First Tracks At Mount Sunapee

A cross-mountain trail at Mount Sunapee

Okay, so technically I didn’t get first tracks on the mountain, but it was first tracks of this ski season for me. And it did take place at Mount Sunapee. The headline is therefore figuratively correct.

How were conditions you ask?

Given there has been precious little natural snow and that temperatures have been favorable for snow making in an on and off fashion, conditions were pretty good. At least on the trails that were open. The official Mount Sunapee posting stated about 50% open. That said, there were only a fistful of trails coming off the summit that you could connect up to get back to base. But all had pretty good snow coverage and were striped with nice corduroy.

That nice corduroy started to wear thin here and there as the morning worked towards noon time. Things wore thin fairly fast because there was lots of traffic over the trails open. It wasn’t super busy, but with only limited trails open they saw lots of action.

Bottom line? I am glad I went. I only had a half day to spend on the slopes so I didn’t get to see how conditions fared come afternoon. But the reality is my legs were screaming at me by late morning anyway. Staying all day would likely have resulted in some very unpleasant face plants, yard sales, and maybe even a downhill ride on a ski patrol sled. I am pretty glad I avoided all that!

So, you are thinking, get to the important point—what is skiing in the pandemic like? Not so very different, except….

You couldn’t leave bags in the lodges, though you could boot up in the lodges. The bottom line here is that regardless where you boot up, you are making at least one trip in ski boots from parking lot to ski lift. If you opt to boot up in the lodge, add an adventurous trek from lodge to car to stow your non-ski articles.

Bathrooms are still open, though Port-a-Potties were available here and there along the edges of the parking lot. Lodges are open and food available but with restrictions to allow for social distancing, etc. I didn’t go into any of the lodges so I cannot give any first hand information. It was a pleasant day—low to mid-30s—so there was no need to seek out warming areas. In fact, there were quite a few tail gate lunches taking place throughout the parking area.

Masks were required in social spaces, like the lift lines and on the lifts. Lift lines were not long or slow, but it was a weekday. I would say that it seemed more busy than I expected for a weekday, but I haven’t spent much time at Mount Sunapee so I have no prior experience for a reference point. That said the lines moved along at a good pace and wait time was never more than a couple minutes at the main high speed quad. You could ski right onto the slower mid-mountain lift.

Singles could stay single on the lift, if they wanted. But most singles paired up on opposite ends of the seat, keeping lines moving right along. Everyone was friendly, happy, and of course, having fun. Why else would you be there?

Bottom line? Yes, the experience is a bit difference. Booting up at the car was not such a big deal, but it wasn’t 10-degrees and windy. I may have a different opinion under those circumstances. Mount Sunapee is not huge, at least in the main parking area, so the walk to the lift was not really all that much extra exertion or adventure. But there wasn’t any snow on the ground, so the lot was all gravel and made for easy walking. Put that gravel under a bunch of snow and ice typical of ski area parking lots and again, I may have a different opinion.

Would I do it again? You betcha! And I probably will. Maybe even next week if I can sneak away again.

Here are a few tips to help you plan for your pandemic ski adventures.

  1. Put your boot pack on a seat in the car that is equipped with seat heaters. Turn the heat units on a half hour or so before you get to the resort. My boots, while not toasty, were nicely warmed as I booted up in the parking lot. No seat heaters? Lay your boots on the seat and have one of the passengers sit on them to get them warm. You may need more than a half hour. If the passenger is not happy about providing that service, and is being annoying about it, be sure to put the boots on the seat buckle side up.
  2. Bring along a foldable step stool to sit on while getting in and out of your ski boots. The height and angle is much better than from the edge of a car seat with the door open. If you want to get fancy, and I suggest you do, bring along a carpet square to put your feet on so you don’t track sand, gravel, snow and ice into your nicely warmed boots! As an alternate method, you could boot up in the nice warm lodge, then make the passenger who warmed the boots play valet and bring your boot bag back to the car. If they complain, forget to give them the key to the car and quickly get on the lift to the summit.

That’s about it. Yes, skiing in a pandemic is a bit different. But once on the slopes with gravity taking hold, nothing much is different. It’s still a blast.

But let’s leave on a really high high note. There were 3 or 4 trails that had massively high mounds of snow piled up on them. These I am sure were the results of several nights and days of making snow when the temperatures allowed. And no doubt these gigantic piles of snow were going to be pushed down the hill for the pleasure of skiers and riders this coming weekend.

AND let’s not forget that a storm is on tap for the area. While down here on the coast we most certainly will get wet, up to the north it looks like they will get white. So maybe plan a trip north over the holiday weekend, or sometime next week.

If I see a car on the highway with skis in the roof rack, and a passenger sitting a bit too high on the seat, with a less than happy face, I’ll know you read this blog and took some really good trip planning advice.