Bretton Woods 2/23/14

Date of visit: 2/23/14 (or for most of the rest of the world 23/2/14 :grin: )
Conditions: PP/FG

The rest of my family headed out of town for a couple of days so this was a solo trip. I originally planned on going to Burke, but I had heard that Saturday's conditions had some icy crud, so I thought that I would give Bretton Woods a try. I took advantage of the $25 local resident rate available on Sunday afternoons.

The mountain was VERY busy. I parked out in the middle of nowhere in what felt like one of the last parking spots. There was a huge youth race going on with a couple of hundred youth racers and their families. I assumed that people would be getting back to southern New England after a vacation week, but apparently I was wrong.

I was on the mountain by 12:15. I get annoyed when ski areas don't have good top-to-bottom lifts and Bretton Woods is a good example. IMHO, this is one of the major achilles heels of this ski area.

Let's get one thing stated early: Bretton Woods is flat. Very flat. There are some areas with steep pitches, but these are generally short dips in a trail that flattens out. The blue trails were less steep than average, although this depended to a large degree on the trail itself. I felt that a couple of blue trails should have been marked as green trails but weren't for marketing purposes.

I rode the Bethlehem Express quad to the Rosebrook Summit Express quad. To warm up I took a leisurely trip down Two Miles Home. Either my sense of distance is bad, or this trail is not nearly two miles. It was quite flat for a blue trail.

From that point on I tried to explore the mountain, this being my first time at Bretton Woods. Sometime after 1:00 PM I noticed that the Zephyr quad was only loading every other chair. At 1:30, I was the next person to go in the singles line and the chair stopped entirely. They quickly sent everyone elsewhere and stated that the chair would not be reopening. I am VERY glad that I did not make it onto the chair. A long time later I noticed at the top of the chair that they were still unloading people with the chair moving at a glacial pace.

I took one trip on the Fabyan's Express triple chair. How this chair can have the word "Express" in its title is a mystery to me. It is a slow fixed triple. For pretty much the rest of the day I skied the West Mountain area. The snow was the best in this area, particularly on Starr King and Waumbek even late into the afternoon. While skiing in this area was fun, it felt like skiing at a small ski area. The wait for the chair here was pretty minimal. While I avoided the bottom of the mountain because of the closure of the Zephyr chair, I really cant say that I saw a wait that was more than a few minutes. Most waits on the lesser skied chairs were only a minute or two.

I was quite impressed with the glades at Bretton Woods. While I don't fancy myself as a glade skier, even I took a shot at skiing in the trees. For a developing glade skier, I think that Bretton Woods has a lot to offer. Moguls were a rare site, although one trail had some excellent smaller bumps for learning.

I was EXTREMELY impressed with the condition of the snow. We had a major warmup and even had rain two days prior. Nonetheless, I thought that conditions were absolutely fantastic. Depending on where you were on the mountain it was packed powder or something between packed powder and frozen granular. Only at the very base did it start to feel a little like loose granular.

One word of caution. Since Bretton Woods faces north, the light got very flat in the afternoon as the shadows took over the mountain. This made for some trickier skiing later in the day.

Would I go back? I would with my family of upper-beginner skiers, but I doubt I would if it is just me. While I like skiing groomers, I was not a fan of the layout of mountain. I felt that I had to ski the chairs, rather than the chairs letting me ski the mountain. Most of the skiing felt like it was straight up the chair and straight down the hill. Bretton Woods is built on a ridge, so everything felt linear. Bretton Woods may be big from side to side, but it doesn't ski big at all. I don't really see why people think it's worth the drive since it skis a lot like southern New Hampshire ski areas - especially since there is no ski town at the bottom of the hill. But I will say this... Bretton Woods puts a lot of effort into its product, and I can't imagine anyone else delivering better conditions on that mountain. Their grooming was top notch. It was not until the very end of the day that I started feeling like a lot of places were skied off, and this was on a very busy day.

Who would like Bretton Woods?
1) Beginning or intermediate families. Even though it's a large area, parents won't feel that their children will get lost if they go out on their own. The grooming is top notch.
2) Occasional skiers
3) Skiers wanting to work on skiing in glades

Who would not like Bretton Woods?
1) Skiers who like steep terrain.
2) Skiers who like top-to-bottom skiing.
3) Skiers who like moguls.

To be honest, compared to Burke, Bretton Woods is a better choice for my family to get a season pass at next year. (They just took up skiing this year.) But we live 15 minutes from Burke and 45 minutes from Bretton Woods. With busy schedules, that extra half an hour makes a lot of difference. For that reason alone I think we will get passes to Burke next year.

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