Nov. 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Skiers/riders are asked to provide three canned goods or make a $3 donation that will go to a local food pantry.
The ticket for the hike jib session will be separate from the ticket for lift-accessed terrain if Wildcat is open at that time. Visit skiwildcat.com for updates.

Wildcat Mountain has also continued for a second year to work closely with the U.S. Forest Service to improve and maintain the approved glade and tree skiing areas during the off-season.

Black expands snowmaking

More than $500,000 was invested over the summer in snowmaking improvements at sunny, family-friendly Black Mountain (383-4490) in Jackson, including two new Ingersoll Rand Centac electric air compressors which will more than double the overall snowmaking capacity while reducing the area’s carbon footprint.

Thirty-five low energy high-efficiency tower snow guns have been added to the primary race trail, Jackson Standard, as well as the Big Dipper, Maple Slalom and Black Beauty trails.

A new beginners’ area is being completed with all-new snowmaking lines, hydrants and low energy, high-efficiency tower guns.

Additionally, the new learning area will have a new dedicated surface lift. Improvements to the base lodge include an expanded ski school and ticketing area, a new day care and nursery area, fully renovated dining room areas, and expansion to the Lostbo Pub, more than doubling its size.

An all-new ticketing system will provide guests with a quick and efficient ticketing experience.

“We'll have live entertainment every weekend at the Lostbo Pub, with kid friendly entertainment on and of the slopes as well. We're stressing our family affordability,” said new marketing director Genn Ansaldi.

Bretton Woods adds lift-serviced glades

Opening day at Bretton Woods was Friday, Nov. 16, with skiing on one trail, with more to come as snowmaking crews do their thing.

This winter skiers and riders will find the addition of lift service to the Mount Stickney area of the resort. Bretton Woods (278-3320) recently added 30 acres of glades to the area that will now be serviced by a 2,000-foot Doppelmayr T-bar lift.

The glades are also being expanded to include some steep drop-offs for adventurous experts as well as more wide-open glades for less-experienced skiers and riders.

At the top of the lift a new 600-square foot log cabin has been constructed. The cabin will feature an exterior stone fireplace as well as a porch for enjoying the sun on warmer days. Inside, a wood stove will warm skiers between runs. The popular Range View trail will be home to 50 new SV10 Impulse snowguns.

In the base lodge guests will be able to select custom clothing, gear and accessories electronically at the new Bogner virtual clothing store, which will then be mailed to their home address. The recently constructed Canopy Tour, Williwaw Racing Zip and indoor climbing wall will also be available to guests this winter.

Cannon adds more snowmaking

Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch has spent  $500,000 on snowmaking improvements for this season.

Among the additions are dedicated snowmaking on Paulie’s Folly trail. New air and water lines are being installed on Upper Cannon and fan gun power pedestals are being added on Lower Cannon.

A new 20-foot automated, portable tower fan gun, one of the first of its kind in North America, has been added as well.

Several trail enhancements have been made, including removal of a tree island on the Tossup trail, which will allow for more snowmaking and a bigger terrain park. A new Prinoth Bison X terrain park groomer has been purchased to shape and smooth out all the snow.

For further information, call 823-8800.

New triple at Cranmore

Cranmore Mountain Resort (356-5544) will be open for Thanksgiving Weekend, Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We’ll have our Mountain Adventure Park activities for Thanksgiving Weekend, including our mountain coaster, giant swing, zipline and indoor adventure center which will open no matter what the weather. We are making snow and hope to also open with skiing and snow tubing. Check our snow report for updates,” notes marketing director Kathy Bennett.

The Mountain Adventure Park will operate Friday, Nov. 25,  through Sunday, Nov. 27, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Indoor Adventure Center, with two bouncy houses, Spider Climb and Bungy Trampoline, opens the same dates from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cranmore is hosting a “Homecoming” event Nov. 24 from 3 to 4 p.m.

General manager and president Ben Wilcox will give an overview of the upcoming season, which is Cranmore's 75th season of lift-serviced skiing.

During the Nov. 24 homecoming event, local writer Tom Eastman will read a selection and show slides from his soon-to-be published History Press book, “Cranmore Mountain: 75 Years of Skiing.”

Also during the homecoming event, trail sign and East Double Chair auctions will be held. The 1955-built East Chair is being replaced this year by a new triple, to be named after late Cranmore skimeister Herbert Schneider (1920-2012).

The $1 million lift will increase uphill capacity and add 300 feet of vertical drop to the resort’s southern slopes, servicing intermediate and expert terrain. The lift will give Cranmore a third lift that accesses the summit, while increasing uphill capacity.

Sixty new snow guns have been added to the resort’s arsenal this season. The purchase brings Cranmore’s total of the high-efficiency snow guns to 378, serving 163 acres and 16 miles of terrain. That number is up over 350 percent since 2008, and is part of the $8.3 million that has been put into the resort since the Fairbank and O'Donnell team of Jiminy Peak bought the area from Booth Creek in 2010.

The Soaring Eagle Zipline installed this past summer will operate all winter, joining the snowtubing park, mountain coaster and giant swing as alternative activities for winter guests.

Patrons at the Nov. 24 Homecoming will have an opportunity to buy advance tickets to Cranmore's 75th anniversary gala, set to be held at the Red Jacket Jan. 12.

That gala is to feature cocktails, dinner and dancing to a swing band. Guests will be encouraged to dress in vintage 1930s attire. Other events are to include a vintage Cranapalooza Jan. 12, with an historical hunt and a 1930s magic show. Held Saturdays, Cranapalooza will feature special fireworks at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 29, Jan. 19, Jan. 26, Feb. 16, Feb. 23, and March 2.

A retrofest rail jam is set for Feb. 23 on Cranmore's revamped terrain park. Another 75th anniversary season highlight will be the New England Ski Museum's annual Hannes Schneider Meister Cup March 2, which once again will feature a vintage ski attire fashion show, ice caring, a citizen's five-person team recreational ski race and more.

In recent news, Cranmore Mountain was named in Ski Magazine's Top 10 Lists for East Coast Resorts, placing second for Family Programs; seventh for Apres Ski; third for Off Hill Activities; and 10th for Terrain Parks.

Speaking of terrain parks, Cranmore will unveil five new terrain parks for this winter, newly focused on families and beginners who want to get started on park elements and features.

The parks, now themed with a Comic Book/Retro Movie motif, feature hand-painted elements with Roy Lichtenstein-like creations. The mountain is also opening its first skier/boarder cross.

Locals will want to take note that a Mountain Meisters captains' meeting is set for Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 6:30 p.m. at Zip's Pub & Grill. Registration is set for Dec. 1 through 21 at the Ticket Haus, with the 10-week season set to begin Jan. 9.

King Pine offers family fun

King Pine in recent years has upgraded its snowmaking system to electric compressorts, which greatly increased its output and efficiciency. The family-friendly resort boasts 100 percent snowmaking.

With affordable programs, Purity Spring and King Pine Ski Area is a great choice for skiing families.

Additional amenities include night skiing, snowtubing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, skating, horse-drawn sleigh rides, plus an indoor pool and fitness center.
Highlights of the upcoming season include opening day, scheduled for Dec. 14 from noon to 7 p.m.; a Quick Tip Refresher Course Dec. 15, and Military Appreciation Days Dec. 15. King Pine will celebrate the 75th anniversary of its ski and snowboard camp Feb. 18 through 24 and Feb. 24 through March 1. The camp is for skiers and riders, aged 8 to 16.

The camp was founded in 1938 by the late Milt Hoyt, according to new marketing director and longtime valley resident Paul Kasianchuck.

King Pine Ski and Snowboard School is offering free Learn-to-Ski/Snowboard lessons for the entire 2012/13 winter season.

“We’re known all across the State of New Hampshire for our success in teaching kids and adults how to ski and snowboard, so this program fits right in with our philosophy,” stresses Craig Niiler, King Pine’s Ski and Snowboard School director. “Our beginner packages save time and money by making learning simple, easy, and most of all: affordable.”

New to skiing or snowboarding? Guests can take a free Learn-to-Ski/Snowboard lesson at King Pine at any point during the 2012/13 season. How? Beginners simply need to purchase a Full-Day Equipment Rental and All-day Beginner Lifts ticket at the regular price, and King Pine will include a complimentary 90-minute beginner lesson.

For further information, call 367-8896.

Shawnee Peak's 75th

Shawnee Peak in nearby Bridgton, Maine, is celebrating its 75th anniversary season with a dinner set for the base lodge Jan. 12.
The area is scheduled to open Dec. 15, conditions permitting, notes marketing director Rachael Wilkinson.

Shawnee offers the most night skiing in Maine, popular family programs, and a great lounge with apres ski entertainment at Blizzard's Pub.

New this year is a Big Air Bag – a fun and safe way to learn new freestyle tricks.

Shawnee Peak has expanded its learning terrain by 50 percent for beginners. It has also extended its beginner carpet lift by 60 feet to give longer runs and an enhanced learning experience.

Shawnee has also expanded its snowmaking, and has installed Wi-Fi installed throughout base area, and offered free for guests.
A new wheelchair lift has been installed, allowing access to the top level of the  base lodge.

“Our snow cat now has a 10-person platform to transport more people at one time to the top of the Mountain for First Tracks,” said Wilkinson, noting that Shawnee introduced its First Tracks ride the snow groomer program last season. Guests who reserve a seat for this groomer ride will be offered two runs before the lifts open for the day. Shawnee also offers the he Moon Groom, a scenic ride in the afternoon.

For further information, call (207) 647-8444.

Learn to Ski Free promotion

During the month of January, Ski N.H. and its 33 member resorts will participate in a national program to introduce guests to the sports of skiing and snowboarding.

Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month is a program taking place across the United States that features special offers making it easy and affordable for people to learn to ski, snowboard, cross country ski or snowshoe, and for current skiers and snowboarders to enhance their skills by taking lessons from professional instructors.

Among the special offers being featured in New Hampshire is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Free Week from Jan. 12 through 18, 2013. During this week, at least 12 New Hampshire ski areas will be offering a limited number of free learn to ski or snowboard packages.

These packages include a free beginner lesson, free equipment rentals, and a free beginner lift ticket or trail pass to those who register in advance.

Participants must visit www.SkiNH.com to register and download a Learn to Ski or Ride Free Coupon; they then contact one of the participating areas to make a reservation for a specific day that week. Registration opens in mid-December. Local and nearby participating alpine areas include Bretton Woods, and Cannon Mountain; participating cross country areas include Jackson Ski Touring Center, Great Glen Trails, and Bretton Woods Cross Country Center. As the event approaches more areas are expected to participate, so guests should continue to visit SkiNH.com for updates.

Every day of the ski season, New Hampshire’s ski areas already offer specially-designed learn to ski and snowboard programs to introduce new people to the sport. In addition to these learn to ski and snowboard packages, there will be many other special programs offered during January that normally are not available, according to Karl Stone of SKI N.H.

Among these offerings, guests will find free and discounted lift tickets for those who bring a friend to try the sport, special pricing on learn to ski or snowboard packages, and follow-up rewards for first timers who choose to hit the downhill slopes or cross country trails again. Guests can visit the January Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month section on SkiNH.com for full details and offers.

Nationally the program is being promoted by a consortium of ski industry organizations and media outlets, as well as three well-known national ambassadors: ski icon Glen Plake, New Hampshire’s own Olympic and World Cup champion Bode Miller, and World Cup champion Darren Rahlves.

“Skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and snowshoeing offer a fun and healthy way to get outside and enjoy winter with family and friends,” said Alice Pearce, president of Ski N.H. “As the national slogan says, ‘Humans Were Never Meant to Hibernate.’ ”

Cross country news

Among the upcoming highlights of the cross country calendar is a craft fair at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center (466-2333) Nov. 24.

On Nov. 24, Jackson Ski Touring (383-9355)nwill have a bonfire at 5:30 p.m., followed by a Potluck Club Supper. For the bonfire, JSTFs executive director Thom Perkins requests that skiers bring old wooden skis to add to the bonfire in an effort to appease the snow gods. JSTF will host a Demo Day at Jackson Ski Touring Dec. 7

Bear Notch Ski Touring and Snowshoe Center (374-2277) is holding an open house Nov. 24 and 25 when ski passes and ski packages may be purchased. The valley's other ski touring centers are King Pine Nordic Reserve (367-8896) and Mount Washington Valley Ski Touring and Snowshoe Center (356-9920). Highlights of the latter's season include the second annual Winter Fun TRI Event Feb. 2, and the 24th annual Chocolate Festival Feb. 24.
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