As we barrel past the midway point of ski season into the spring, it’s hard to look at this winter as anything but a disappointment. Excepting of a handful of snowstorms dumping below-average snowfall on the hill, it’s been a warm and wet winter. With February in the rear-view mirror, many smaller New England ski areas are already cutting back days of operation. Thankfully, the bigger resorts soldier on. And, with beefy snowmaking operations, these big areas have much more snow than you’d guess looking at the ground in most of the Northeast.

Just across the state line in Lincoln, New Hampshire, Loon Mountain is one of northern New England’s destination resorts. Founded in 1966, the 3,050-foot mountain spreads 61 trails across three distinct peaks. And, with 322 of their 370 acres covered by snowmaking, Loon has kept the majority of its terrain open during this lean winter – and snowmakers continue to work when the temperatures dip low enough.

Despite being in a different state, Loon is a fairly easy day trip from southern Maine. With this trip guide, you can plan how best to tackle a full day on the hill.

Getting there: As long as the Kancamagus Pass is clear, Mainers can take Route 302 all the way to Conway, and then Route 112 (the Kancamagus Highway) from there to Loon. It’s a touch over 90 miles, and a bit over two hours, from Portland. There’s parking in front of both the Octagon and Governor Adams Base lodges. There’s also parking (but less amenities) at the South Peak Lodge if you just want to park, throw on your gear and hit the hill.

7 a.m.: Loon’s lifts start turning at 8 a.m. on weekends and holidays, so you’ll want to get an early start to get first tracks. If you can get there early enough to grab a table, Flapjack’s Pancake House (149 Main Street) lives up to its sterling reputation. Unique fare like pumpkin flapjacks, bacon cheeseburger omelets and fluffernutter pancakes are the perfect fuel for a day on the hill. If you just want a breakfast sandwich to grab-and-go, hit White Mountain Bagel (13 Main Street) instead.

8 a.m.: Loon has a northeastern exposure, which means starting on the easternmost slopes keeps you in the sun all day. Pack at the Octagon Lodge, then hop on the speedy detachable gondola to Loon Peak. From there, you can head to Camp III and do laps on North Peak via the North Peak Express Quad. You’ll also find one of Loon’s best views here – Upper Walking Boss provides a perfect perspective on Mount Washington.

10:30 a.m.: Head west toward the center of Loon for East Basin’s expert terrain. Sticking to the East Basin Chair, a reliable old double, lets you lap Loon Peak without fighting the crowds that build around the base area and lower mountain. From there, black diamonds Angel Street and Cant Dog harken back to the steep, narrow trails of old New England skiing. Big Dipper is a particular treat – a double fall line covered in moguls, which brave skiers can attempt under the watchful eyes of skiers riding up the East Basin Chair.

12:30 p.m.: Rather than elbowing through the crowds at the base lodges for lunch, treat yourself to a meal at the Summit Cafe, which offers Caribbean-style food along with staples like soups and sandwiches, and, of course, coffee, which you’ll probably need by now. You can get a great view of Loon Lake from the cafe, or climb the fire tower outside for a spectacular view of the whole area.

1 p.m.: South Peak, which opened less than a decade ago, is your best bet to escape early afternoon crowds. Accessed by the Tote Road Quad, the modest peak has a mix of a half-dozen intermediate and expert trails. Ripsaw is must-ski, if only because it’s Loon’s sole double-diamond. Boom Run and Cruiser are wide cruisers to wind down your afternoon. The only trail I’d warn you away from is Escape Route – it leads to the South Peak parking area, so unless your car is there, you’ll find yourself stranded with no lift access.

3 p.m.: You might recognize the Waffle Cabin at the base of the Lincoln Express Quad. The chain has cabins all over the U.S. serving Belgian sugar waffles. As someone who has eaten his body weight in these sugar waffles over the years, I can assure you that they are nothing short of amazing.

5:30 p.m: Kick up your boots in the Paul Bunyan room – “the birthplace of apres at Loon.” Upstairs in the Octagon Lodge, it has 24 beers on draft and lively entertainment. There’s a good chance you’ll hear the catchphrase “sweet time” – always said with a positive bent. And “sweet time” is a good thought to have in your head as you close out a day at Loon.

Josh Christie is a freelance writer and lifetime outdoors enthusiast. He shares column space in Outdoors with his father, John Christie. Josh can be contacted at:

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