The White Mountains of New Hampshire are home to over 30 downhill and cross-country ski resorts, with many of them just a short drive from one another. Stay for a week and you can easily visit a few, so to make the most of your winter vacation in the Granite State take a look at our top picks!
Due to COVID-19, safety measures were put in place by the State of New Hampshire which impacted the 20/21 ski season. These included mandatory mask-wearing, physical distancing and 10-day self-quarantine for international travelers. In Coos County which is home to Bretton Woods, some resorts required advance lift ticket purchases and cleaning and disinfection protocols were implemented. Such restrictions are not anticipated to continue into the 21/22 winter season.
Bretton Woods is often considered the classiest of all the ski resorts in New Hampshire, which is bolstered by the fact that it recently opened the first 8-person gondola in the state! 98 trails are spread out across three mountains and neatly grouped together according to their difficulty, plus more than 90% are covered by snow cannons. Expect night skiing on Fridays, Saturdays, and during the holidays, but make sure you wrap up warm because it’s cold! If you fancy a splurge then book a stay at the luxurious Omni Mount Washington Resort, or for something more affordable there’s plenty of straightforward condos and family townhouses within easy reach of the slopes.
A trip to Loon Mountain makes for a fun and hassle-free family ski vacation, and not only because it’s easy to reach being just a 10-minute drive from Interstate 93. Once you’re here the resort provides everything needed, including a hotel complete with swimming pool and spa in the base lodge plus a bunch of restaurants and bars for evening fun. The ski area is fantastic for honing your skills, featuring mostly blue trails that link to a handful of gentle greens and challenging blacks. To top it all off, you can try out ice skating, snowtubing, snowshoeing, and even a zip line ride over a frozen river!
The first World Cup ski race in North America took place right here at Cannon Mountain, which is a testament to its steep slopes and reliable snowfall. This resort is run by New Hampshire State, and its location within Franconia Notch State Park means there’s no sprawling development at the base area. You won’t find convenient slope-side lodgings or lots of resort amenities to keep you entertained here, but it is home to the wonderful New England Ski Museum located next to the Tram Valley Station. Cannon Mountain is a firm favorite among local skiers from nearby Lincoln and Littleton, which are both home to a range of accommodation options.
Mount Sunapee has a little bit of everything, from steep bump runs and glades to terrain parks and bunny slopes, ensuring skiers and snowboarders of all abilities are catered for. At 2,743 ft the summit is considerably lower than the 4,000 ft peaks at Cannon and Wildcat, but don’t let that put you off. The large network of snow cannons and daily grooming ensures slopes stay in great condition for skiing throughout the season. You’ll find plenty of quality lodgings just a 20-minute drive away in New London, along with friendly restaurants and pubs, artsy shops, and intriguing museums. Newbury is an even closer town to base yourself, home to lakeside chalets and a few casual eateries.
It’s far from a sophisticated ski resort but its old-fashioned style and bare-bones amenities put Wildcat in a league of its own. If you’re serious about skiing and want to take on some of the most challenging terrain in the Granite State you’ll feel right at home here best suited for advanced and upper intermediate skiers and riders. On a clear day from the top, you’ll be able to gaze upon an unbeatable panorama of the entire Presidential Range, with the white-capped Mount Washington towering 6,288 ft high. Green, blue, and black trails are available from the summit so everyone can enjoy the view and ski back down! Also, don’t miss an evening of après-ski fun at the bars in nearby North Conway, once voted America’s Best Ski Town!
Searching for challenging ski terrain and a full-service resort at the base of the mountain to go with it? Then Attitash is a top choice. There’s over 300 ac of skiable terrain in total, split between two mountains named Attitash and Bear Mountain. The pair are distinctly different, with Bear Mountain featuring wide top-to-bottom runs and freestyle features, while Attitash is a maze of many narrow crisscrossing trails. You’ll waste no time reaching the lifts each day when you book a room at the slope-side Grand Summit Hotel at Attitash, where you can also enjoy a relaxing soak in their hot tub each evening.
With a lift-accessed summit of over 4,000 ft, Waterville Valley Resort is the third-highest ski resort in New Hampshire, just behind Cannon and Wildcat. What makes this mountain a little different is that you’ll find plenty of blue trails from the top instead of the usual black runs, so it’s an excellent choice for intermediates. The resort is tucked away at the end of a valley which gives you the feeling of being away from it all, but there’s still plenty to do off the slopes. Give ice skating, dog sledding, tubing or the escape room a try, unwind with a relaxing massage at the spa, or take a stroll around the Town Square for souvenir shopping, and a well-deserved drink at La Tasse Café or Mulligans Tap Room.
Skiers have been tearing down the slopes of Cranmore Mountain since the 1930s and while the 170 ac of skiable terrain makes it the smallest ski area on our list, the 56 trails offer a perfect training ground for beginners and intermediates. Cranmore also enjoys more shelter from bad weather than many other ski resorts in New Hampshire, so when a storm hits the region it can often stay open while other resorts need to close. The quaint New England town is charming in itself with historic buildings and stores while the outlets or New Hampshire’s best lift-serviced tubing park is sure to keep any non-skier in the group entertained.
Less than 2 hours drive from Boston, Gunstock is another compact ski area covering 227 ac, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in the high quality of its trails and terrain parks. You’ll also enjoy a great view of Lake Winnipesaukee while schussing down the slopes, and the fun continues after dark with around half the runs floodlit for night skiing. Nearby accommodation has a distinctive rustic charm, with options including country inns, traditional hotels, and family-run B&B’s. The town of Gilford is home to a handful of down-to-earth restaurants and for tax-free shopping head to the Tanger Outlet, less than 20 minutes’ drive away in Tilton.