The excitement grew as I pulled into the parking lot of the Maple Villa ski zone in Bartlett, N.H. A fresh coating of snow from the night prior enveloped the landscape, creating the perfect opportunity to grab a quick pre-work lap at a new backcountry ski zone established by nonprofit organization Granite Backcountry Alliance.
But upon arrival, I found the parking lot filled, despite it only being 7 a.m. A sizable portion of the license plates were from states other than New Hampshire.
It’s no secret that the popularity of backcountry skiing has skyrocketed over the past few years. Mainstream media outlets are constantly publishing “how-to” articles aimed at getting resort skiers into the backcountry — a frequently searched topic fueled by a growing frustration about crowded, overpriced and under-delivering ski resorts.
In Massachusetts, the increase in popularity is just as evident as in places like Vermont and New Hampshire. But until recently, nobody had been tackling the lack of backcountry ski zones in the commonwealth. Instead, skiers would head toward one of the few established — and often crowded — areas in their state, like Mount Greylock’s Thunderbolt Ski Trail. Or, they drive a bit farther to developed areas in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. But even in states like Vermont and New Hampshire, which have organizations actively working to increase skiable out-of-bounds terrain, there has been a struggle to keep up with the increasing demand at some of the most-popular backcountry ski zones.