Long And Winding Runs. Great Views.

Getting ready for spring skiing at Tuckerman. Credit: Tamsin Venn

It was serendipity to arrive at Wildcat in the northern Presidential Mountains of New Hampshire the first week in March and find spring skiing. Many of us missed that part of the ski season last year in the pandemic shut-downs.

Due to its north facing slopes and deep snowpack, Wildcat usually is the last ski area to close in New Hampshire. This year it’s April 18.

While there, temps shot up to 66 degrees. Wildcat is not always so hospitable. It sits across the street from weather magnet Mt. Washington, tallest peak in the Northeast at 6,288 feet, and highest recorded wind speed 231 mph.

Away we go down Upper Catapult. Credit: Tamsin Venn

This year we were on the lookout for non-crowded midweek slopes, a friendly local atmosphere, and no state travel restrictions for us. Wildcat fit the bill.

The L-shaped parking area minimizes the schlep to the main lodge. Boot up from your tail gate, tiptoe across the icy parking lot, hike past four new, neon-colored porta-potties, get your RFID card zapped, and hop onto the Wildcat Express Quad. Seven minutes later, in one of the swiftest trips in skidom, you have reached the summit.

For several hours I lapped the Express Quad, zipping up-down-up, alternating from the left to the right flank on long, winding trails of 2,100 vertical feet. The trails draw you down as the head and shoulders of Mt. Washington rise. It’s like being in a movie… with good lighting.

Snow was corn, sweet, smooth. My left-foot steering was working as well as my right, always a good sign. Around 11, soft conditions required maneuvering into skied-off slots to save on thigh burn. Clearly early-morning skiing is best for spring skiing, even at a north facing mountain. But when I left early afternoonish, the parking lot was jammed. Spring fever had hit.

Although it has a reputation as an expert’s mountain, Wildcat has beginner terrain (20 percent)—Pole Cat is a 2.5 mile beginner trail, longest in New Hampshire—(see video article in this issue)— intermediate terrain (47 percent)—Lynx is a sweet roller with fun intermediate pitches—and expert terrain (33 percent)— famed black bump runs under the lift line. Midweek, you’ve got your turns to yourself and stress-free trail junctions.

The “cans” are display only. Credit: Tamsin Venn

Looking across to the top of Mt. Washington and thinking of spring skiing Tuckerman Ravine, you will always be grateful for the Express Quad that whips you to the area top at 4,028 feet. No hiking required. On wind holds, the Tomcat Triple gives you the bottom three-quarters.

When Vail Resorts bought Wildcat two years ago to add to its Epic mix, it took many by surprise. Wildcat is loved for its no-frills amenities and boot-scarred lodge, not exactly a Vail kind of place.

But a modern mega-resort corporation can’t erase the memories. My neighbor asked me:

“Does Wildcat still have those cold gondolas? When skiing there circa 1950s, the cable jammed [and] we near froze in the can in the hour it took to get them moving.  When people did emerge at the top, all the men ran for the bushes!  Anyway, it was exciting to ski there.”

It still is.

 

 

Click here for Wildcat Trail Map

Click Here for Wildcat Tickets

Click Here for Uphill Access

Click Here for Mountain Cams

 

3 Comments

  1. Great write up of a really good mountain. And that view of Mt Washington!!!!

  2. Avatar P R Doucette says:

    Nice article but I think your friend has a faulty memory of when he got stuck in a “can” as Wildcat didn’t open until 1958. I well remember those cans, particularly if someone had inadvertently rested their feet on the front window and caused the window to pop out, which were not often replaced and were the cans you hoped you didn’t get on cold or windy day.

  3. Avatar Keith Egan says:

    Visited in March 2020 and was a great experience about 4 days before COVID. One of our favorite places we skied in NE that trip. Snow was great on a beautiful sunny day.

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