Lincoln, NH — The best-laid plans do not always go according to design. Skiers, especially eastern skiers, know this fact intimately. My friend Joe and I realized this firsthand when the mountain took our ailing ski trip off of life support.
We got out of the car and precipitation poured down all around us, but we silently kindled thoughts of quality terrain. Fresh tracks and sun-drenched afternoons? No, he learned on ice and boilerplate. Former New Hampshire Governor Sherman Adams founded Loon in the s in an effort to revitalize the economy of the Lincoln area, downtrodden as a result of the closure of mills in the area. It worked — today, Lincoln is a busy commercial strip of hotels, motels, shops and restaurants lining the western end of the popular Kancamagus Highway.
The ski and snowboard resort alone attracts some , visits per year. Joe and I had visited Loon before, and its narrow trails and glades greeted us like an old friend. I had first skied the popular mountain in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt one Easter Monday back in college. It was among the best days of my life. Not just of my life on skis, but of the whole thing, the sum total of all my days on earth.
Click on image to open a full-size trail map in a new browser window Joe, on the other hand, raced at Loon during his stint on the Worcester Polytechnic Institute ski team.
He knew some of the mountain, but spend the majority of his time on Upper Rumrunner, probably the most aptly-named collegiate racecourse in America. Somehow, those trails have always been free of skiers, even when other trails are filled with more yahoos than snowflakes. Much like a natural roller coaster, the two trails form a series of turns and drops in the great New England tradition, where frugality is a virtue and everything is built to expand scant resources.
The trails hug the mountain, allowing for the maximum pitch and a number of small, sharp drops interspersed between flatter sections. Usually, those trails are in good shape, but the freezing rain made Upper Flume absolutely bulletproof.
Patches of skiable terrain were quickly consumed by ungroomed crust a half inch thick, which made any sort of consistency a pipe dream. We used the escape valve, usually reserved for beginners who thought they could handle the pitch, and entered Lower Walking Boss eager for some smoother terrain.
We eventually ended up on Brookway, a very flat green trail that dumps back in front of the main lodge and the gondola. However, since the trail winds through the woods and across a stream, it makes for some interesting tuck runs when no one else is around.
The weather forced us into the gondola for most of the remaining day, and often Joe and I divided up in the singles line—which is perhaps the best-known secret in all of skiing. Too many people are reluctant to split up at the lifts even though doing so gets them up the mountain twice as fast. In that situation it makes no sense to go up alone. In fact, it would be downright stupid. I love skiing like the air I breathe, but even I would trade a couple runs for an opportunity to share a cozy gondola cabin.
I met a group of foreign skiers on my first trip up. The moment the trio entered the cabin, it was filled with the pungent smell of cologne. It is just different, since few American men would ever contemplate putting on deodorant to go skiing, let alone cologne. I closed my eyes, listened to the foreign conversation and soaked up my fair share of their after-shave. I could have been in Europe for all I knew and I loved it.
Joe and I eventually made it to Rumrunner, which is a fairly straightforward race trail. Steep and more wide-open than other trails at Loon, Rumrunner provides skiers with a great chance to crank some GS turns and do their best Alberto Tomba impersonations. Loon is well-known for intermediate corduroy.
Joe entered the park first and quick turned his way down the right edge. I followed close behind and viewed the large mounds that dotted the center of the trail like whale humps. Snowboarders clearly controlled the slopes here and they moved about with ease, landing jumps as if it was the X Games trials. We tried our own hand at it, but after Joe went yard sale on one jump we headed to the halfpipe. To be honest, as a skier, I am fascinated with halfpipes.
Roughly 50 yards long, the halfpipe rises several snowboarders-high on each side. Neither of us fell on our two trips through and after a few more runs we rewarded ourselves with a much-needed trip to the lodge. We decided to pack it in for the afternoon.
Already the busiest ski area in New Hampshire, Loon has actively sought to increase its capacity for quite some time. Following a protracted year battle wherein Loon was pitted against the U.
The expansion will take the form of 12 new trails, three new high-speed lifts, a third base lodge at South Mountain and additional parking. Plans also call for the upgrade of several existing lifts to new ones with higher line speeds and greater capacities.
While earlier proposals to draw snowmaking water from Loon Pond and the Pemigewasset River were defeated, following appeals that reached the U.
District First Circuit Court of Appeals, the approved expansion allows the resort to feed a snowmaking system with water from a sand pit on the west side of I that was originally excavated to supply the construction of the interstate.
Current criticisms of Loon float from advanced ski and snowboard enthusiasts frustrated by the abundance of intermediate terrain and paucity of expert runs. Resort officials, however, have touted the South Mountain expansion as the solution to this deficiency. The March announcement by the Forest Service begins a day appeal period, so it is unlikely that any construction will take place in time to add facilities for the ski and snowboard season, although the public comment period for the approved plan during the spring of elicited little opposition.
Early in the approval discussions, Loon fueled the flames of discontent by carving several trails on South Mountain before the project was approved.