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Wildcat — Mountain layout

Mountain Layout—Skiing

Here’s a larger trail map.

Wildcat deserves its reputation as an experts’ mountain. The entire mountain is skiable from the very fast Wildcat Express Quad, which makes copious vertical easy to come by (try the 100K day if you are up for it). Upper Wildcat (a trail that just passed its 70th birthday), to skier’s left, and Top Cat and Lift Lion straight down the middle, can get your heart beating. New for 06-07 are bigger and better gladed runs that create a change of pace from the huge vertical steeps and cruisers that make Wildcat unique in New Hampshire.

From the summit, experienced backcountry enthusiasts can take the plunge down the backside of Wildcat to the village of Jackson. The Wildcat Valley Trail, cut in 1972, descends 3,245 vertical feet over 17.8 km. Be sure to check conditions first with the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation (383-9355), and never ski this trail alone: it is not patrolled and has natural hazards (the first corner alone is enough to make you religious).

Confirming that religious experience is Lynx: It might just convince you that Wildcat is God’s chosen mountain. For decades, Lynx has been the ’Cat’s most popular trail. It’s easy to see why. Lynx plays with you, dropping quickly at the summit, then rolling around a few bends before dropping and rolling again. A different view, changed terrain or a trail split hover around every bend. When taken from summit to base, there are few trails in New England that can compare for range of terrain and the sheer joy of skiing.

Intermediates have plenty to play on here, too. The Tomcat triple reaches about two-thirds of the way up the mountain and is a good retreat when the wind blows hard and cold, perhaps shutting the summit quad. The Bobcat triple reaches a little below midmountain and provides access to the narrow trails at Wildcat’s core, two glades, the Bobcat slope and the Cheetah slope, which is often used for races.

Beginners are not forgotten. The Snowcat area, with its own triple chair, is an ideal place for first-timers and shaky beginners, and the 2.75-mile cruise down Polecat from the summit gives advanced-beginners an authentic Alpine experience. Another favorite for those who want a nice glide in the woods is the Wild Kitten off the Bobcat triple. Riders, however, will want to keep their speed up at the bottom to get back to the lift without hoofing it.