If you’re familiar with summer in New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley, it will come as no surprise that the bustling characteristics of the season have returned to North Conway and the surrounding area.
Crowds typical of the season have, once again, descended upon the region, filling the parking lots associated with hiking, outlet shopping, and dining. One year after a COVID-tinged summer, local attractions like Story Land, Settler’s Green, and Cranmore Mountain Resort are back in the swing of things, giving families a wealth of options when seeking some activity-filled away time.
But while the natural attractions in the White Mountains, as always, remain a steady draw, there is a noticeable hush at a pair of local landmarks that are normally hubs of summer activity.
Attitash Mountain Resort and Wildcat Mountain, both Vail-owned properties, have stripped down their summer offerings this year to only scenic chairlift rides. That means the mountain coaster, zip tour, alpine slide, waterslides, and slackline, will all lay dormant this season at Attitash. Mountain biking will not be offered at the Bartlett property, nor will it at Wildcat, in Pinkham Notch. The zip line and gondola rides are also off the menu this year at Wildcat, where scenic chairlift rides are not scheduled to resume until July 31 due to upgrades on the Express Quad chairlift.
At Mount Sunapee, another Vail-owned property in New Hampshire, visitors can enjoy an aerial challenge course, archery, miniature golf, and mountain biking.
During the winter months, staffing issues at both Wildcat and Attitash led to tumultuous ski seasons. So, the fact that Vail seems to be skimping on its summer offerings has some concerned about the resort conglomerate’s ultimate plans in the Mount Washington Valley.
In a statement to the New England Ski Journal, Vail’s Resort Communications and Marketing team said, “We weigh a number of operational considerations in determining which activities to open each summer, ranging from staffing availability to on-mountain improvement projects underway and expected visitation, with safety as our top priority. We know it’s disappointing to some of our guests that some activities are not open this summer, but our teams at Attitash and Wildcat are working hard to provide the best experience possible and we look forward to enjoying the outdoors with everyone this summer.”
In order to help quell some of the fears that Vail might be treating Attitash and Wildcat as the ugly stepsisters of its Northeast holdings, the company has shared some of the improvements it is making at both mountains this summer on its social media channels. That includes an overhaul to the bike trails it hopes to offer in 2022 at Attitash, as well as snowmaking improvements on the gnarly Wilfred’s Gawn trail. More snowmaking upgrades are in the works as well at Wildcat.
But the lack of activities this summer has faithful visitors concerned that the need for help that was evident last season will flow into another winter.
A dearth of lift attendants, ski patrollers, and snowmakers led to long lines and frustration at both mountains during the winter months. Clearly, much of that had to do with a winter tinged by COVID-19.
It’s also fair to note that many other venues in New Hampshire are suffering from a worker shortage this summer, just as many business across the country are struggling to find workers post-pandemic. Popular North Conway eatery Delaney’s Hole in the Wall announced earlier this month that it would not be able to offer takeout after 6 p.m. due to staffing issues. Canobie Lake Park in Salem has trimmed the days it is open and will close early a few days a week. The amusement park has been unable to open seven days a week since before the pandemic.
“I think hospitality in general is all in the same boat right now,” Canobie spokesman Chris Nicoli told WMUR.
Watch: Check out Season 5, Episode 5 of New England Ski Journal TV, as we explore some of New Hampshire’s most popular summer attractions.