Queue up if you can (socially distanced, of course). Many of the north country’s scenic mountain lifts that have been closed during the summer’s unwelcoming season of coronavirus may be opening up again, just in time to provide panoramic glimpses that highlight the region’s most vibrant season of foliage.
Dozens of chairlifts, gondolas — and even a couple of trams — are scattered across New England mountain country, giving recreation enthusiasts stricken by lengthy cabin fever plenty of convenient options to get out and appreciate the great outdoors with unique bird’s-eye perspectives.
All this enthusiasm comes with a disclaimer, of course, as not all the scenic lifts listed below are guaranteed to be up and running this fall as New England does its part in the fight against the pandemic. So, before you pack up the car, be sure to give the resorts a call or check their websites to confirm that what is and isn’t open.
Bretton Woods: The resort’s Bethlehem Express Quad gives riders a nearly mile=long ride that elevates 1,000 feet to its terminus at Latitude 44° Restaurant. It’s the spectacular views of New Hampshire’s White Mountains that steal the show. For operating status, call the Adventure Center at 603-278-3335.
Cannon Mountain: The Aerial Tramway did not open during the summer and may not fire up this fall either, but it’s worth checking for updates. The 80-passenger cable car brings visitors to the 4,080-foot Cannon summit in under 10 minutes, offering a view of the mountains of four states and Canada. The summit features scenic walking paths, a 360-degree observation deck, a cafe, bar and restrooms.
Cranmore Mountain Resort: The quad chairlift is scheduled to open this fall with advanced reservations and waivers required. The scenic lift carries riders to the Cranmore summit with great views of North Conway and Mount Washington. Check in at Meister Hut for provisions and grab an ice cream if you can.
Gunstock Mountain: Go summit bound aboard the Panorama quad chairlift, a 15-minute trip that opens into beautiful views of Lake Winnipesaukee, Mount Washington and the Belknap, Ossipee, Squam and Presidential mountain ranges. Call the resort for status at 603-293-4341.
Loon Mountain Resort: New Hampshire’s longest scenic gondola skyride climbs to the 2,733-foot summit of Loon Peak. Climb the observation tower for the best views of the White Mountains, and grab lunch at the newly renovated Summit Café. Advanced reservations recommended and masks must be worn by all occupants while in the lift line and inside the gondola.
Mount Sunapee Resort: Climb 1,400 vertical feet over more than a mile in length on board the Sunapee Express Quad. Take in beautiful views of the lake from the summit and along the one-mile Lake Solitude Trail to Lake Solitude.
Waterville Valley Resort: Snow’s Mountain Chairlift at Waterville Valley provides a relaxing journey (with bike or without) high into the national forest. The double chair is located on Boulder Path Road. For updated status, call 603-236-8311 ext. 3167.
Killington Resort: The Beast’s K-1 Express Gondola carries you a mile-and-a-half to the top of Killington Peak, the second tallest in the state. You’ll be rewarded at the summit with 360-degree views of Vermont’s Green Mountains.
Mount Snow: Did you know that you can leaf peep into four different states from the Mount Snow summit? The Bluebird Express, a six-pack detachable, will show you how easy, and beautiful, it is. The $8 million lift, which was installed in 2012, runs 7,385 feet in length. For status update, call 800-245-7669 (245-SNOW).
Okemo Mountain Resort: The Sunburst Six chairlift might not guarantee sunshine all day, but it will deliver you to a mountaintop filled with hiking or picnicking options. All tickets for all fall activities can be purchased at the Sunburst Six Ticket Window or the Jackson Gore Ticket Window.
Stowe Mountain Resort: Open daily, weather permitting, the Stowe Gondola SkyRide gives adventurists access to Vermont’s highest mountain — Mansfield — where the extraordinary, colorful views are like none other. Last cabin up departs at 4:15 p.m.
Stratton Mountain Resort: Climb aboard Stratton’s scenic and vintage gondola for a trip to the top of southern Vermont’s highest peak. Installed in 1989, with cabins replaced in 2004, the venerable lift traverses 7,379 feet, elevating more than 1,700 feet. Be sure to purchase your tickets online and in advance.
Sugarbush Resort: The Super Bravo Express Quad, located steps away from the Gate House base lodge area, carries riders through a path of blazing poplars and golden hues of autumn, to the top of Gadd Peak, where further exploration abounds. Before planning your visit, check the resort’s Health & Travel page on sugarbush.com.
Camden Snow Bowl: Owned and operated by the town of Camden’s Parks and Recreation Department, the Snow Bowl’s triple chairlift — the only scenic lift in New England offering views of the ocean — will be operating on Sundays in October from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The lift will carry you to the top of Ragged Mountain, where you can choose between two paths that diverge in the woods — one leading to views of Penobscot Bay and islands downeast, and the other to views of the surrounding mountains to the north and west. Confirm operations by calling 207-236-3438.
Sugarloaf: Lift maintenance this summer replaced the return bullwheel on the SuperQuad high-speed detachable chair, which elevates 1,750 feet from the resort’s base area. With pandemic operations in mind for the upcoming ski season, the crew also is installing a new dual-frequency RFID system to streamline the arrival process with direct-to-lift convenience, as well as limiting person-to-person contact. While the SuperQuad may be closed until the snow flies, it never hurts to check on fall status by e-mailing [email protected].
Sunday River: Part chair, part gondola, the Chondola will whisk you to the top of North Peak for sweeping views of the Sunday River Valley and Mahoosuc Mountains, including the third-highest peak in Maine, Old Speck. You can choose to ride in an open chair or in an enclosed gondola cabin. The lift ordinarily runs Friday to Sunday through Columbus Day Weekend in October. Reach out to [email protected] to confirm operations.