Snowboarding the White Mountains

Snowboarding the White Mountains

Just below the evergreens that grow at the peaks of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the world below looks like a sepia-toned photograph: bare black deciduous trees, slopes blanketed in white, tanned cottages and resorts, gray puffs from the hidden fireplaces at work, and off-white granite. That’s the scene in winter in this section of the state and skiing or snowboarding the White Mountains is the best way to take it all in. There are eight ski ares in the White Mountains. I had the opportunity to ride two: Loon and Cannon.

Snowboarding the White Mountains


Riding Cannon


When a major resort parks themselves at the base of a mountain or when there’s a town nearby, the slopes grow crowded. Cannon Mountain sits above an empty stretch of I-93, which runs through the Franconia Notch. Without any resorts in the area, as it’s state park property, there are fewer skiers. It’s also the highest peak in the region and offers some of the most diverse and beautiful terrain in the state.


The five wide and front-facing slopes from the blue square of Gary’s to the black diamond of Paulie’s Folly are perfect for bombing the mountain, varying in steepness as one travels to skier’s right. Cannon is crowned with classically windy New England trails that feature evergreen bends that snake to mid-mountain. All of the trails at Cannon are hemmed in by gnarly glades and ungroomed, backcountry terrain that is home to some of the state’s sensitive species like the Bicknell’s Thrush and peregrine falcon. Despite the technology of the ski lift and the black band of highway below, Cannon feels as though it’s removed from civilization and that’s the perfect way to ride.


A notable perk about Cannon is that the snowmakers are a motley crew of skiers. This fact is not inconsequential. At other mountains, the snowmaking team consists of a staff perfect for Ice Road Trucker auditions, who seem more thrilled by the risks and hazards of the job rather than by the quality of the snow. The team at Cannon, which garbed in black and white outfits snowsuits advertising warnings on their back–Snowmaking Do Not Follow–makes snow that they want to ski. When I jumped onto Lower Hardscrabble–a blue converted to diamond while snowmaking was in progress–my day of riding incredible groomers transformed into what felt like a Colorado powder day, albeit a slightly condensed powder day. I was the only rider cutting fresh lines into the humps and troughs of new snow, hitting that trail until my legs burned. It was quality snowmaking.


If you are making the trip up to Cannon, try to ski on Tuesday or Thursday, when two lift tickets sell for $72. (This deal, however, is not valid on holidays).


Flying Down Loon


When snowboarding with a family (or with a family waiting for you to join them for lunch), nothing beats a ski-in, ski-out resort. The Mountain Club on Loon offers that comfort and peace of mind.


And the trails are great, too. My favorite rides included those that referenced the Prohibition era: the tight and windy runs of Speakeasy and the little lips on Rumrunner. If you happened to snowboard Loon in prior decades, it’s worth another trip as they completed their South Peak in 2007, which includes some tougher terrain and longer slopes.


While it’s tough to compare anything to the beauty of Cannon’s peak and the undeveloped wilderness surrounding it, Loon has one natural advantage: the exposed granite at Loon made me aware that I was snowboarding the White Mountains.


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Posted on by Noah Lederman in Surf & Snow

2 Responses to Snowboarding the White Mountains

  1. Sam

    Great article.

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