2002 Number 9 Resort in the East: Loon Mountain, N.H.

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If you groom it, they will come. That mantra has served Loon Mountain well over the past decade, with more skiers discovering its well-groomed, well-made snow minutes off Route 93. Last season brought the resort record numbers, but headaches as well. "Way too crowded!" "Too many people!" readers lament. The good news is Loon knew the right aspirin to pop. This season, the Governor Adams Base Lodge will be expanded by about 100 seats, meaning more room for rest and lunch. All employees will park off site, opening up 200 spaces. And Loon might even sell season parking passes, giving regulars their own spots. As for the mountain, Loon's sitting pretty with updated lifts, excellent snowmaking and grooming, and ski-school programs that win universal praise. "Good accessibility. Nice terrain," one reader raves. More than a few point out that Loon's layout-keeping beginner and more advanced trails separate-makes for a worry-free day. "With expert trails served by their own lifts, most beginners are kept off those trails and liftlines are minimized," one reader says. Though those expert trails are sparse, skiers say Loon makes up for that by keeping their intermediate skiing polished, despite the whims of Mother Nature. Enough, you might think. But still listening to that same mantra, the resort hopes to get approval for the South Mountain Expansion, which means more trails to cover with snow and groom. If that expansion serves to spread out the weekend crowds, New England skiers may just have their cake and eat it too.

WHAT'S NEW The expanded Governor Adams Base Lodge will give skiers more room, at last.

A GOOD DEAL The Threedome Pass; ski Sunday through Friday non-holiday weeks at Loon, Waterville Valley and Cranmore for $249 per adult.

MEDALS GOLD Access; SILVER Snow, Grooming, Terrain, Challenge, Lodging, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities, Family Programs.

HIGH/LOW RANK Access (8), Lodging (21), Off-Hill Activities (22); Terrain (56), Scenery (62), Lifts (63).

DON'T MISS The Mountain Man Cabin. At the top of the Summit Lift, warm up by the wood stove and learn what it's like to live in the backcountry.

READER REMARKS (+) "Excellent snowmaking and grooming." "Great family programs. They go out of their way."
(-) "Stay away from the gondola on weekends." "Needs more black-diamond runs."