I'm writing this post a bit reluctantly because like a fisherman with a secret fishing hole, I feel like I have a secret skiing stash. Only it's clearly marked on the trail map.
When Bretton Woods first cut the 30 acres of glades on Mount Stickney two years ago, you had to ski/hike uphill a short way to get there, and the small effort to get there kept the powder pristine for days. And the best trail, in my opinion, #5, was the furthest to get to, so many people would peel off and hit the first trail or two and keep the further ones untouched. But, add to that the fact that you had to ride two lifts to get there, followed by a long run down Two Miles Home, so that a round-trip run down Stickney Glade #5 took almost 45 minutes, it often made more sense for me to search out some fresh tracks on Minehan's or Roz's in the interest of limited kid-free time.
This year, that has all changed.
Last summer, Bretton Woods installed a new 2,000-foot Doppelmayr T-Bar on Mount Stickney and hand built a 600-square foot log cabin at the top.
The last time a T-Bar was installed in New Hampshire was at Bretton Woods in 1973, the year they opened. According to NewEnglandSkiHistory.com, Bretton Woods opened with two double charilifts, a T-Bar, and 30 acres of snowmaking on 7 intermediate trails and one beginner slope. Since then, the ski industry trend has been to remove T-Bars in favor of high-speed, high-capacity chairs. But in keeping with the retro feel of this "side country" experience, the Stickney Glades feel to me like what grassroots skiing should be: families exploring the woods, scooting under snow-covered pine boughs and sipping hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows by an outdoor fire.
Now that Bridget is clamoring for tree runs and Timmy can make his way down easier mountain trails with the help of his harness, the cabin has proven to be a rewarding destination for us all. For the kids, a warm-up in the cabin includes choosing from treats like hot chocolate or cider, big fresh cookies, or a small bag of marshmallows. Outside the cabin, the kids pick from a stash of roasting sticks and enjoy browning (or burning!) their marshmallows at an exterior stone fireplace, sitting on big flat boulders and soaking in the sun.
For grownups, a cold beer at the cabin might be just what you need for an afternoon break. They also offer warm soups and a great local cheese and sausage platter with fresh bread and an assortment of mustards and hot sauces.
Although the T-Bar is certainly a low-tech means of transportation to the top of the mountain by today's standards, the T-bar holds the novelty appeal of a new gadget for kids and adults alike. It seems that once you've made the rite of passage and learned to ride a Poma lift or T-Bar, you've earned a ticket to a special place on the mountain.
And then there's the skiing and riding. To skier's left of the T-Bar, the trails are wide and welcoming for almost any ability. The glades were thinned even more last summer, so they'll be skiable even in lean snow years, and even my little guy can enjoy the ride down.
To skier's right, the glades get progressively steeper and longer, with even a fun little rock drop on trail #5 if you're feeling exceptionally daring. Out there in the woods, I feel like we've got the whole forest to ourselves, and other skiers we encounter smile and say hello, because we know we're in on this secret, sharing this special little corner of the outdoors.