A rocky day at Ragged Mountain

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARagged Mountain is a southern New Hampshire ski area with some improvements to make. Although the mountain has some unique features it needs better snow-making and grooming to justify its $70+ lift tickets and to be competitive with local mountains like Mount Sunapee.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARagged Mountain, located in Danbury NH, has 55 trails and 1,250 feet of vertical drop. 30% of its trails are novice, 40% intermediate and 30% are Expert. It has 7 lifts which includes New Hampshire’s only high speed 6 person lift; most of the lifts are concentrated in the single base area. A lift ticket at Ragged can exceed $70 during peak times. Overall it has all the numbers you would expect from a smaller New England ski area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI chose to ski Ragged because I was meeting people from Boston and the mountain was convenient enough for all of us. The base area was buzzing with skiers and snowboarders. This was no surprise since it was a bluebird day and over a foot of snow had fallen recently. The lifts were humming, I got my lift ticket and I was stoked to get on the slopes with a pair of brand new skis.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe high speed 6 person lift made quick work of the seemingly large line and we were taking in the impressive view from the top just a few minutes later.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe chose to take Twister, a black diamond trail, as our first run. Instead of taking on epic powder on a gnarly pitch we were greeted with a route scattered with rocks, exposed grass and some snow. My skis found plenty of barely covered rocks on the way down. I was a little surprised that this trail was open and I wondered how it had not benefited from the recent snowstorm or the mountain’s snow-making.

We chose Showboat as our next run. It had some thrilling pitches but the hard pack snow made it sound as if my skis were going over cement. Where was the grooming, snow-making or natural snow on this run? After this run I switched out my skis. If I was going to sacrifice my skis to this mountain it was not going to be my new skis.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe spent the day trying to find powder on the mountain. Instead we found a lot of thin cover signs, exposed grass and rocks. The slopes with snow were corduroy free with plenty of bumps. Also, Ragged has long runs but not a lot of vertical which means there are plenty of sweet pitches separated by flat or even uphill sections; enough to make it feel like a full body workout.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite these shortcomings Ragged Mountain does have its positives. Most of the groomed runs have non-groomed sections on the sides that make it easy to jump in and out of challenging terrain. This makes a lot of sense and I haven’t seen it at many ski areas. It also makes up for the short vertical with constantly changing fall lines on many runs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI think that the best thing about this mountain is its glades. Tree skiing has always intimidated me but Ragged makes it easy to learn with a glade trail for any experience level. They actually have green rated glade trails and that is something you don’t see every day.  We took on several of these runs and became better skiers because of it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARagged Mountain has clearly invested a lot of money in a high speed lift but it could be a much better ski area if it invested more in snow-making and grooming. Other smaller mountains, like Berkshire East, have taken this approach by creating a better skiing experience before investing in lifts. In my view this is the only way that Ragged Mountain can compete with nearby mountains, like Mount Sunapee, and justify its lift ticket prices.

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