So, I must admit there is probably no day on the slopes quite like Valentine’s Day. Some resorts host a crazy event like ‘Running of the Bridesmaids’ (Okemo), while others try to play speed dating matchmaker on chairlifts (Black Mountain, NH). Regardless of where you are – love and deals are in the air.
After much consideration, I chose to head to Cranmore in North Conway, New Hampshire for the day since $14 lift tickets were just way too good to be turned down. I also thought that since they didn’t have any official Valentine’s Day themed events going on I might be safe from crazy singles. Ah, wishful thinking. So many amusing chairlift rides…
Anyways – the review!
Location: Cranmore is two and a half hours away from Manchester, New Hampshire – but I have to say it’s actually one of my favorite long rides. You’ll be headed up 93 North to Exit 23 (same exit as Ragged Mountain) and then headed along the Northwest side of Lake Winnipesaukee, which will be visible in Meredith and Center Harbor. It’s a nice drive all the way. And cell phone reception seems to be great the entire way too, along with gas stations, hotels, restaurants, etc.
Parking: I’ll admit I might have just parked in the wrong parking lot, but parking at Cranmore definitely struck me as a little confusing. Even though it wasn’t busy, I think I still managed to park in the lot furthest away from what ended up being the lodge. Fortunately it was an easy, level walk that didn’t require me crossing roads or going against traffic, so no big deal!
Price: Cranmore’s ticket prices are comparable with other mountains of the same size (54 trails), but be sure to keep in mind some of their deals!
Lodge: I don’t think I’ll ever quite comprehend how different every ski area’s base is, but they’re all very unique. I’ve never seen two places that were even sort of alike! Cranmore won’t be breaking this rule at all and has quite a few buildings at their base including the lodge, restaurants, ticket building, and more I think. I should have explored more!
The lodge was nice and bright though and even with about a million kids there for a ski race, I still found room to sit and eat lunch. Cranmore also went out of their way to provide a lot of cubby space, so there’s no excuse!
Lifts: I rode 2 of Cranmore’s lifts the day I was there: the Skimobile Express and the East Bowl Double. The Skimobile Express was your standard high speed quad in great condition (and with great views). Now, the East Bowl Double was something else. It was a blast from the past. The folks in front of me were yelling to each other (they were on different chairs) about how they were time traveling going up these bright red chairs, and it wasn’t far off.
I looked it up just out of curiosity and sure enough, this lift is the oldest still operating double chair in New England built in 1955 (according to Chairlift.org – all the good stuff). I’d seriously recommend riding it at least once while you’re at Cranmore as it is great condition for it’s age and it’s kind of interesting to see a part of history.
Trails: While Cranmore isn’t the tallest mountain, I learnt pretty quickly that it did have a lot of variety. I was there on what certainly felt like a busy day, but I kept finding myself in the woods alone on some pretty fun trails. If you’re a beginner, I’d recommend sticking to the East side of the mountain where the trails are more open and forgiving. But if you’re looking for some fun, head over the West side. I had lots of fun on the intermediates headed off the summit like Kandahar and Arlberg, then met up with Bandit and cut back on to Lower Arlberg. Just keep your speed up though at the bottom of the trails as the section heading back to the lifts is pretty flat.
After working up quite an appetite and enduring many awkward chairlift conversations (guys – never start a conversation with ‘So, are you here alone?’), it was time to review some chicken tenders.
For $8.29, starving snowboarders were treated to 3 medium sized tenders and a large helping of curly fries. Now, I swear the following isn’t just because I was seriously hungry beyond belief. The chicken tenders were the best I had ever had at a ski area and were complemented by the best fries ever. Woah. The chicken was tender with no gristle, and covered with a slightly sweet crunchy perfect coating. The fries were crisp, seasoned, and I swear the curly aspect just makes them better.
So, I am proud to award my first ever ‘5 Tender Award’! Congratulations, Cranmore!
Final Score: 5 out of 5 Tenders