Badass – Loon Mountain, New Hampshire

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On top of Loon Mtn. Photo credit: fineartamerica. It was too dang cold to get my own camera out. 

With all due respect to my friends who waltz down powder-filled snowbowls in Colorado, Utah or Canada, you are not a badass skier until you ski with me and my friend Wendy in any list of icy, bitterly cold or sometimes rainy, Northeast mountains. To be truly badass, you have to look at a weather report that appears on your phone the night before, and say: let’s do this!

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Please note that the snow prediction of 8-12 inches was completely arbitrary. We got flurries. We got wind gusts. We got the cold, big time.

It is true that Wendy and I have incredibly bad luck on weather on the three weekends we have met during the last three years. Year 1 at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine involved -20 windchill one day followed by warm rain the next, Year 2 also at Sugarloaf involved bare spots on various trails followed sheer ice that you literally could not stop on and then windchill. And now we had Loon, which was shaping up to be the “best” one yet.

Loon is the closest big mountain to Boston and therefore gets a great deal of ski traffic. We left early on Friday and lucked out until we hit the mountains where dense fog made me more than a little tense. I still need to find and thank the owner of a late-model Volvo SUV whose curvy red tail lights led me out of danger. Even in dense fog, however, there are more than a few Massholes who are hitting 70 mph and tailgating. I don’t understand how they live on. Perhaps Darwin is wrong.

Anyway, the car’s temperature gauge showed an outside temp of 55 degrees. I probably don’t need to clarify this but this is not good news on the night before a skiing adventure. And it had rained most of the morning and was still drizzling. Well, what can you do? If you’re a New Englander like Wendy and me (both Connecticut-bred), you shrug and claim to be weather independent. While secretly cursing.

Overnight the temperature dropped. In the morning, our two cars were firmly encased in ice. We’re not talking a film of ice. We are talking get out your ice ax. After breakfast and layering up — I looked roughly like the Michelin man – we attacked the cars. Always a joy getting sweaty before heading out.

The first sign that we were truly badass was the availability of parking right next to the lodge at 9:30 am. Normally you have to park in Zimbabwe at that hour and take a shuttle. Unfortunately that left spaces open right next to the roaring rapids that was the river after the day before’s melt-off. Nothing makes me queasier than rushing water and big waves (well, salted cod, but that’s another issue). We trekked our stuff to the outdoor ticket windows (seriously ski mountains, that is just mean) where there were no lines.

This is where I will put my first ode to Loon. Wait, I don’t remember how to do an ode. Anyway, when we struggled to the windows with all of our skis, poles, boots, mittens, sherpa fur skins, pineapples (just checking if you’re still reading), a giant gust straight out of hell if hell were to be in Siberia practically blew us flat…and three nice Loon employees came over and asked if they could help. Happily. More gusts. Still happy. Welcome to Loon.

After a short problem with my pre-bought lift tickets (the ticket agent first looked at my itinerary number and said–you’re supposed to be at Sunday River (that’s in Maine)– and I said no, I am supposed to be in Hawaii but here I am so please can I get out of this raging snow cyclone and put on my ski boots so I can walk like a Storm Trooper? And just as I am getting cranky, the father with his small kids behind me says to them “today’s going to be a great day! Tomorrow is going to be cold” and I realized there are people more nutto badass than me.

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Lodge fun

Ski lodges are not for the wimpy either. Well, maybe really chic mountains have those lodges with open couches around the roaring fireplaces and hot toddies at 9 am. This one does not. You must battle through rows of benches and long tables to find a place to put on more layers of clothes, struggle to put on your tight stupid ski boots (and consider murdering and stealing from the guy next to you who shows you his battery-pack heated snow boots–they looked like my size) and break into a huge sweat right before you go out in the arctic chill. Gah! I like this sport, right?

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So my kids are pretty new to skiing given that they spent their first six years in Brazil and Miami. So we were over on the bunny slopes with magic carpet rides and slow chair lifts. It is, in fact, superbly entertaining. I like watching people keel over in slow motion on the magic carpet. I like the inevitable on-your-butt crashes (relax, folks, these are people going under 1 mph and no chance of injury). I love the teeny weeny kids wearing little backpacky things with handles so their parents can just yank them into standing position. I do wish, however, that they would give badass names to the baby trails so you don’t have to say “yeah, we skied on Snubber.” No, you want to say “wow, Anaconda trail was hell today–and don’t even talk to me about Venom Hill”. Just a marketing idea, Loon.

So to make this marginally about the place and not about me (haha), I will say that Loon is a pleasure. Pretty good snow given the situation. Reasonably fast lifts even the baby Anaconda-Snubber-Grumpy Cat whatever lift. Friendly staff making the best of the situation. There were Loon employees everywhere. Sitting at our table at lunch, talking about which mountains have the best candy (Loon), picking up my kids ski poles when they dropped them at the lift takeoff, three working with each assisted-skiing client. Massively staffed.

The lodge food was just fine. Chili, mac & cheese, bread bowls and chicken fingers with fries. It’s not going to win any Michelin stars nor should it. It is what it is: now get back out there and freeze your toots off.

We took a couple of long intermediate runs without the kids and they were really quite nice. Nicey Icy of course. Hello, we are in New England. If there was ever powder here, it would look like Washington DC in a half-inch of snow–everyone would crash. We wouldn’t know what to do with it.

Snowmaking is impressive at Loon, and on our second day, they had recovered quite a bit from the rain (one instructor told us they had had 2 1/2 inches  of rain on Friday which would be the kiss of death for many a mountain). But let’s be 100% honest here. At 2 pm, we gave up. We ran away. The badasses ran right to the One Love Brewery in Lincoln and had a flight of beer. And then we badassed our way back to the condo, a nap, and some even went bravely on to the indoor pool and spa at Loon Mountain Club.

Loon-a-tics. Can’t wait to go again.

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