"No better views anywhere. Classic, historic New England trails. No frills."
Back in the summer of 1933 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) cut the original Wildcat Trail using axes and cross-cut saws. Designated a class "A" racing trail, it acquired quite a reputation throughout the Northeast in the years prior to Wildcat's development as a lift-served area.
Wildcat's location high in the White Mountain National Forest and "across the street from Mt. Washington" is both its greatest asset ("views, views, views," says one reader) and its biggest weakness ("tough to get to," "no base village, no on-mountain lodging, no on-mountain dining," others note). For those who crave a back-to-basics experience and "classic, New England trails," Wildcat delivers. "It's a skier's mountain. No fancy trim - just skiing." The mountain is blessed with both abundant snow that arrives early and stays late and, more important, unsurpassed scenery. As in, No. 1 on the continent. "You can almost touch Tuckerman Ravine." If you can see it, that is. Combine that Pinkham Notch location with a 4,062-foot summit elevation, and the "weather can be iffy" - as in high winds or low visibility that can turn even the meekest trail into a double-black challenge. Cushioning Wildcat's only-the-hardy-need-apply reputation (or perhaps augmenting it?) is a high-speed quad that covers the distance from base to summit in just six minutes, accessing the full 2,112-foot vertical and enabling skiers to rack up mileage even on those one-run-and-in days. "Awesome long runs for such a quick lift ride," a reader notes. Better yet, from the summit, families can divide, conquer and reunite at the base, because Wildcat has it all. For experts there's Wildcat, the trail, a historic 70-plus-year-old classic that retains its bite. Intermediates can rock and roll down Lynx, perhaps one of the best-designed trails in skidom in the way it flows with the mountain. Beginners can take in the summit views and then mosey down Polecat, a nearly four-mile trek that puts the lie to Wildcat's hardcore image. No, Wildcat doesn't suffer fools or tolerate whiners, but it is a "great place for the soul." And for those who pine for "skiing in an era gone by," it's the cat's meow. - H.N.
Base lodge renovations; snowmaking improvements; doubled capacity on the ZipRider
Add a second day to any lift ticket for $39. For lodging, a private room sleeping two to four, with shared bath, at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Joe Dodge Lodge is $64-$72 per adult, $41-$45 per child, including breakfast and dinner.
Flying up to 70 feet above the slopes on the ZipRider, a nearly half-mile cable descent, at speeds up to 45 mph