Wildcat Mountain in Pinkham Notch, NH has a reputation. Actually, Wildcat Mountain has a number of reputations . . .
First, Wildcat Mountain has a reputation for being a “skier’s mountain.” It’s a big mountain with some of the best natural snow and ski terrain in the east. The mountain is high (the summit elevation is 4,062 feet–only 18 feet lower than Cannon Mountain) so it gets snow early and holds onto it late into the spring. Interesting factoid: the parking lot at Wildcat is only 400 feet lower in elevation than the summit of its sister resort Attitash! The runs are long (2112 vertical, the second-highest in New Hampshire) and they twist down the mountain the way ski trails should. Polecat is the longest green-circle trail in New Hampshire at 2.75 miles. There are bumps and glades and black diamond trails galore for expert skiers and boarders to explore at Wildcat Mountain if you like a challenge. Intermediates and even beginners can let loose on their l-o-n-g, sinuous groomed cruisers.
Second, Wildcat Mountain has the reputation of having the best views of any ski area in New England. No contest. Lots of ski areas have good views, some are exceptional (Big Squaw in Maine, Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire, Burke in Vermont, Le Masif in Quebec come quickly to mind). But nothing comes close to the view you get from the top of Wildcat Mountain on a sunny day. Mount Washington is RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU with Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines and the Gulf of Slides right in the center of your view! Mount Adams to the north of Washington is just icing on the cake. The view is so spectacular it will sometimes cause you to lose concentration on your skiing and stop you in mid-run.
The third reputation that Wildcat Mountain has is directly related to its other reputations. There’s no way to put this delicately; Wildcat Mountain has a reputation for bad weather. Sometimes that reputation is well-deserved, sometimes it isn’t. Storms, whiteouts, high winds and extreme cold are common at Wildcat thanks to that high elevation, the fact that it’s wide open to the north and northwest winds (which accelerate as they flow over and around Washington and Adams), and directly across a narrow notch from Mount Washington, which proudly bills itself as “Home of the World’s Worst Weather. There’s no better ski mountain in New England when the weather is good, and few more challenging when the weather doesn’t cooperate. When the weather turns really rough, Wildcat skiers retreat down the valley to more-sheltered Attitash (both mountains can be skied in the same day on the same ticket).
All of which brings us to the first day of Spring, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. There literally could not have been a more perfect day for skiing at Wildcat Mountain! The temperatures started cool in the morning, warmed just enough to make the day pleasant without being too warm. There was just a hint of a breeze but no wind to speak of (especially by Wildcat Mountain standards). And the sun was out in a brilliant blue sky. The mountain had gotten two major dumps of snow earlier in March. The snow had settled and weather had turned cold creating a perfect base–firm but not icy anywhere. While the woods and the non-snowmaking trails could have used another foot or two of fresh powder (when couldn’t they?) the trails were perfectly covered and perfectly groomed. Clearly there was still a lot of snow on these trails before the two big March storms. Wildcat’s recent major investments in snowmaking over the past few years is paying off big time.
It didn’t matter what open trail you took, the snow was soft, edgeable and fast. Long cruising runs like Lynx (a personal favorite) were pure joy–as good on the last run of the day as they were the first. 2017-18 has been a wild winter, with conditions fluctuating wildly from day to day. The first day of Spring at Wildcat Mountain was one of those days that keeps you dreaming of winter even after the snow is long gone.