November 16. 2017 8:30PM

Winter Notes: Ski season brings resort changes and a happy buzz

By MEGHAN McCARTHY McPHAUL


A Boston Ski & Snowboard Expo visitor feeds the Yeti at the Cannon Mountain booth in hopes of winning some ski season swag. (Meghan McCarthy McPhaul)

If it still looks like bare November where you are, I’m sorry. It’s snowing hard as I write this from the mountains, and I am excited to get out for the season’s first turns. Judging by the buzz at the annual regional Ski & Snowboard Expo in Boston last weekend, I’m not the only one.

Two New Hampshire ski areas — Bretton Woods and Wildcat — opened as the show was going on. Others, from Manchester’s McIntyre Ski Area north to Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park, fired up the snow guns as cold weather settled over the state.

At our house — and countless others around ski country — we’ve been hauling out the ski gear to see what still fits the kids (not much) and what needs replacing (a whole lot) so we’ll be ready to hit the slopes when the home hill opens next week. Mittens have been located, goggles cleaned, and skis waxed as we eagerly prepare for another winter. Here’s a primer on what’s new at New Hampshire ski areas this season.

• Three areas — Gunstock, Waterville Valley and Mount Sunapee — are introducing RFID (short for Radio Frequency Identification) ticket technology this winter. This is the same technology used by E-ZPass readers at highway tolls booths.

An RFID lift ticket or pass is kept in a jacket pocket, and gates to the lift open as the card is read. Just as an E-ZPass means you don’t need to stop at the Hookset tolls and search for singles, an RFID card means you won’t need to fumble for your pass or lift ticket as you prepare to load the lift. Skiers and riders will be able to pre-load tickets and special promotions onto their cards through a ski area’s website.

• Sunapee, Gunstock and Cranmore Mountain Resort celebrate big anniversaries this winter, with Sunapee hitting 70 and Cranmore and Gunstock reaching the ripe old age of 80. 

To mark its 70th year as a ski area, Sunapee folks found and refurbished a car from the forgotten gondola, which served as a centerpiece for the area’s booth at the Boston expo.

Gunstock kicks off its anniversary celebration with dinner, dancing and an auction of historic items at Saturday’s Gunstock Ski Ball. All three areas have events and roll-back specials planned for throughout the season.

• Cranmore, in the midst of a $50 million redevelopment, joins other ski resorts making changes to their base areas. At Cranmore, an outdoor pool is set to open in December, just in time for a holiday dip, and the unload zone has been revamped for a smoother car-to-snow transition.

• Waterville is renovating and reorganizing its base lodge for better flow of skier traffic, and Cannon has added a new warming hut at the Mittersill area.

Lift enhancements include a new triple chair to replace the old double at Pats Peak, a replacement T-bar at Whaleback, and a T-bar to replace the old High Lift double chair at Waterville. Waterville has also taken down its old J-bar at the learning area and replaced that with two carpet lifts. 

• Skiers interested in exploring the back country may want to check out Black Mountain’s new partnership with Ski the Whites, which translates to rental and sales of back-country equipment, along with lessons on skiing safely off-piste.

Meanwhile, the forecast looks promising for more snowmaking heading into Thanksgiving weekend, when several areas plan to start spinning the lifts. I’m hoping to make my first turns of the season today at Loon’s opening day. The first turns of many. See you on the slopes!

Winter Notes is published on Fridays during ski season. Contact Meghan McCarthy McPhaul at meghan@meghanmcphaul.com.