Soon after waking up at 7am, I fired up my computer to check conditions. Things did not look too bad until I stuck my head out the door, and boy was it cold! I slacked off until about 9am when I decided that I might as well give it a shot. After my powder day at Saddleback on Thursday, I knew I was in for disappointment, but I figured it would at least be worth the drive. Not so much.
Jay Peak’s woods would not be very skiable after the rain compiled with a hard freeze. I still had a voucher for Loon and suspected a ski area with good grooming would be the best option. But not even Loon’s grooming could save the day!
Driving up to a relatively empty mountain was the first sure sign of trouble. Loon is never that uncrowded at 10am on a sunny Saturday morning. The Sherman Adams Lodge was sporting high school racers who either already finished their run or were waiting for their run, I could not tell. But I could tell that even these racers would rather be indoors than taking a free run, ouch.
Originally, I was planning on returning to Cannon Mountain for a Tuesday Two-fer, but changed plans to ski at Loon with Greg from AlpineZone.com. Having skied with Greg once before, I knew we would have a fantastic time skiing together despite the limited expert and natural snow terrain at Loon; which barely missed out on the foot and a half Cannon received over the weekend due to notch effect snow. The company more than made up for lack of challenging terrain as we ripped up the expert level groomers on Loon’s North Peak.
We started the morning by ascending the Seven Brothers Triple Chairlift and skiing down to the North Peak Express Quad where we would spend most of the morning skiing the groomed expert terrain the lift services. Skiing the trails Right to Left, we started by making a quick cruising run down Walking Boss before proceeding to ski under the liftline on Flume. Finally, we took Sunset to Angel Street and decided that Angel Street definitely was the most fun and had the best snow. We would return often to Angel Street throughout the morning.
Today was a perfect day to take advantage of a free ticket to Loon. My dad and I arrived at 8:30 A.M. to a nearly empty parking next to the mountainside rentals building. Governor Adams base lodge was similarly vacant. My expectations of a light weekend crowd due to the holiday proved correct with ski on lift lines all day on the Kancamagus Quad with only the ticket scanners holding up the line. Ski on lifts all day on the East Basin Double and ski on past noontime on the North Peak Quad with very short waits before noon. Gondola was walk on until 9 A.M. and a four minute wait at 9:30 A.M. Given the short lift lines, the trails still exhibited quite a bit of traffic. I can not imagine this place on a weekend!
Loon is amazingly dedicated to the bumps and puts a lot of mountains to shame with the amount of bump coverage, especially considering their resorty image. That said, most of the bumps sucked this afternoon. Bumps on skier’s left of Lower Flume were firm and scrapped. Same for bumps over on Lower Rumrunner where lines were better and less scraped but still poor conditions. The short bump pitch under the Gondola on Picaroon was a cool idea for introducing bumps to the intermediate skier. But this short bump shot was also scraped and firm. Bumps under the Double Chair lacked good lines and were spread out (i.e. slip slider formed bumps) so I stayed skier’s right under the lift where the snow was softer. Triple Trouble was a treat with good lines. Bumps were on the larger size and still rather firm but not too bad. Definitely the best bumps of the day. Triple Trouble reminds me a little of Middle Hardscrabble at cannon with its twists and unrelenting bumps.
The UMass Lowell Ski Team held races at Loon on the weekend of January 29nd-30th. Due to skier rotation, I was only to race in the GS on Saturday. Thus, I had the day off from racing on Sunday to explore Loon. Loon has well earned it’s reputation as one of the most crowded resorts in New England. On Saturday, I nearly had a heart attack waiting twenty minutes in line for the Kancamagus High Speed Quad, minutes before I needed to prep for a race! Sadly, Loon’s proximity to the Boston Metro area and low priced season pass means the over crowding of Loon will continue.
This is disappointing, because Loon does offer up some fun Expert Terrain in it’s East Basin area. Trails such as Flume, Triple Trouble, and Angel Street are super runs and glades such as Mike’s Woods are amongst New Hampshire’s finest. However, with Loon’s tendency to be quite crowded, these slopes can get skied off very quickly. They are best enjoyed mid-week after a significant snow storm. But for a slightly longer drive, better options abound for mid-week powder days!
Fortunately for myself, on Sunday (my off racing day), a rain/ice storm had moved in creating abysmal skiing weather. Why you ask was this fortunate? Because it kept skiers away from the mountain! The warm weather and rain softened up the scraped and icy snow, making for some fine skiing conditions. I was actually quite happy to have the day off on a Slalom day any ways!
Serious skiers at Loon should avoid the Kancamagus High Speed Quad and Gondola at all costs. Trails off the chairs in the East Basin offer up the best trails on the mountain. Trails off the Quad and Gondola are almost exclusively blue square cruisers that attract the most skiers.