TWO LOONIES AT LOON
by Paul Maraschiello
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You have to be loony not to ski Loon, if you're in that part of New Hampshire. We were traveling to Maine and caught an early flight out of D.C. and Loon is only two hours from the airport in Manchester. It was a no-brainer, we would ski Loon our first day on the trip, after all, we were arriving at 8:30 am.
We got all squared-away with tickets and skis. The staff at the rental shop was very helpful. Before we left the rental shop, I noticed that there were a pair of used Volkl P40 Platinum skis with bindings for sale in the rental shop in the basement of the Octagon. They were marked "$300 or best offer" and belonged to an employee at Loon. I love those skis and was very tempted to buy them. At that price, they are a real deal. If they're still there, grab them.
The sun was out and it was a beautiful day, so we rode up the gondola for our 1st run. New Hampshire had been dumped on with two BIG storms, so there was plenty of snow and things were groomed pretty flat. We warmed up on some of the blue trails off the gondola and began to explore the area. I had skied there a few years before but I really didn't remember too much about the mountain, except that it was fun. It isn't a really big mountain but it was a lot bigger than I remembered. The slopes were uncrowded and everyone we met on the gondola was friendly.
After a few runs on the slopes fed by the gondola, we noticed that there was nobody waiting in line for the Seven Brothers chair, so we started to ride that chair. I like being the only one in the lift line. The slope under the chair was so gentle and it was in the sun, so I decided to give Regina a lesson on a slope that was within her comfort zone. We worked on a few things like pole-plants and edging and had some fun on this well-groomed slope.
Next, we decided to explore the trails that went to other chairs. Soon we found our way to the East Basin Double chair and we systematically explored the trails that were fed by that chair. We went up that chair again and skied Basin Street. On the way up, I noticed another chair. I suggested that we ride up that chair but Regina insisted that there were no more chairs further to our left. I said, "how much you wanna bet?" We wagered lunch and of course, I won. Regina had to spring for lunch at the Camp III Lodge. I had a great soup bread bowl with Regina picking up the tab.
After an excellent lunch, we rode up the Camp III chair. Regina was feeling good about her skiing, so we decided to do a couple of more challenging runs. We did Hallback to Flume a couple of times and looked at Upper Flume. It looked like it might be too tough for Regina, so we declined. We did Sunset and Walking Boss and we were feeling pretty good.
We decided to head back to the other part of the mountain and ride the gondola. It had gotten a little cloudy and the chair had gotten a little cold. We spent the rest of the day skiing the trails off the gondola and had a blast.
On our way back from Maine, we decided to hit Loon again. I had a couple of free passes from the State of New Hampshire that were good at any ski area in the state but we had such a good time at Loon that we wanted to ski it again. As we drove into town, we saw a sign "Ski rentals $9.00" at a shop in town. We found out that you can rent straight skis for that amount but "shaped" high-performance skis cost $29.00. Oh well.
We both enjoyed ourselves at this mountain and were looking forward to skiing there again. We were not disappointed. The snow was still good, the people were still friendly and we had another great time. On this visit, we knew our way around the mountain. We had only been there the Friday before. Again we did a few of the trails off the gondola but this time, we headed to some of the tougher trails. We did Triple Trouble and then some of the easier trails we had skied before. We were having a good day.
We decided to explore more of the mountain that we had not visited on our first trip. We made it a point to ride the detachable quad and skied Northstar. It was very tame for two tigers like us, so we tired of that area quickly with its gentle blue and easy black slopes.
We headed back to Camp III. Upper Flume hadn't looked that tough that day and we were ready to try it. Unfortunately, you can't always see ice from the chair. Our techniques fell to pieces and Regina chided me, "ski down the fall-line and make more turns, don't traverse on the ice." She ribbed me for not following my own advice. At least I didn't fall, although I must admit, I did blow out of a turn and traverse all the way to the edge of the slope and did not follow my own sage counsel. Even ski gods screw up!
We skied all of the trails off the East Basin chair and the Camp III chair. Regina had mustered up her courage and was game for more challenges. We spied some bumps and she decided she was read to try to ski in the moguls. Unfortunately, her courage was not equaled by her skill and she had a really bad fall and slid down the upper part of Bucksaw. She was humiliated but the only thing injured was her ego. She also had the "fun" of trying to climb up the mountain to retrieve her skis and poles. She had a huge "garage sale" and her stuff was spread all over the hill. Luckily, a gallant lad appeared up-hill and brought down her ski. Chivalry is not dead at Loon.
"All's well that ends well." Regina had been very lucky. She had been skiing a lot of challenging terrain and had not had many falls. The god of the mountain requires that we all pay our dues . . . and the currency is usually in pain and humiliation. "No pain, no gain," is another old adage. I fell about a million times when I was first learning to ski. It is to be expected, otherwise the slopes would be fill with great skiers and as you have seen from the chair, most skiers are far from great!
We skied the trails off the North Peak chair and Upper Walking Boss. Upper Flume had some nice bumps to go with the ice. Big Dipper under the East Basin Double chair was a lot of fun. Mostly, we were into cruising for the rest of the day. We rode the gondola to the summit and skied all the territory that lift accessed which was mostly blue runs. The gondola is over a mile long and is one of the 8 lifts that service this mountain. There are 41 trails and the longest is Bear Claw. There are 250 acres of skiable terrain and in the two days that we visited Loon, we skied it all.
I can't end this story without telling you about the eats. We had lunch the second day at the Deli next door to the Octagon Base Lodge and the food there was very good and we had fun with the staff. The place was almost empty (it was a Monday) and we joked around with the people who worked there. Regina had grabbed a bite for breakfast in the Octagon and we sampled the coffee and hot chocolate there, as well. If you bring your own tea bag, the hot water there is free.
I ski a lot and I like to visit many ski areas. When I visit a ski area twice in less than a week, I'm telling you something. Loon is really a fun mountain. If you get a chance to visit this New Hampshire mountain, do it, you will not be disappointed. A lot of the people who ski Loon regularly are loony about the place and I know why.
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