Point your skis down the hill and let 'er rip on our favorite hero runs in New England
by Allen Lessels/
Dream Maker doubles as a smile maker at Sunday River in Maine. Skyway serves the same purpose at Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire. Ditto for Wizard at Magic in Vermont.
Know the trails?
Chances are, you do. If not, you certainly know the type. Every skier and rider does.
They’re the cruisers. The ego runs. The hero runs. Call them what you will. The point is, they’re calling you.
Jump on them, perhaps first thing in the morning with perfect ribbed corduroy untouched — or, better yet, with a few inches of fresh powder on top of perfect corduroy — and go for it. Point the skis or the board down the hill, let ’er rip and burn some thigh.
Sing as you ski, if that’s your style — a ditty or two from Queen usually works for me — and rock the run.
Worry not about bumps or too-nasty steeps or ice — hero snow is best for hero runs, of course — and hopefully you can stay out ahead of the crowd, or at least apart from it.
That’s a key to cruising, too. Find a rhythm and find a bit of room. And go.
These are some of our favorite ego runs, mixed in with offerings from a few of our favorite skiers and ski areas. A few, to be sure, are on the more challenging side, but there’s something to be said for looking longingly down Tight Line and out over the majestic view at Saddleback, for example, making sure the coast is clear and shoving off.
Give them a shot. And be sure to add your own Cool Cruisers to the list.
Skyway at Mount Sunapee
Some of my best winter mornings start on Skyway. The gradual approach to the top of the trail takes a quick skate, which also serves as a nice warmup, and the reward is the best blue-sky view on the mountain, out over Lake Sunapee. Skyway rolls on from there, alternating between steeps and breaks and then a long runout — beware skiers from your right coming off the North Peak Triple — down to the top of Hansen Chase, which is another treat as it cuts under the Summit Chair. For a quicker cruise, Lynx off the North Peak is mighty tough to beat.
Walking Boss at Loon
Wide and one of the steeper trails on the list, Walking Boss, as far as I can tell, is prime time for singing. There’s room galore and attack the trail either with long sweeping turns, or by sticking to one side. Note: We’ll stick to the steeper left; you can have the right. It’s a steady drop throughout and conveniently ends at the Camp III Lodge, a comfortable spot for a break. To mix it up a bit at Loon, try Rip Saw, another steep cruiser and new off South Peak.
Upper Cannon at Cannon
Channel Bode — or, for the old-timers, Jean Claude Killy when he stopped by long ago for the World Cup — and cut and slice through the giant slalom turns of Upper Cannon, down to Avalanche and then let ’em run for the long runout back to the Tramway. The snow, protected by the trees that frame the course, er, trail, usually holds up pretty well on Upper Cannon. For some, Gary’s or Rocket might make for a more appealing cruise on the bottom half.
Polecat at Wildcat
New Hampshire’s answer to Maine’s Timberline or Tote Road, a fun and forgiving ride — at 2¾ miles, it’s the state’s longest novice run — lets the less experienced in the group experience an integral part of what we all love about skiing and riding. They get to go to the tippy-top of a 4,000-footer and take in the scenery, too. Check out the view from the top of Wildcat across to Mount Washington. See Tuckerman’s? Work those turns down the winding Polecat today and cross the street and give Tuck’s a shot next Spring.
Wizard at Magic
Wizard serves a dual purpose. As well as being an access route to a bunch of the most difficult trails at Vermont’s Magic, it’s a fine 1.6-mile long cruiser in its own right and offers great views from the western flank of the mountain. Don’t miss the ice falls — Magic skiers at times make them stand out by adding paint to them — that form over the rock cliffs on the left side of the trail near the top of the mountain. And for this run, pass on Magician, Broomstick, Slide of Hans and the other toughies to cruise Wizard.
Cobrass at Bolton Valley
The view off to the West from Cobrass, an intermediate run on the western ridgeline of Vista Peak, shows off Camel’s Hump, Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. As an added bonus, Bolton Valley’s extensive night skiing and riding allows for some late-day cruising on Cobrass. The trail itself does not have lights, but it stays open late in the day with natural light, especially later in the season, and offers a nice spot for taking a break and watching the sun set over the mountains. Cobrass is a bit narrow, twisty and steep at the top, takes a sharp right turn and gives way to more mellow cruising.
Twister at Bromley
There can be a tricky side to hero runs: Some work best as a way to feel good about yourself, a way to get the juices flowing, heck, a reason to sing while you ski. Others offer the opportunity to show off just a bit. Twister emphasizes the latter. It has head walls, spots for huge carved turns and places to grab air, and it benefits from great snowmaking and grooming so snow quality should not be an issue. The flip side is that show time is in a showy place: under the Sun Mountain Express Quad. Good luck.
Spring Fling at Sugarbush
Skiing and riding Spring Fling attracts attention, too, here from those gathered in the base lodges at Lincoln Peak. They’ll watch folks take on a run that offers a steep, but not too steep, pitch and is plenty wide to let ’em run. The Ford Downhill Series brought the likes of Tommy Moe and Picabo Street to Spring Fling back in the day. These days, Spring Fling provides a mixed-bag approach. It’s prime for cruising, has bumps to play in on skier’s left and on skier’s right a NASTAR course lets skiers and riders make like a modern-day Tommy or Picabo.
Dudley Do-Right at Mount Abram
Another of the cruisers with a nice blend of being steep enough to be able to get some speed up, but not so much that it’s a concern, and it ends with a flourish with a couple of nice pitches. “It’s one of the real classics,” said Greg Sweetser of Ski Maine. “It’s one of those original trails that brings back memories for skiers who know Mount Abram from the early days. If they grew up skiing there, that’s the trail they skied all day.
Dream Maker at Sunday River
Sunday River is bursting with cruiser and ego runs on its assorted peaks. Trails such as Obsession on White Cap and Right Stuff on Barker Mountain pick up plenty of votes in any hero run balloting. But we’ll go with Dream Maker, curvy and rolly and full of character, on North Peak. One of the keys to hero skiing, of course, is the condition of the snow and given Sunday River’s making and grooming abilities, Dream Maker and its brother and sister trails usually shine in that regard.
Tight Line at Saddleback
Once fondly known as Bronco Buster, Tight Line, steep and quick, might seem an odd choice as a cruiser to some. But stand at the top and survey Rangeley Lake in the distance and a wide open trail straight ahead — being sure to check for traffic — and you’re good to go. Fast. Hard to imagine, since this same trail was home in the 1980s and ’90s to one of the great ski promotions: the Bronco Buster Challenge. Conquering what was then a wild, leg-burning ride to the bottom over untamed conditions, without stopping, was worth a three-day pass the next season.
Timberline at Sugarloaf
What? No Tote Road? No Narrow Gauge for those looking to cruise at higher speeds? It is perhaps sacrilege to pass on Tote Road, one of New England’s iconic cruisers. But we’ll be back to take it next run. Timberline, another of those trails that lets most everyone get the feel of big mountain skiing, earns the nod here and in some ways tops Tote Road at its own game. It’s an ultimate cruiser, too, with the added bonus of offering tremendous views — Mount Abram, Sunday River, Saddleback and Bigelow all take turns in the picture — as it winds down the mountain.
This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of New England Ski Journal.
Allen Lessels can be reached at email@example.com