Consistently rated as a top-tier ski resort for scenery, grooming, and snow, Bretton Woods also suffers from a pervasive misconception as a beginner’s mountain. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
If you think that an expert skier cannot spend a day, a weekend, or a week on the Bretton Woods ski trails without getting bored, you simply haven’t done it right. Sure, if sliding on a slab of ice is your idea of “advanced skiing,” Bretton Woods probably won’t be for you – but with usually superb conditions, a variety of (and a lot of!) terrain, 200+ inches of snow every year, and probably the best tree skiing in the country, Bretton Woods truly has something to offer to everyone, from the very beginner to the most advanced.
As a resident for now 7 years, I have spent over 400 days on the slopes in Bretton Woods, and I will share what I’ve learned so that you can make the most of your stay. If you’re not familiar with the ski trail layout, it may be helpful to look at the Bretton Woods Trail Map as you read along!
Generally speaking, Bretton Woods is comprised of 3 areas:
- The main section in the middle, sprawled along the flanks of Mt. Rosebrook, served primarily by the gondola and the Bethlehem and Zephyr quads, plus the Rosebrook chair on the Eastern side. These lifts give you access to most of the area, but the main focus of this section is groomers, with a few glades and some unique trails such as “Shenanigans” interspersed (more on this later). The Rosebrook chair, via “2 Miles Home” and a few traversing trails, gives access to the Mt Stickney area (see below), but also a few fantastic groomers, including from some rather steep ones such as Bode’s Run and Fire Tower/McIntire’s.
- Mt Stickney: The Rosebrook chair, via the fairly tame but very scenic “2 Miles Home” and a few traversing ski trails, gives access to this area which has some of the most advanced terrain in Bretton Woods. Where this area shines is a series of incredible glades, from some fairly benign ones – including the very popular Black Forest Glade, an easy way for intermediate skiers to get started on tree skiing, to some very, very challenging ones like Roz’s Mr. Moose, Lazy Man – some of the few double diamond trails, and well deserving of the designation. And of course, this is where you will find the fabled T-Bar and the Stickney Cabin, one of Bretton Woods’ best-kept secrets!
- West Mountain: located on the Western side of the resort, it features a mix of terrain ranging from some great groomers (Jacob’s Ladder, Starr King, and Waumbek) to some of my favorite glades, such as Wild West. More on this to come!
If you visit frequently throughout the season, you will know that the middle section is usually the first to open. Snowmaking often starts around the Zephyr quad, particularly on Range View, which is traditionally the first trail to open and expands from there to the gondola-served terrain. The glades, of course, have no snowmaking, and as such their opening is much more weather-dependent. I’ve seen them open as early as Thanksgiving, and as late as February! But without further ado, let’s jump into more details of the trails you will find in each area, starting… why not, from the middle!
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Mt. Rosebrook (aka the “Main Area”)
This area is the one that has the longest season, as it is the first to open and the last to close. For beginners, once you’ve graduated from the “Red Carpet” and the “Learning Center Quad” (aka “LCQ”), start with the Bethlehem chair. Soak in the beautiful view from the now-closed Latitude 44 building (where the top restaurant was located before the opening of the beautiful new Rosebrook Lodge), and then make your way down Bigger Ben or Sawyer’s Swoop. Later in the season, a good option is also Avalon – which sits at the boundary between Mt Rosebrook and West Mountain and tends to open a little later.
In this area, a big hit – especially with the younger ones – is also the Terrain Park on “Bretton’s Wood”, off of the Rosebrook chair. Note that the bottom part of this trail is also often used for ski racing – but don’t worry if it is, there are plenty of other options!
For the more intermediate skier, Range View is an amazing trail that usually has fantastic snow and a consistent, gradual pitch which pleases a wide range of skiing abilities. A slightly more advanced option would be Crawford’s Blaze, which is one of my personal favorites – with an awesome tree-lined, wavy shape and also consistently great snow quality. Another personal favorite is Granny’s Grit; it’s usually, but not always, groomed, but it’s a blast either way. Other great ski trails include No Regrets and Fabyan’s Express. If you start from the gondola, the top part of these two trails is quite steep, and a ton of fun for more advanced skiers, especially after a good snowstorm. For the less advanced skier, both of these steep sections can be avoided by taking one of the cutoffs from Range View or Crawford’s Blaze (the Triple Traverse on the top, and Archie’s Alley just below it). There are a couple more blue trails in this area, including Water Tank and Upper Perimeter, but I generally don’t find them as exciting as the other options.
Advanced skiers who prefer groomers will enjoy the runs off of the Rosebrook Quad. They are short but pack a punch! Bode’s Run has a great steep section; McIntire’s is more consistent and has beautiful scenery, and Snake is a very fun trail (ungroomed) – but watch out for a few rocks that sometimes stick out. Speaking of scenery though, as you get towards the top of the Rosebrook Quad take a minute to look left towards the East and soak in the view of Mt Stickney and the Presidential Range in the background. It’s breathtaking!
Finally, there’s another worthwhile mention here: my kids love Shenanigans. It’s one of those “gotta try”, unusual trails – a small path zipping wildly back and forth in the woods, with a more open straight path in the middle. My kids love the slalom-like descent, but it can be a little intimidating. Make sure you stay in control!
One more note; if taking the gondola, Upper Swoop (right below it) is steeper than its blue trail designation may suggest, and can get quite icy. And don’t forget to grab a bite at the Rosebrook Lodge, the view is to die for!
While I find it rather unremarkable, Two Mile Home is a generally quite easy (except for the top part), road-like trail that flanks the Eastern edge of the resort. It’s a great trail for beginner skiers who are starting to progress, but watch out for sometimes iffy conditions at the very top or in some flat sections that receive runoff from the mountain above and can turn quite icy in warmer weather. Otherwise, where this area shines is the glades – trees, trees, trees everywhere, and tons of trails among them!
I’ll start with a little note on glade skiing. I stayed clear on anything that had trees on it for a long time. As it turns out, Bretton Woods is the perfect place to start enjoying this gift. I see it as a cross between snowshoeing and skiing. The beauty of the red spruces covered in snow is unparalleled, and the serenity that I find in skiing the glades is something that I simply can’t describe. Of course, good control is necessary, but Bretton Woods is one of those rare places where you will find glades for all ability levels, allowing everyone to try it and progress.
For those just starting in this adventure, try the Black Forest first. If it wasn’t for the trees, it would be a very easy green trail. The added obstacles of the trees give it its blue designation, but it’s a great place to get started. One word of caution – after a heavy snowfall you may need to push quite a bit — it’s THAT flat in some spots, which also makes it not great for snowboarders. Fear not, the beauty of the place will make you quickly forget any effort that you’re putting into it.
Beyond this easy glade, the Rosebrook Glades include some amazing intermediate and advanced tree skiing. A personal favorite is Enchanted Bear to Minahan’s Ridge, as well as Roz, which is a bit more challenging. One word of caution – the ridge in Minahan’s Ridge loses snow to the sides very readily. It can be rather thin even in a great snow pattern. Take your time negotiating your way down in this section! The rest of the trail makes it worth it.
For the thrill seeker, try the glades going off to the left from Enchanted Bear – Lazy Man, etc. They are all rather steep but usually hold on to snow very well, and are well worth the effort. Similarly, you will find several double black glades to the left of Two Mile Home – Snowmaker’s Gully, Inferno, etc. If you like more intense skiing, you won’t be disappointed! Some great glades can also be found off of the Zephyr chair. Glade West is probably the most popular glade in the entire resort; it can get a bit skied off, but it’s well worth it. Another awesome glade is Cherry Mountain Slide, with wide trees and lots of paths you can take. On the narrower side of things are Blowdown Alley and its neighbor Peboamauk Falls, which – as the names suggest – are rather narrow, but not overly challenging, even though they get a little steeper towards the bottom as they approach Avalon. The trees in here often hold a lot of snow, it’s beautiful!
While there are a few groomed trails here, I don’t find them particularly exciting – with one exception: when things get really busy, the West Mountain chair, along with Rosebrook, allows you to get more runs in without much wait. Other than that, the main trails here are Jacob’s Ladder – a fun, somewhat narrow trail to the left of the chairlift, Oscar Barron – a nice but in my opinion rather unremarkable trail, and Starr King and Waumbek. Now, both of these trails are awesome – with one caveat. Starr King has a more consistent pitch and is often used for racing and race training, while Waumbek has a steep section at the beginning, but a rather annoying flat area at the bottom.
While these groomed runs are a bit short of making it to the top tier, where West Mountain shines is in its glades: Wild West is probably my favorite glade in the entire mountain, but they are all worth exploring:
- Boundary Glade: stunning in scenery! Enter by the old cog rail car, and follow the path down. Watch out for a cliff about halfway through the trail. You can bypass it on the right.
- Among the Clouds: right at the top on your right as you get off the chair; it has a few rocky sections to negotiate, but its narrow path is really fun and always beautiful in snowy weather
- Cliff’s Cliff: a bit rocky on the top, but opens up after that. Not my favorite, but fun nonetheless
- John Graves and Maple Woods: both AWESOME glades, slightly more advanced with some steeper terrain mixed in. Both are on the right side of the chair if you’re facing the mountain
We hope you will enjoy these highlights of what I think are the best that Bretton Woods has to offer. Keep in mind, that the weather significantly affects what’s good and what’s not. Cold, upslope-driven patterns are amazing for tree skiing. Times when the weather alternates between warm and cold are when I find groomers to be best; don’t try to negotiate glades when conditions are icy! However, the amazing job that Bretton Woods does at grooming, its topography that’s generally sheltered from the heaviest winds, and its location in one of the snowiest areas in the Northeast mean that you can have a great day of skiing no matter the weather pattern – so come on out, enjoy it, and share your favorite trails with us!