12 Top-Rated Ski Resorts in New Hampshire, 2021

Written by Barbara Radcliffe Rogers
Nov 17, 2020

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New Hampshire's White Mountains include the tallest peaks in the northeastern United States, and the elevation, plus the northern latitude, assures plenty of natural snow. Early and late in the season, and to tide over the occasional winter thaw, state-of-the-art snowmaking and grooming equipment keeps the trails and slopes in A-1 condition all winter.

An advantage of planning a ski vacation in New Hampshire is that many of the major ski resorts are close to one another, so skiers can experience several different mountains during one trip.

This is particularly true of the Mount Washington Valley. Its central town of North Conway, something of a ski legend for its place in the history of recreational skiing, is a tourist attraction itself, with an abundance of off-slope activities and one of New England's best shopping scenes. Skiers with more time can combine skiing in New Hampshire with nearby Vermont ski resorts.

Skiing in New Hampshire
Skiing in New Hampshire

Changes for the 2020/2021 Ski Season in New Hampshire: In response to recent public safety concerns, New Hampshire ski resorts have made some changes this season to protect guests and staff. Statewide guidelines assure some consistency, but each resort may have additional changes to suit their own facilities.

At all, staff and guests must wear face coverings inside buildings, except when eating or drinking; in lift lines; and when loading, riding, and unloading from lifts; and where six-foot distancing is impossible.

At many, tickets must be purchased in advance instead of at a ticket window. Once there, traffic patterns may be changed to allow for physical distancing, and access to base lodges and other indoor facilities may be limited. Be sure to check the resort's website for their policies before planning a trip.

NH ski resorts represent a tremendous variety of styles and price ranges, from purpose-built ski villages to charmingly laid-back resorts that families return to generation after generation - and everything in between. Some are remote, away from any après-ski scene, while others have created full-service villages right at the base.

Some are perfect for families, others are designed for skiers seeking real challenges. Some offer a bit of both - one of the steepest verticals in the state is at the most family-friendly resort. All these considerations have been weighed in the following ratings, so be sure to read our list of the best ski resorts in New Hampshire.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Bretton Woods

Bretton Woods

Bretton Woods | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers Photography

Facing Mount Washington across a wide valley, Bretton Woods Resort is the largest ski resort in the state and the most upscale. The resort's 62 trails, 35 glades, and three terrain parks add up to 464 skiable acres served by 10 lifts, including four high-speed quads. New Hampshire's first eight-passenger Gondola, traveling at a speed of 1,200-feet per minute, debuts for the 2019-2020 ski season.

Bottom-of-the mountain activities provide a lot of things to do for the whole family, with a climbing wall at the base lodge, a zipline tour, dedicated fat bike trails and rentals, and one of the state's most extensive cross-country trail networks.

What skiers remember most are the views from Bretton Woods trails on a clear day. The summit of Mt. Washington, encrusted in frost, fills the horizon, with the red rooftops and towers of the largest of the remaining White Mountain grand hotels - part of the same resort complex- stretching at its foot.

With a north/northeastern exposure, an average annual snowfall of more than 200 inches, and snowmaking covering 97 percent of its trails, Bretton Woods is normally open from early-November to mid-April. It is consistently rated among the highest in the east for snow conditions.

Bretton Woods has night skiing on Friday and Saturday evenings, and several money-saving specials, such as 2-4-1 Wednesdays and a combined Zip & Ski Ticket. Skiers can also take advantage of ski-and-stay package deals with the Omni Mount Washington Resort, where there is a full-service spa, swimming pool, and other recreation facilities.

Only a few miles away, Adair Country Inn offers luxury rooms and fine dining in an elegant former summer estate.

Address: Route 302, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.brettonwoods.com/winter_sports/alpine/overview

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Bretton Woods

2. Loon Mountain

Loon Mountain

Loon Mountain

Loon Mountain is the closest full-service ski resort to Interstate-93 (it's less than 10 minutes away). Its 61 trails, in two sections of the White Mountain National Forest, spread across three peaks, with 2,100 feet of vertical drop and terrain for all ski and snowboard levels. The terrain parks are especially varied, with parks designed for very young beginners, intermediate cruisers, and experts.

Most of its slopes and trails face north, which combine with more than 650 high-efficiency snow guns to assure Loon a long ski season, even when temperatures are marginal. More than three million dollars investment in the past few years has boosted the efficiency of New Hampshire's most powerful snowmaking system, and this season sees 50 more semi-automated snowmaking hydrants on major trails.

The Adventure Center at the base area offers snow tubing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, and a zipline ride over the frozen river that runs past the base. Guided snowshoe tours for various skills include one of the Loon Mountain summit, with the option of returning to the base on the gondola or on snowshoes. Money-saving season passes include special rates for those for ages 19-29 and ages 65-79, along with the Loon Sunday Pass.

On-mountain lodging is right at the foot of the lifts for ski-in-ski-out convenience, especially appealing this season with limited boot-up spaces. The Mountain Club on Loon is a full-service hotel/base lodge, with rooms and suites, restaurants, parking, a swimming pool, and spa all under one roof within a few yards of the gondola loading point. A new option nearby is the luxury RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain.

Address: 60 Loon Mountain Road, Lincoln, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.loonmtn.com/

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Loon Mountain

3. Cranmore Mountain and North Conway

Cranmore Mountain and North Conway

Cranmore Mountain and North Conway | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers Photography

Since the glory days of early recreational skiing in the 1930s, when the famous Ski Trains brought eager skiers from Boston and New York to the elegant Victorian railway station almost at the foot of Cranmore Mountain, North Conway has been a ski town.

But it's a lot more now, with one of New England's largest collections of brand-name outlet stores just outside its compact village center. The combination of skiing; shopping; and a variety of lodging, dining, and après-ski options makes North Conway one of New England's top ski resort towns - along with one of its most affordable.

Skiers have several other mountains within easy reach, and there is more than enough to keep non-skiers busy here. Hotels and cozy B&Bs, like Kearsarge Inn and Cranmore Inn are steps from the lively main street, and nearby Stonehurst Manor offers the option of country-house charm or family-sized condos.

Cranmore Mountain overlooks the town, with 57 trails and nine lifts accessing more than 200 skiable acres. Most slopes and trails face west, for long, sunny afternoons and knock-out views of Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range.

Trails and lifts are suited to all skill levels, with excellent beginner and intermediate terrain and several serious challenges for experts. Cranmore is well known for its innovative ski instruction program and for its family-friendly activities, which include the Mountain Coaster, Giant Swing, Soaring Eagle Zip Line, and an outstanding multi-lane tubing park in the Cranmore Mountain Adventure Center, open daily.

Like other New Hampshire ski resorts, Cranmore is steadily lowering its environmental impact, with a diesel-electric driven groomer and vehicle charging stations.

For the 2021 season, Cranmore is reducing the number of day lift tickets sold on any given day to allow for appropriate social distancing, and all tickets need to be purchased in advance online. Guests will not be allowed to store belongings in the base lodges and there will be no bag check; capacity will be limited in all slope-side dining venues, but additional outdoor dining areas and grab-and-go options are being added.

Address: 1 Skimobile Road, North Conway, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.cranmore.com

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Cranmore Mountain Resort

4. Mount Sunapee

Mount Sunapee

Mount Sunapee | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers Photography

Only 90 minutes from Boston and always listed among New England's top ski resorts for snowmaking and grooming, Mount Sunapee packs an astonishing amount of ski terrain onto its 1,500 feet of vertical.

The 66 trails are served by 10 lifts, including two high-speed quads to the summit. The Sunbowl Express whisks skiers and riders to the mountaintop in just over four minutes.

Snowboarders appreciate Bob Skinner's 603 Terrain Park, with 50 terrain features, a 4,000-watt sound system, and dedicated triple chair to access the park.

Already known for its exceptional snowmaking and grooming, Sunapee has added new grooming machines and a snowmaking pipe last year; more upgrades are underway as part of the multi-million-dollar investment by Vail, which acquired Mount Sunapee in late 2018.

With the Vail affiliation they are now among the mountains served by the various money-saving Epic Pass options: Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, Military Epic Pass, and Epic Day Pass.

Mount Sunapee installed RFID-enabled cards last year that replace traditional lift tickets; advance reservations are encouraged, and all transactions anywhere in the resort will be cashless this season. Lessons will need to be purchased in advance, and the resort will not be offering childcare.

Sunapee has for many years been a leader in adaptive skiing, with lessons provided by the New England Handicapped Sports Association for people of all ages and abilities. There is as yet no slope-side lodging, but the nearby Sunapee Lake Lodge offers good value for families and the Mountain Edge Resort & Spa has family-sized rooms with kitchenettes.

Address: Route 103, Newbury, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.mountsunapee.com/

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Mount Sunapee

5. Cannon Mountain

Cannon Mountain

Cannon Mountain

Overlooking Franconia Notch, Cannon Mountain is a state-owned ski area with some of the most challenging trails in the state. Olympic Gold Medalist Bode Miller learned his skills on this mountain, which is known for its steep and varied terrain. The 4,080-foot elevation of Cannon's summit seems to attract more snow than many other White Mountain areas. The ski terrain is networked by 81 trails and reached by 10 lifts.

Major investment in the past two years has upgraded the Aerial Tramway and all the chairlifts, as well as the energy-efficient snowmaking equipment installed last year, which reduces energy consumption and increases snowmaking significantly. This season brings added lift improvements and a $2.5 million upgrade to the Mountain Station building at the summit, and new groomer technology to serve Cannon's famously steep terrain.

The Tuckerbrook Family Area is separated a bit from the rest of the mountain, and Mittersill, a former ski area adjacent to Cannon Mountain, offers ungroomed natural snow for experts.

There are no on-mountain accommodations at this state park, but the nearby village of Franconia has several country inns and the family-owned Hillwinds Lodge.

Address: Franconia Notch Parkway, Franconia, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.cannonmt.com/

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Cannon Mountain

6. Attitash Mountain

Attitash Mountain

Attitash Mountain | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers Photography

A few miles north of North Conway, Attitash Mountain has 68 trails on two connected mountains. This and a policy of limiting the tickets sold daily keeps the lines reasonably short, even in the height of ski season. There is plenty of terrain designed for all levels of skiers, and experts will be challenged by the steepest trail in New Hampshire, more than 60 acres of glades for tree skiing, and alpine race trails.

At the other end of the skill spectrum, Attitash is especially welcoming to beginning skiers, who can ski free in the Learning Terrain area and ride the surface lift at the base of Attitash or Bear Peak.

Recent acquisition by Vail brings Attitash into the Epic Pass system, with several options that include other mountains in New Hampshire, Vermont, and elsewhere. Vail also has committed to investments in infrastructure at Attitash within the next few seasons.

As with other Vail properties, all transactions at Attitash will be cashless this season, and lessons must be reserved in advance; there will be no child care.

Lodgings near the base include condos and the Grand Summit Hotel at Attitash, or for more luxury the Bernerhof Inn is just down the road. Non-skiers enjoy the Nor'Easter Mountain Coaster on weekends and holidays.

Address: Route 302, Bartlett, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.attitash.com/

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Attitash Mountain Resort

7. King Pine

King Pine

King Pine | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers Photography

One of the sweetest little ski mountains in the northeast, King Pine is part of Purity Spring Resort, an old-fashioned family-oriented resort. Runs are short - the vertical is only 500 feet - but each one is a beautiful trail carved through pine woods, and they offer a surprising variety of terrain. The Twisted Pine terrain park challenges boarders, and the area for tree skiing is being expanded each year.

Until Attitash opened the trail over the ledges, King Pine claimed New Hampshire's steepest ski trail - a double-black diamond called Jack Pine. Snowmaking capability, which already covers 100 percent of the trails and terrain, was improved last year with the addition of 45 new high-efficiency, low-energy Snowmakers. Lines are almost non-existent, and skiers smile and make way for each other - the relaxed atmosphere seems to put everyone in a good mood.

Along with lodging and dining, the self-contained resort has cross-country trails, a tubing hill, and ice-skating, and it's close enough to the larger mountains in the Mt. Washington Valley that you can stay here and ski several others in the same vacation.

As expected at a family resort, the learning program is excellent, as are snow conditions and grooming. An alpine ski ticket also includes cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating.

An added perk this season to make up for the reduced lift capacity from social distancing, King Pine will remain open until 6pm every day, adding two full hours of skiing under lights.

Address: East Madison, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.kingpine.com/

Accommodation: Where to Stay near King Pine

8. Gunstock Mountain

Gunstock Mountain

Gunstock Mountain | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers Photography

With panoramic views over New Hampshire's largest lake, Gunstock Mountain makes the most of its 1,400-foot vertical drop, with 55 trails and 90 percent snowmaking coverage. Despite its size, there's a friendly home-town feel to the mountain and its large-and historic-base lodge.

Although its trails will challenge skiers of all skills, Gunstock is a particular favorite of families for its outstanding learning program and the separate slopes and lift where novice skiers can gain confidence before hitting a beginner-friendly trail from the top of the mountain.

For the 2019-2020 season, Gunstock has spent in excess of $1 million on improvements, adding more high-efficiency snowmaking equipment and groomers, enhancing the Terrain and Freestyle Park.

Along with its snowmaking and grooming, Gunstock is always rated high for its night skiing, with five lifts serving 21 well-lit trails Tuesday through Saturday nights from late December through late March. In addition to skiing and riding, Gunstock has a tubing park and one of the nation's longest ziplines; a Mountain Coaster operates on weekends and holidays.

Along with being the closest major New Hampshire ski area to Boston, with easy access from both I-93 and I-95, Gunstock is appealing for its money-saving Flex Pass, offering a 50 percent discount on primetime and night lift tickets for the entire season, and its Golden Age passes that offer skiers over 70 a season pass for only $25.

Although there is no on-mountain lodging, The Summit Resort, six miles away in Laconia, has an indoor pool and family-sized rooms.

Address: 719 Cherry Valley Road (off Route 11-A), Gilford, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.gunstock.com/

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Gunstock Mountain Resort

9. Waterville Valley

Waterville Valley

Waterville Valley | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers Photography

The closest full-service resort to the Boston and Manchester airports, Waterville Valley Resort is completely self-contained, at the end of a cul-de-sac valley surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest.

Although it is one of the smaller ski areas in terms of terrain, with only 255 skiable acres, 100 percent of the terrain is covered by snowmaking, and its south-facing slopes make it popular in the coldest months. The 50 trails are served by 11 lifts, so lines are usually short.

The Green Peak expansion continues, with completion of the new High Country T-Bar, whose low-to-the-ground design cuts ascent times in half. When completed, the Green Peak expansion will add 10 new trails and 45 new acres of skiing served by a new chairlift.

The purpose-built village near its base has a wide range of hotels, including the Golden Eagle Lodge, with condo suites and an indoor pool. Multiple dining options and activities, including ice-skating, a spa, swimming pools, sleigh and dogsled rides, and evening programs make Waterville a favorite for families.

Frequent free bus transport from the village lodging and activities to the slopes is an added advantage, especially for the 2021 season, when guests will no longer be able to store bags and boot up in the Base Lodge; parking lots and trolley services will be expanding, and ski-to access is being added on the perimeter of some parking areas.

Address: Route 49, Waterville Valley, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.waterville.com/

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Waterville Valley

10. Wildcat Mountain

Wildcat Mountain

Wildcat Mountain | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers Photography

Like Cannon Mountain, Wildcat is a favorite of experienced skiers who like a challenge. But the attraction for skiers of all skills is the chance, on a clear day, to see by far one of the best views in the White Mountains.

Wildcat faces Mt. Washington across a narrow notch, and from the top of Wildcat's gondola, you are up close and almost eye-to-eye with the summit of the Northeast's tallest mountain. Every building and tower is completely covered in hoar-frost, doubling and tripling their size, and brilliant white against a blue sky. The view isn't reserved for experts, as there is one green-rated trail from the summit, although it might be rated for intermediates elsewhere.

Wildcat's northwestern exposure promises the highest annual snowfall in the area, with an average 200 inches of natural snow. This is enhanced by 90 percent snowmaking coverage across its 225 acres, which includes 49 trails and a terrain park. Although Wildcat is favored by expert skiers, who love its bumps and glades, there is plenty of skiing for all skills, with 25 percent of the trails rated for beginners.

With its acquisition by Vail in late 2019, Wildcat has been added to Vail's Epic Pass system; like other Vail properties, all transactions resort-wide will be by credit or debit card, lessons must be reserved in advance, and there will be no child care.

There is no lodging at the mountain, but nearby Jackson and Gorham offer a wide variety of choices; closest is the new eco-friendly The Glen House Hotel, opened in the Fall of 2018 at the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road.

Address: Route 16, Gorham, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.skiwildcat.com/

11. Pats Peak

Tubing at Pats Peak

Tubing at Pats Peak | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers Photography

Built and owned by the same family for more than half a century, the ski area is a great favorite for families, who like its compact base area, friendly atmosphere, and reasonable prices. Despite the kid-friendliness of its 14 novice trails and three beginner areas, Pats Peak has terrain for everyone, with nine glades, five expert trails, and three rated advanced. One-fifth of the terrain is for intermediates.

The mountain has 100 percent snow-making coverage, which was upgraded last season with more energy-efficient snowmaking fan guns and towers. Après-ski here means more skiing, as 100 percent of the trails on the main mountain are lighted for night skiing and riding, and the tubing hill is open on weekends and holidays.

Opened last year was a new post and beam base lodge with an elevator and ski boot-friendly stairs. This larger lodge has allowed for wide spacing of tables, and Pat's Peak has enlarged its outdoor seating area with more than 30 new tables, deck heating, and wind barriers. A new take-out window will feature hot dishes that can be ordered in advance by smartphone.

Surprising for a relatively small ski area is its 9,600-square-foot Starting Gate Rental Shop, the largest rental shop in Northern New England, featuring Elan's most cutting-edge ski technology.

Only 90 minutes from Boston, Pats Peak is one of the easiest resorts to reach from the city, only a few minutes from an Interstate highway.

Official site: https://www.patspeak.com

12. Ragged Mountain

Ragged Mountain

Ragged Mountain | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers Photography

New Hampshire's only high-speed, six-person chairlift, the Summit 6-Pack, whisks skiers to the top of one of ragged Mountain's two peaks. Together, the two mountains offer 57 trails, including 17 glades and three terrain parks, covering a total of 250 skiable acres.

About a 20-minute drive from I-89, the resort is just two hours from Boston, but is consistently less crowded than other southern New Hampshire ski areas.

Its friendly, low-key atmosphere, not to mention its learn-to-ski program makes it popular with families. An especially nice feature for beginners is that two trails run from the top of the mountain that are easily manageable for novice skiers.

Between the two peaks, the section called The Ravine holds most of the Black (expert) and double Black (really expert) trails, including several double-black glade terrains that will challenge the best. More new gladed trails opened for the 2019-2020 season, and the rental center has up-to-date Rossignol equipment.

There is slope-side lodging in the Cardigan Cabins or nearby at the newly renovated New Hampshire Mountain Inn, where there's an indoor heated pool.

Address: 620 Ragged Mountain Road, Danbury, New Hampshire

Official site: https://raggedmountainresort.com/

Cross-Country Skiing in New Hampshire

Jackson XC Center

Cross-country skiing at the Jackson XC Center
Cross-country skiing at the Jackson XC Center | Photo Copyright: Jackson XC Center

The largest family-friendly and affordable cross-country and snowshoe center in the East, Jackson XC Center is a 150-plus-kilometer trail system operated by the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation. The location in the White Mountains has everything going for it: an idyllic New England village in a valley surrounded by the region's tallest mountains.

The broad valley floor is perfect for beginners and those who prefer flat and gently rolling trails. Intermediates can climb higher into the hills or begin at a higher point and follow gentle trails though the forest into the village.

Those seeking a real challenge can ski down the back side of rugged Wildcat Mountain, with a vertical drop of 3,245 feet. Cross-country trails connect right from your door at the family-friendly Christmas Farm Inn & Spa.

Address: 153 Main Street, Jackson, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.jacksonxc.org/

The Best Ski Resorts in North America and Europe

imageSki Vermont: Across the Connecticut River from New Hampshire, Vermont's Green Mountains offer more choices of ski resorts. Learn about them in our article Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Vermont.

imageSki the East: Other areas of New England and neighboring New York offer more great skiing, described in our article Top-Rated Ski Resorts on the East Coast. The East Coast can also over some deals when it comes to skiing, particularly the ski resorts in North Carolina. For more ideas, see our list of the best cheap ski holidays in North America.

imageSki the West: If you're thinking of heading west for a ski vacation, have a look at our articles Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Utah, Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Colorado, and Best Ski Resorts in Lake Tahoe.

imageSki Europe: If skiing the Alps or the Dolomites intrigues you, our articles on the best ski resorts in Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and France can help you plan your next European winter vacation.

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