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Bretton Woods 2/23/14

VTKilarney

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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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Savemeasammy

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Well... At least now you know...!


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mlkrgr

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Interesting BW was busy today. Went to Waterville and it was the slowest I've seen the resort on a weekend.
 

VTKilarney

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Interesting BW was busy today. Went to Waterville and it was the slowest I've seen the resort on a weekend.

I didn't have a frame of reference, but I can't imagine parking any farther out than I did. The base area was really busy. Overall the lines weren't that bad. They were worst at the base, but they were still no more than a few minutes. I'm really not sure what happened when the Zephyr quad went down since I avoided the base area at that point.
 

billski

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I've been hearing/seeing the crowds remark a lot this weekend. I suppose the "snow in the backyard" syndrome is in full force, it's vacation week in So.NE and the rain on Th probably caused some pent up demand. Sounds like the winds were whipping on top and they were managing the lift to that.

When my kids were between zero and eight we spent a lot of time at BW, largely due to the terrain, grooming and lack of people. It billed itself as "low stress skiing." It was then and still feels that way. I still love their lodge, even after the renovations.

I'm curious regarding your "flat" comment, lift speed and top to bottom transport. What areas are you comparing BW against.
 

VTKilarney

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The "flat" comment was meant to convey that Bretton Woods is generally less steep than other northern NH areas.

I didn't mind the overall lift speed. A couple of chairs were slow and fixed, but they have a lot of detachable quads. Bretton Woods does fine in that department. My concern was the placement of the lifts. I found myself skiing half the mountain much more often than the whole mountain because I stuck to the West Mountain and Rosebrook chairs. It also annoyed me to no end that the Bethlehem chair did not go all the way to the summit. Perhaps this was more irritating than normal since the Zephyr chair was closed.

The Zephyr chair was not down due to wind. It was a mechanical issue. I'm not sure exactly what the issue was, but it was clearly mechanical in nature given the work that was going on.
 

(china>)rider

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I was there yesterday too, with my boys. The Sunday between the two vacation weeks (MA/NH) is generally the slowest Sunday of the year. Since my boys got season passes with their equipment lease from Zimmerman's, I decided it would be the perfect day trip. I was slightly disappointed when I saw how many people were there, but luckily once we started skiing it wasn't too bad. We searched for green runs most of the day, and we did run into a few icy areas. The worst part of the day was being in line twice for Zephyr, and having it close. Luckily the lines at the other lift were organized and went quick. I do agree that BW needs better summit access. That got frustrating. But the good part about switching lifts is that it forced my kids to explore new trails. They were having too much fun trying the mini slalom area on Range View to go anywhere else. They also really enjoyed the mini snowmobiling area at the end of the day.

BW is the perfect mountain for inexperienced skiers. One of my boys had never been to any summit, so yesterday that was a big deal for him. It was great to have so many trails on a big mountain for them.
 

hammer

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The one Saturday we went was last year in March. Thought the crowds would be less because it was after vacation weeks but the place was very busy. Had a lot of fun poking around in the trees near the T bar. Most other trails were, for the most part, pretty mellow, and I would agree that the place does ski smaller than it's trail count would lead one to believe.

Did like the area but it's too far for a day trip, and if I am staying up that way I'd rather go to Wildcat.

Also been seeing a lot of remarks about crowds and I'm glad we didn't bother this weekend and that we went to Whaleback over President's Day weekend.
 

VTKilarney

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I do want to be clear about one thing. I don't think you could ask for a better ski area for beginners and intermediates than Bretton Woods. I feel like I my trip report may have lost sight of this fact. This is why I am really struggling with my season pass purchase for next year. For my family, it's got great terrain.
 

from_the_NEK

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A big reason for the snow preservation you saw at BW is due to the fact that most of it is low pitched. The lower angles don't force skiers to edge hard in order to control their speed. It is a very easy mountain to just link gradual turns together without doing a lot of speed checks. This means the snow surface doesn't get scraped down as quickly. And 2 Miles Home is actually about 2 miles long.
 

LiquidFeet

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The way to make BWoods fun if you are bored on the groomers is stay in the woods. A season pass will give you time to do that, but you'll only be able to enjoy the woods runs once they fill up. Those runs are short, but you can find difficult runs off the map.

Before enough natural snow falls, you'll have to enjoy the groomers. Work on technique while waiting, and do the Nastar race course.
 

thetrailboss

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Nice TR. You make some interesting points.

Lifts: I think it would be a VERY different place if the Bethlehem Express, for example, went to the top. They've (intentionally) laid out their lifts so that you need to ride two to get to the top. Years ago before the other HSQ's it kind of made sense because the pitch above the Top O' Quad is a bit steeper than below, so newbies would be intimidated.

Yep, it is flat. Very flat. It is fun for ego cruisers.

The Fabyan's Express Triple: I never got that either.

Two Miles Home: back in the day it was their version of the East Bowl...way out in the middle of nowhere. Not so much anymore. I last skied BW in 2011 and there is WAY more development out on that side of the mountain. I would not be surprised if the trail was rerouted in sections.

Bretton Woods was probably crowded, in part, because of the $25 promo. They've been doing that for years. Very popular with locals.

As to Burke vs. BW: it is really apples and oranges. Burke has old school terrain, much less traffic, steeper pitches, and more vertical. More terrain variety as well. BW has better lifts I'd say, better snowmaking and grooming, better cruisers, longer season, better lodges, better service, and a very scenic location. I'd say they get a bit more snow. It really depends on what you want. For a while BW was gunning to be the Deer Valley of the east. Then that ownership sold it to Omni and now they are just quietly running it.
 

dlague

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Interesting BW was busy today. Went to Waterville and it was the slowest I've seen the resort on a weekend.

Bummer, I planned on going to WV in the morning yesterday due to a family function in the afternoon, but my wife thought that we might be cramming too much in a single day. Oh well!

RE: Bretton Woods.

We go there a couple times per season using the Coos County resident rate with my Brother-in-law. It is like you said, nothing too exciting abut it is fun on days where there are fewer people and you can just let it rip! The deck is nice fro spring skiing days! Their chair system helps to keep lift lines shorter and crowds distributed (kinda reminds me of Sunday River or Okemo in that sense).
 

yeggous

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Bretton Woods has been out of control crowded all year. The free season pass giveaway for the kids has been a stunning success for them but has driven me elsewhere.

I was at Cranmore on Saturday and that was super crowded. I will never again return to Cranmore on school vacation week. In stark contrast Cannon was dead on Sunday. I was stunned how few people were there... I guess they all went to BW.


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