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Wildcat Mountain, New Hampshire

Wildcat Mountain has no condominiums or trophy ski houses lining its trails, no fancy base village with shops and restaurants—it’s a taste of what skiing used to be like.

Wildcat Mountain Ski Resort, New HampshireWhat you’ll find is back-to-basics skiing on old-style trails that ebb and flow with the mountain’s contours. It’s a true skiers’ mountain. If you sink your teeth into Wildcat, it might bite back.

Wildcat sits across a narrow ribbon of highway from Mt. Washington, home to some of the highest recorded winds in the world. While Mt. Washington’s summit, at 6,288 feet, is higher than Wildcat’s, at 4,062, the stunted evergreens coated with rime ice on both give testament to the harshness of the environment. Wildcat can be brutally cold, but the location and elevation does have a silver lining: The scenery is magnificent, and snow is plentiful—an average year yields at least 15 feet—and it comes early and stays late, often well into May.

With no residential development allowed in the protected wilderness area, Wildcat struggles financially compared to the fully-developed resorts. However, skiers and riders who frequent this mountain are fiercely loyal and the varied and challenging terrain give Wildcat a true heart and soul. Wildcat has made major progress in the past few years. Investments in snowmaking and grooming equipment have helped tame the conditions. Trees have been thinned to create glades. Trails have been widened, making them easier for lower-level skiers to navigate. Even the once wild and woolly Wildcat Trail is less menacing. It’s been widened, but it’s seldom groomed, so it still growls. The base lodge has been rebuilt. And a high-speed quad now zips skiers and riders from base to summit in a little over six minutes.

Wildcat, in the Mt. Washington Valley, has often been voted the ski area with the most spectacular scenery in the Northeast, with beautiful views across Pinkham Notch to towering Mt. Washington and Tuckerman Ravine.