If Speakeasy trail at Loon seems to tip off the kind of trail it is, Speakeasy also is one of the best anywhere to strengthen your early intermediate skiing and test yourself with a long top-to-bottom run without stopping.
Perhaps the easiest thing about Loon, however, is getting there from the Boston area — just about two hours of highway driving (Route 93) to the town of Lincoln, just short of Franconia Notch.
Actually, that highway is in large measure why Loon exists in the first place, and is attributable to a onetime hiking enthusiast and President Eisenhower’s chief of staff, Sherman Adams. Adams, who was in the lumber business, had hiked all over New Hampshire’s outback lands, and when the state opened a 100-mile tract into central New Hampshire, Adams’ friend and Olympic skier, Sel Hannah, reported that the land could be made into a great ski area near Cannon Mountain and Mittersill.
It would be different from the rockhard challenge of a Cannon, Hannah reported, but rather a good family mountain. And now, half a century after those origins, Loon is indeed one of the most popular family mountains in New England, and for that reason, best skied during weekdays.
Of Loon’s two peaks, South Peak is a bit lower with shorter, steeper runs such as Ripsaw, Twitcher and Jobber — often kept in a natural state. One long blue cruiser over here is named just that — Cruiser — and provides an escape route for more moderate challenges. On North Peak, which provides a trio of four-passenger quads among the plethora of lifts at this, by far the busier side of the resort, is where most of the action is on big weekends and provides cruising from blue to mild black on such old faves as Walking Boss, Flume and Northstar.
Also over on this side is Speakeasy, which at times is wide and flat, other times more like a narrow, old-fashioned New England ski trail. It starts with a quick left off the Loon Peak trail, beginning with a wide and a fun jumbled fall line. Then it straightens out with a hard right and a fairly broad cliff road that lets you pick up some good speed and work your turns within a broad, moderately pitched slope that leads you to a hard right. Now the trees close in and you have to work fairly quick turns (depending on your speed) and make a right-foot turn onto a nice steeper roll that lets you cruise, taking some wide super-G turns as the slope eases out to a flattish long ego run that bends left past the midway lift station.
You can opt for the upper half or flash on by toward the bottom. The lower half is less interesting with a string of long flats and few turning opportunities, and yet the long flats let us enjoy the gorgeous views of peaks receding before us in bright late sunshine — Osceola standing out sharply among them.
Then a nice descent into the village for an après treat of a Sam Adams draft and a crock of baked French-onion soup.