PINKHAM NOTCH — Ski seasons in Mount Washington Valley don’t get off to any better start than this.
Favorably cold snowmaking temperatures in late October and early November, followed by a pre-Thanksgiving Day storm and more snow in early December, enabled Bretton Woods, Cranmore and Wildcat Mountain to open early, while Bretton Woods Ski Touring and Jackson Ski Touring all opened for Thanksgiving ski touring.
Snowmaking continued in January when Mother Nature got a bit more stingy with her snowfall, but late January and February have proved to be snowy throughout the Northeast, making it one of the best ski seasons.
Here’s a quick overview of what’s new at local alpine resorts for the 2014-15 season:
• ATTITASH (374-2368; www.attitash.com): Attitash, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, made a $1 million capital investment to further improve the efficiency of its snowmaking system for the 2014/15 winter season. Most of the improvements are on Bear Peak, including Morning Star, Snowdancer, and Mythmaker trails, as well as the Abenaki Terrain Park.
“The quality of our winter product is a priority,” said John Lowell, president of Attitash Mountain Resort and Wildcat Mountain. “Investing in the snowmaking infrastructure at our ski areas and utilizing newer snowgun technology continues to put us in a position to produce ideal base depths and conditions for skiers and riders early in the winter season that will last until spring.”
The project included new snowmaking pipe, pump and motor rebuilds, and a combination of more than 100 new, high efficiency, low-energy HKD and Snow Logic brand snow guns that further improve the ability to produce greater amounts of snow while increasing the efficiency of the snowmaking system. These guns produce more snow in both marginal and ideal cold temperatures using less energy and are easier to operate than older snow gun technology. This summer’s improvements follow up the previous year’s $1.3 million Thorne Pond rejuvenation project, a major snowmaking water resource for Attitash.
In addition to snowmaking improvements, Attitash has acquired a new $300,000 Prinoth snow groomer, a new shuttle bus for transporting guests between base areas, parking lots and the Attitash Grand Summit Hotel and has also added more than $80,000 worth of new Burton snowboard equipment to its rental inventory.
• WILDCAT (www.skiwildcat.com; 466-3326): As noted earlier, Wildcat, Attitash’s sister Peak Resort area, first opened for the season Nov. 9 and has continued to add terrain, thanks to major improvements to the ’Cat’s snowmaking system and an abundance of natural snowfall.
At Wildcat, the snowmaking system has received a major overhaul for the 2014-15 winter season thanks to a $2 million capital improvement project that included more than 10 miles of new snowmaking pipe, more than 150 new high-output/high-efficiency snow guns and other state-of-the-art facilities as part of a total infrastructure revitalization. As has already been demonstrated early this season, the enhancements are dramatically improving the snowmaking efficiency and output of New England’s only ski area entirely situated within national forest service land.
Last winter, officials at Wildcat worked with some of the industry’s leading snowmaking equipment manufacturers in what is believed to be one of the largest scale demonstration projects ever conducted at any mountain in the East. Following successful tests in a variety of weather conditions, deliveries of new snow guns from HKD and Snow Logic arrived at the mountain this past summer.
A major goal of this effort has been to improve how efficiently the snowmaking system operates, which was a factor when deciding which technology to purchase.
“Today’s snowmaking technology is so impressive, we estimate Wildcat will burn roughly 40,000 less gallons of diesel fuel annually as a result of this upgrade,” said Peak Resorts’ Northeast project manager Brendan Ryan. “All of the components of this project will ultimately lead to using less power and burning less fuel while producing more high-quality snow.”
• BLACK MOUNTAIN (383-4490): The iconic platter pull at Black Mountain in Jackson has been upgraded for this winter, with $25,000 in improvements that include a new electric motor, safety circuits and switches, a new computer drive system and electronic cabling. The mountain’s primary pump station is also being completely rebuilt, with a $75,000 rebuild of the primary snowmaking pump and motor, and installation of new control valves and electronic control system.
Black Mountain is celebrating its 80th season this year with many events to mark the historic milestone, with many events planned for February vacation week, including live après ski entertainment daily at the Lostbo Pub. The Mount Washington Valley Children’s Museum will also be on hand to entertain children. Black has also worked with five other independent ski areas to enhance their season ticket values with a new Freedom Pass.
For a real treat, ask about Black’s groomer rides — reservations required.
• BRETTON WOODS (278-3320): The replacement of old pipe and 35 new, high efficiency HKD SV 10 towers for the 2014-15 season represents an investment of more than $300,000 this year. Combined with more than $2 million invested over the past three years, Bretton Woods continued its tradition of aggressive, early season snowmaking across 300 acres.
The area has received an amazing amount of natural snow this season as well. The ski area invested $15,000 in improvements to the Hobbits children’s learn to ski and ride program, and an additional $100,000 in new rental equipment through its partnership with Dalbello.
Five trails, and two lifts are open for night skiing and riding most Fridays, Saturdays and holiday period evenings during the winter season. Twilight tickets, 2-8 p.m, and night tickets, 4-8 p.m., are available Friday and Saturdays through March 14 and as special holiday evenings Feb. 16 through 20.
• CANNON MOUNTAIN (823-8800; www.cannonmt.com): Cannon Mountain in Francoia spent nearly $2 million in improvements for 2014-15, including roughly $1 million towards Phase I of the Mittersill improvement project that involves trailwork, expansion and a new snowmaking compressor that will add 28 percent more snowmaking capacity. Cannon also spent an additional $500,000 in other snowmaking upgrades, snowmaking lines and new high efficiency snowguns, $250,000 on general infrastructure improvements, and $300,000 for a new 2015 Prinoth Bison grooming machine.
• CRANMORE (356-5543; www.cranmore.com): Adding to the overall snow experience, for this season, Cranmore Resort in North Conway has added a new Prinoth Bison groomer to its snow grooming fleet, and a new snowmaking river pump and new computer software is helping to maximize the efficiency of the snowmaking system.
The Cranmore Rossignol rental fleet has also grown for this season, and they have an expanded demo center on weekends and holidays.
The Cranmore Snowsports School is once again featuring its terrain-based learning (TBL) system for teaching skiing in a non-threatening, easy-to-learn environment, with a Free TBL Day will be held on Sunday, March 15. The package is for first time skiers and snowboarders and includes complimentary rental equipment and helmet, a lower mountain lift ticket and an introductory ski or snowboard lesson. Must register online in advance and is based on limited availability.
Cranmore is home to the Mountain Adventure Park, featuring a Mountain Coaster, Soaring Eagle Zipride, Giant Swing and a 10-lane tubing park. Cranapaloozas are featured Saturdays and select nights of vacation weeks, with the Mountain Adventure Park rides open until 9 p.m., and skiing and riding until 6 p.m. (twilight tickets available).
With over $9 million dollars in improvements in the last four years, Cranmore is on the brink of a $50 million resort-wide development plan, Kearsarge Brook Condominiums at Cranmore.
• KING PINE SKI AREA (367-8896; www.kingpine.com): King Pine is located in East Madison, and has established a rich tradition of delivering enjoyment for kids and their families.
King Pine is part of the Purity Spring Resort, located on a pristine private lake, and has celebrated more than 100 years of hospitality. Since 1939, a King Pine institution has been in Ski and Snowboard Camp for kids. This tradition is the longest running ski camp in the country. The Hoyt family has owned Purity Spring since the late 1800s and offers a variety of year-round family camp destinations.
King Pine Ski Area has purchased a new snowcat and has upgraded its snowmaking, continuing the tradition of impeccable grooming and consistent snow conditions with 100 percent snowmaking coverage.
Former U.S. Ski Team Racer Jake Stephan has been hired as race team director, and Trisha Jacobson is King Pine’s new ski and snowboard school director.
Night skiing is offered Fridays, Saturdays and Tuesdays, and nightly during holiday periods. the resort also features the Tohko Skating Dome, tubing, sledding and cross country skiing.
UPDATED BY TML 2-8-15--SEE XC RESORTS/ SEPARATE STORY