The last day of 2013 was a perfect excuse to getaway to Gunstock Mountain Resort. The sun was shining and the mountain was covered with beautiful snow. The closest major mountain to the Boston area, Gunstock is definitely ready for the New Year.
The big question was, what did last week’s rain do to the base that Gunstock had built up with such care. The answer is that it solidified the base enough that was better able to hold new natural and man-made snow. Gunstock has 37 trails open with 16 remaining closed. Of the 16, several are undergoing snow making and many others are smaller linking trails that fall in the Most Difficult range.
Things are good in the green
Skiing in the separate beginner area is about as good as it can be. Nice snow, beautifully groomed with enough loose granular to permit nice turns but not so much as to make it difficult going for learners and anyone getting their feet under them for the season.
Unfortunately, much of the center lower core of intermediate trails, Phelps, Ricochet and Ramrod remain closed, but promises to open soon, probably after the impending storm. But, the Ramrod lift does provide access to Smith, a nice wide, blue-ranked trail that’s in good condition.
Getting to Pistol
Over on the left side of the mountain, the Pistol area has great snow, providing skiing and boarding for intermediate and confident beginners. The difficulty with the Pistol area is that it is a long slog across the base area to reach. But from Smith there is a short but fairly steep cut-off trail, Exit 20, that connects to Lower Trigger and then to Lower Recoil, crossing Musket and on down to the Pistol lift.
Another way to Pistol is from the top of the mountain. You will want to go there anyway for the magnificent view out over Lake Winnipesaukee. To get to the Pistol area, go left at the top and take the Upper Gunsmoke trail, which is the outermost of the trails from the top. A cautionary note here: on Tuesday there were a few spots that, while not icy, were hard surface. These were in a small area, but were on the steeper spots where most people want to turn. Upper Gunsmoke also has some of the best views of the White Mountains and of the lake. To get to Pistol keep to the trails to the right. Upper Sidearm and Sidearm are nice cruising greens and the other trails in this area are nice greens. Blundersmoke, by the way, has a major terrain park.
From the Top
Most of the trails that are not open yet are Black Diamonds. From the top these are Upper Ramrod, Hotshot and Upper Recoil and the Birch Glades. To the left at the top, Upper Gunsmoke is the only choice, leading down to the blues of Middle Recoil, Middle Gunsmoke, Gunpowder and Shotgun.
To the right at the top, Flintlock and Upper Trigger provide paths down the mountain. The latter brings you down Middle Trigger (black) or via Trigger Link to Lower Cannonball and Red Hat. Flintstock will bring you down into these same areas. Note, however, that while both trails are ranked blue at the top, they presently lead only into black diamond territory. Being the steeper trails, these will have spots where they have scraped down to the frozen granular case.
A general impression
The skiing at Gunstock is about as good as anyone could expect for this time of year. The snow-making team has done a superb job of getting a solid base on the mountain and it is good, and deep, all over the mountain. `They have also done a good job of covering that base with good man-made snow that makes for good skiing. On the steeper trails watch for small patches of the frozen base but otherwise it is clear going. The snow that is anticipated for Thursday over to Friday should only add to the joy of this mountain and, perhaps, lead to the opening of the few trails that remain closed.
Getting to Gunstock
Head up I-93. About 20 minutes north of Concord NH, take exit 20 and follow Routes 11 and 3 east, staying on those routes when they turn a sharp right onto a bypass. Follow the signs for Gunstock onto 11A and on to Gunstock.