New Hampshire’s White Mountains include the highest peaks in the northeastern United States, and its elevation, plus its northern latitude, provides plenty of natural snow. Early and late in the season, and to avoid the occasional winter thaw, state-of-the-art snowmaking and trimming equipment keeps the trails and slopes in A-1 condition all winter. Not all of New Hampshire’s ski mountains are in the northern part of the state. Two excellent ski resorts are located in the Lake District in the middle of the state, and two other beautiful large mountains are close to the Massachusetts border in the south.
One benefit of planning a ski vacation in New Hampshire is that many of the major ski resorts are close together, allowing skiers to experience several mountains during a trip. This is especially true of the Mount Washington Valley. Something of a skiing legend for its place in the history of recreational skiing, the central town of North Conway is a tourist attraction in its own right, with an abundance of off-piste activities and one of New England’s best shopping scenes . Skiers with more time can combine skiing in New Hampshire with nearby ski areas in Vermont.
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1 Cranmore Mountain en North Conway
Since the glory days of early recreational skiing in the 1930’s, when the famous ski trains brought avid skiers from Boston and New York to the elegant Victorian train station nearly at the base of Cranmore Mountain, North Conway has been a ski town. But it’s much more now, with one of New England’s largest collections of brand name stores just outside the compact village center. The combination of skiing, shopping, and a variety of lodging, dining, and après-ski options makes North Conway New England’s top ski resort town– along with one of the most affordable. Skiers have several other mountains within easy reach and there’s more than enough to keep non-skiers busy here. Hotels and cozy B&Bs such as Kearsarge Inn and Cranmore Inn are steps away from the vibrant high street.
Cranmore Mountain overlooks the city, with 57 trails and nine lifts providing access to more than 200 ski areas. Most slopes and trails face west for long, sunny afternoons and breathtaking views of Mt. Washington and the Presidential Series. Trails and lifts are suitable for all abilities, with excellent beginner and intermediate terrain and several serious challenges for experts. Cranmore is known for its innovative ski instruction program and family-friendly activities, including the Mountain Coaster, the Giant Swing, the Soaring Eagle Zip Line, and an excellent multi-stream tubing park at the Cranmore Mountain Adventure Center, open daily. Like other New Hampshire ski resorts, Cranmore is steadily reducing its environmental impact,
Adres: 1 Skimobile Road, North Conway, New Hampshire
Official Site: https://www.cranmore.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Cranmore Mountain Resort
2 Bretton woods
The Bretton Woods Resort faces Mount Washington and is located in a wide valley. It is the largest ski area in the state and the most luxurious. The resort’s 62 trails, 35 clearings, and three terrain parks add up to 464 skiable acres served by 10 lifts, including four high-speed quads. The activities at the bottom of the mountain are just as extensive, with a climbing wall at the base lodge, a zip line tour, dedicated fat bike trails and rentals, and one of the state’s most extensive cross-country trails. What skiers remember most are the views of Bretton Woods on a clear day. The summit of Mt. Washington, encrusted with frost, fills the horizon, with the red roofs and towers of the largest of the remaining White Mountain Grand hotels – part of the same resort complex – stretching at its base.
With a north/northeastern exposure, an average annual snowfall of more than 200 inches, and snowmaking for 97 percent of its trails, Bretton Woods is normally open from early November to mid-April. It is consistently rated the highest in the East for snow conditions. Bretton Woods has night skiing on Friday and Saturday nights and several money-saving specials, such as 2-4-1 Wednesdays and a combined Zip & Ski Ticket. Skiers can also take advantage of ski-and-stay packages with the Omni Mount Washington Resort, which offers a full-service spa, pool, and other recreation facilities.
Adres: Route 302, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Official site: https://brettonwoods.com/winter_sports/alpine/overview
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Bretton Woods
3 Mount Sunapee
Just 90 minutes from Boston and always listed as one of New England’s top ski resorts for snowmaking and grooming, Mount Sunapee packs a staggering amount of skiable space into its 1,500-foot vertical. The 66 trails are served by 10 lifts, including two high-speed quad bikes to the top. The Sunbowl Express whisks skiers and riders to the mountain top in just over four minutes. Snowboarders appreciate Bob Skinner’s 603 Terrain Park, which features 50 terrain features, a 4,000-watt sound system, and a special triple seat to access the park.
The family-friendly resort has a simple, casual feel; plenty of base-lodge space for those who prefer to bring their own lunch; and a number of money-saving specials and discounts. Season passes that include skiing at sister resort Okemo Mountain in Vermont are especially good value. New this year are Mount Sunapee’s RFID cards that replace traditional lift tickets and save time, and no more waiting at the ticket office – after the first visit, skiers can reload their card online and head straight to the lifts. Sunapee has been a leader in adaptive skiing for years, with classes from the New England Handicapped Sports Association for people of all ages and abilities.
Adres: Route 103, Newbury, New Hampshire
Official site: www.mountsunapee.com
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Mount Sunapee
4 Loon Mountain
Loon Mountain is the closest full-service ski resort to Interstate-93 (less than a 10 minute drive). Divided into two sections of the White Mountain National Forest, the 61 trails span three peaks, with 2,100 feet of vertical drop and terrain for all levels of skiing and snowboarding. The terrain parks are extremely varied, with parks designed for very young beginners, intermediates and experts. Most of its slopes and trails are in the north, which combine with more than 650 high-output snow cannons to guarantee Loon a long ski season, even when temperatures are marginal. More than $3 million investment in recent years has increased the efficiency of New Hampshire’s most powerful snow collection system.
The on-mountain property is located at the base of the lifts so you can ski right in and ski out. The Mountain Club on Loon is a full-service hotel/base lodge, with rooms and suites, restaurants, parking, a pool and spa all under one roof within a few feet of the gondola loading point. The Loon Mountain Adventure Center, also in the base area, offers snow tubing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, ice skating, and a zipline ride over the frozen river that runs past the base. Guided snowshoe tours for different abilities include one from the top of Loonberg, with the option to return to base by gondola or snowshoe. Money Saving Season Passes include special rates for those ages 19 to 29 and ages 65 to 79 along with the Loon Sunday Pass.
Adres: 60 Loon Mountain Road, Lincoln, New Hampshire
Official Site: https://www.loonmtn.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Loon Mountain
5 Gunstock Mountain
With a panoramic view of New Hampshire’s largest lake, Gunstock Mountain takes full advantage of its 1,400-foot drop, with 55 trails and 90% snowmaking coverage. Despite its size, there’s a friendly home-away-from-home feel to the mountain and its large – and historic – base lodge. While its trails challenge skiers of all abilities, Gunstock is a favorite of families due to its excellent learning program and separate slopes and ski lifts where beginner skiers can gain confidence before making a beginner-friendly trail from the top of the mountain.
Gunstock is known not only for its snowmaking and grooming, but also for its night skiing, with five lifts serving 21 lighted trails from December 21 through the end of March, Tuesday through Saturday. In addition to skiing and horseback riding, Gunstock has a tubing park and one of the longest ziplines in the country, and new for the 2017/18 winter season is a Mountain Coaster that operates on weekends and holidays. In addition to being the closest major New Hampshire ski resort to Boston, with easy access from both I-93 and I-95, Gunstock is calling on its money-saving Flex Pass, which offers 50 percent off primetime and night lift tickets for the all-season and Golden Age Passes that offer skiers over 70 a season pass for just $25. Gunstock is celebrating its 80th season this winter.
Adres: 719 Cherry Valley Road (off Route 11-A), Gilford, New Hampshire
Official site: https://www.gunstock.com
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Gunstock Mountain Resort
6 Attitash Mountain
A few miles north of North Conway, Attitash Mountain has 68 trails on two connected mountains. This and a policy of limiting the tickets sold on a daily basis keeps lines fairly short, even in ski season. There’s plenty of terrain for skiers of all abilities, and experts will be challenged by the steepest course in New Hampshire, over 60 acres of treetops and alpine race trails. At the other end of the skill spectrum, Attitash is especially welcome for beginner skiers, who can ski in the Learning Terrain area and hit the surface lift at the base of Attitash or Bear Peak.
Lodging at the base are apartments and a hotel with dining options, or for more luxury the Bernerhof Inn is just down the road. Non-skiers enjoy the Nor’Easter Mountain Coaster on weekends and holidays. About 20 minutes away is Attitash’s sister resort, Wildcat Mountain, with whom they offer interchangeable lift tickets and season passes for a total of 535 skiable acres.
Address: Route 302, Bartlett, New Hampshire
Official site: www.attitash.com
Accommodation: Where to stay near Attitash Mountain Resort
7 Cannon Mountain
Overlooking Franconia Notch, Cannon Mountain is a state-owned ski resort with some of the most challenging trails in the state. Olympic gold medalist Bode Miller learned his skills on this mountain, which is known for its steep and varied terrain. The 4,080-foot summit of Cannon’s Summit seems to attract more snow than many other White Mountain areas. The ski area is connected by 81 trails and served by 10 lifts. New energy-efficient snow cannons installed this year are expected to reduce energy consumption by 50 percent and significantly increase snow cover.
An experience in itself is riding the 80-passenger to the top Aerial Tramway , a cable car that reaches the top in about ten minutes. On a clear day you can see the mountains of four states and Canada. The Tuckerbrook Family area is a bit separated from the rest of the mountain, and Mittersill, a former ski resort next to Cannon Mountain, offers untrained natural snow for experts. A new lift and a heating cabin have been added for the 2016/17 season.
Adres: Franconia Notch Parkway, Franken, New Hampshire
Official site: https://cannonmt.com
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Cannon Mountain
8 King Pine
One of the sweetest little ski mountains in the Northeast, King Pine is part of Purity Spring Resort, an old-fashioned family-oriented resort. The runs are short—the vertical is only 500 feet—but each is a beautiful trail carved through pine forests, and they offer a surprising variety of terrain. The Twisted Pine terrain park challenges boarders, and the area for tree skiing expands every year. Until Attitash opened up the trail over the ridges, King Pine claimed the steepest ski course in New Hampshire – a double black diamond named Jack Pine. Snowmaking, which already covers 100 percent of the trails and terrain, has been improved this year with the addition of 45 new high-efficiency, energy-efficient snowmakers.
Along with lodging and dining, the self-contained resort has cross-country ski trails, a tubing hill, ice skating and night skiing, and it’s close enough to the bigger mountains in the Mt. Washington Valley that you can stay there and ski several others on the same vacation. As expected in a family resort, the learning program is excellent, as is snow conditions and grooming. An alpine ski ticket also includes cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating.
Adres: East Madison, New Hampshire
Official Site: https://www.kingpine.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay near King Pine
9 Waterville Valley
Waterville Valley Resort, the closest full-service resort to Boston and Manchester airports, is completely self-contained, at the end of a cul-de-sac valley surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest. Although it is one of the smaller ski resorts in terms of terrain, with only 255 skiable acres, 100 percent of the terrain is covered by snowmaking and south-facing slopes are popular in the coldest months. The 50 routes are served by 11 lifts, so lines are usually short. The Green Peak expansion, well underway, will add 10 new trails and 45 new acres of skiing served by a new chairlift.
The purpose-built village near the base has a wide variety of hotels, restaurants and activities, including ice skating, a spa, swimming pools, sleigh and dog sledding, and evening programs that make it a favorite for families. Regular free bus transport from the village houses and activities to the slopes is an added benefit, making the 500 acre resort virtually car free.
Adres: Route 49, Waterville Valley, New Hampshire
Official site: www.waterville.com
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Waterville Valley
10 Wildcat Mountain
Like Cannon Mountain, Wildcat is a favorite of experienced skiers who like a challenge. But the draw for skiers of all abilities is the chance to see by far one of the best views in the White Mountains on a clear day. Wildcat faces Mt. Washington over a narrow notch, and from the top of the Wildcat gondola, you’ll be up close and almost eye-to-eye with the summit of the Northeast’s tallest mountain. Every building and tower is completely covered in hoarfrost, doubling and tripling their size, and brilliant white against a blue sky. The view is not reserved for experts as there is one green graded trail from the top, although for intermediates it can be graded elsewhere.
Wildcat’s northwestern exposure promises the highest annual snowfall in the area, with an average snowfall of 200 inches. This is further enhanced by the snow cover of 90 percent on the 225 acres, which includes 49 trails and a terrain park. While Wildcat is favored by experienced skiers, who love its bumps and opens, there’s plenty of skiing for all abilities, with 25 percent of the trails for beginners. There is no overnight stay on the mountain, but nearby Jackson and Gorham offer a wide variety of choices.
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Adres: Route 16, Gorham, New Hampshire
Official Site: https://www.skiwildcat.com/
11 Ragged Mountain
New Hampshire’s 6-person chairlift, the Summit 6-Pack, whisks crystal-clear skiers to the top of one of the jagged mountain’s two peaks. Together, the two mountains offer 57 trails, including 17 clearings and three terrain parks, totaling 250 skiable acres. About a 20-minute drive from I-89, the resort is only a two-hour drive from Boston, but is always less crowded than New Hampshire’s other southern ski resorts. Its friendly, low-key atmosphere, not to mention the learn-to-ski program that is free for beginner skiers, makes it popular with families. A particularly great feature for beginners is that there are two trails from the top of the mountain that be easy to control for novice skiers.
Between the two peaks, the section called The Ravine has the most Black (expert) and double Black (true expert) trails, including several double-black glade terrains that challenge the best. There are slopeside accommodations in the Cardigan Cabins or near the New Hampshire Mountain Inn, which has an indoor heated pool.
Adres: 620 Ragged Mountain Road, Danbury, New Hampshire
Official Site: https://www.raggedmountainresort.com/
The best ski areas in North America and Europe
- Ski Vermont : Across the Connecticut River from New Hampshire, Vermont’s Green Mountains offer more choices of ski resorts. Learn more about them in our Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Vermont article.
- Skiing in the East : Other parts of New England and neighboring New York offer more great skiing, detailed in our article Top-Rated Ski Resorts on the East Coast.
- Ski West : If you’re thinking about heading west for a ski vacation, check out our articles Top-Rated Utah Ski Resorts, The Best Colorado Ski Resorts, and The Best Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts.
- Ski Europe : If you enjoy skiing in the Alps or the Dolomites, our articles Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Italy, Best Ski Resorts in Austria, Best Ski Resorts in Switzerland and Best Ski Resorts in France will help you plan your next European winter vacation.