I just had a blast on the slopes for some quality spring snowboarding at Mount Sunapee this past weekend. Only an hour and a half drive from Boston and nestled in the northern tip of Sunapee State Park right next to Lake Sunapee, you have to check this place out for some early spring fun in the sun before you hang up your gear for the season. With cheap lift tickets and the resort’s 19th annual Intergalactic Cardboard Sled Race coming up this Saturday, April 10th, you really don’t have an excuse to miss out.
At the base:
Upon driving up to the base of the mountain, I loved being welcomed by such a large, open area. The two large lodges, Spruce and Sunapee, on either side of the parking lot, coupled with four chairlifts delivering skiers and snowboarders onto the main part of the resort efficiently split up the crowds and enable everyone to hit the slopes promptly. Furthermore, the beginner section, isolated from the rest of the facility, is also connected to the base with its own set of lifts and trails. Not only does this shrink lift lines across the base (and I really didn’t experience those anyway), but it gives beginners a space to work on the basics without speed demons flying past all the time and it also frees up the easier trails on the primary area of the mountain from those long, winding ski/snowboard school chains that we all hate having to dodge around each turn.
By lunch time, the base took on an awesome tailgating atmosphere as lots of people brought out grills, tents, music, and tables from the adjacent parking lot that runs right onto the snow. It was an energizing sight and one that I’ve rarely seen at east coast resorts.
As one suggestion for improvement, the base area is so long that a simple rope tow or two would really help patrons get between lifts, especially for snowboarders since we can’t skate like skiers. When having to go slightly uphill from lift B, Spruce Triple, which services the park (more to come on this baby below), to lift E, Sunapee Express, which goes to the summit, any mechanical help here would make the ~300 yard journey far more enjoyable!
On the mountain:
Overall, I was very impressed with Mount Sunapee’s layout, terrain and trail diversity, length of runs, and lack of flat, connector sections that snowboarders dread. As I mentioned, I ran into very few lift lines, and once on the chairs, I was so pleased to find that most of the mountain’s lifts have foot rests. They offered a welcome break to anyone feeling fatigue from shredding up heavy spring snow, but especially to snowboarders, whose gear all hangs from one foot that begs for relief. I spent the morning on lift A, Sunbowl Quad, which delivered me to a collection of wide, uncrowded cruisers (some featured below), all of which presented fantastic views of beautiful Lake Sunapee from top to bottom. With the longest ride time of any lift at the resort, I wish the area had a high-speed quad here.
I enjoyed a delicious lunch of clam chowder, honey BBQ baby ribs, and chicken tenders (what? I was hungry from the spring snow!) at the impressive Summit Lodge, which, true to its name, is built right at the pinnacle of the mountain and offers breathtaking views for its dining customers. In the warm sun that I was lucky enough to enjoy, I ate outside on the second story deck and could easily see mountains way over in Vermont, including the rival beast Killington. For colder days, the lodge is warmed with the help of an expansive wood burning fireplace and sizeable stone chimney. From there, I dedicated the afternoon to tearing it up on black diamonds and blue squares (see details below) serviced by the high-speed quad lift E, Sunapee Express. Utilizing this lift, I logged a ton of quality runs on cruisers, rollers, and moguls that all got my adrenaline flowing. I wish the double black diamond glades like Ridge Glades and Summit Glades were open, but I respected the “Trail Closed” signs and ropes and vow to return to them next season before the snow has begun to melt. I finished off my wonderful day of spring shredding in the park, which I’ll describe in the next section.
Trails worth noting and exploring:
Upper Blast-Off – The lip on the drop in to this trail makes it worth several runs in itself, but continue down it and you’ll be thrilled to find numerous rollers that don’t require much speed to get you airborne. There is a close series of 4 consecutive rollers that are particularly sweet.
Upper/Outer/Lower Ridge – One of the longest runs on the mountain, I loved how hard you could carve this one up. Its winding, snake-like setup also makes this a fun trail to explore many times via different lines.
Upper/Middle/Lower Wingding – This long, wide cruiser lets you pick up serious speed from the start with a steep drop in. Combine that with the views of Lake Sunapee and you have the east coast equivalent of a run at Heavenly resort overlooking Lake Tahoe.
Skyway Ledges/Skyway – The beginning of this slope (featured in the picture) offers you some of the best views of Lake Sunapee and the resort’s North Peak. It quickly becomes steep and after launching off the lip onto Skyway, you’re then on the widest trail of the mountain, a sick cruiser.
Eastside Terrain Park – This mini-park opens up with a medium sized half pipe and then brings you to a massive spine and quarter pipe, one of the biggest combinations of its kind that I’ve ever come across.
6IX-0-THRE3 Terrain Park – Even if you don’t ride park, you’ve got to check out this place. Serviced by its own triple chair that divides the park into two sections, one with XL features and the other more medium sized kickers, boxes, rails, and spines, it also keeps you pumped up and aggressive from top to bottom with its 4,000 watt sound system blasting down on you from the trees. As for the XL side, I’ve hit some big stuff before, but Sunapee’s menu included a couple kickers off which I couldn’t partake. Scary!
When it was sadly time to call it a day, I had to keep the party going and check out what après-ski Mount Sunapee had to offer. While the tailgating culture on the snow at the base was still going on from when I first experienced it around lunch, I decided to head into Spruce Lodge to Goosefeathers Pub. While it lacked the cozy feel of some ski resort bars, the wooden interior was definitely a plus. They had a few decent microbrews on tap and I opted to go with a Switchback Ale to compliment my beer-battered onion rings, which were hot, greasy, and the perfect end to a day of spring skiing. I also let myself try the drink of the day, which was a very sweet raspberry margarita made by an incredibly nice bartender. Although the pub had a few TVs, including a very big one and one in HD, a few more HD screens would have been ideal to have around the large bar area, especially with March Madness going on!
Lodging and other amenities:
I stayed at the Sunapee Lake Lodge (www.sunapeelakelodge.com ), a larger, well maintained Best Western branch that while only a minute from the mountain, lacked in ski décor to distinguish itself. On the other hand, the large indoor pool was a fantastic surprise for stretching out sore muscles and we were told by the staff that guests could also access the hot tub at the lodge across the street. If only I had the strength to get over the road and up the hill! I ate a filling, tasty dinner next door at Digby’s Steakhouse and Saloon for a reasonable price. In addition to a good grouping of microbrews up for grabs, live music (if only I like Jimmy Buffett cover bands!), and a pool table downstairs, the restaurant also employs an award-winning Irish chef. Unfortunately, he was in Boston the night I dined there, but my Caesar salad followed by Guinness stew were quite good and wonderfully presented, regardless of who may have prepared them for me!
Looking back, Mount Sunapee offered a diverse, chill, yet thrilling setting to get fully immersed in some quality spring skiing. Despite the glades not having enough snow to remain open, the resort has more than enough trails with plenty of snow to keep you curious and entertained all day. You definitely need to hit this place up this spring, before it’s too late!
I would like to thank Bruce McCloy and Ross Malaguti for their help in allowing me to review Mount Sunapee.