By David Schissler
(April 2015) New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee Region truly has it going on any time of year. In summer, boating, fishing, hiking, water parks, zip-lines, golf, tennis, shopping can easily be found. But in winter, Gunstock Mountain Resort is the place for activities.
Previously, my experience with the mountain was limited to the racing trail on the right side of the mountain. I spent my days there because my younger brother was a nationally ranked junior racer and had an annual racer there. Gunstock is a huge racer incubator. In fact the Gunstock Ski club is the oldest organized ski club in New Hampshire, and unless I’m wrong, I think it’s also the largest in the country.
I visited Gunstock late in March for a NASJA meeting of ski writers. One of my favorite perks of being a ski writer is “First Tracks”. When a group of writers visit a ski area, its executives will usually open the mountain on Saturday morning to ski with us for an hour or so before the mountain is open to the public. It means half-a-dozen runs or so on perfectly groomed, empty trails and as many rides up with management to ask the questions you want answered. That in itself is more than enough to make my day but this time Gunstock took it one step further. As we unloaded, before us was a double line of about a dozen ski patrolmen in full gear with ski poles raised in an arch to welcome us! It was an impressive gesture. What’s more, since we were the first up the lift, the patrol invited us to participate in their morning sweep. As is their routine every morning before the public is on the mountain, they check each trail for hazards and obstructions, secure every rope on the hill and eyeball any other potential risks to their guests. I skied with patrolmen Del Record, a veteran patrolmen and first responder, who kept a wary eye on me and one of my ski buddies this day, David Sartell. With no one on the mountain it was an open invitation to let ‘em rip. We savored every turn in the sugar corduroy and let our skis carve into the soft snow. When we got to the bottom and met up with rest of our party there were smiles all around.
There is no lodging at the mountain but there are over 25,000 beds in the Lakes Region. I stayed at the Gunstock Inn and Resort, owned by Les & Linda Schuster and less than a mile from the mountain. The rooms are modest but clean, quiet, and comfortable, and as I said, less than a mile from the mountain (I know my priorities). Bring your bathing suit since the Inn has a huge salt water heated indoor pool to enjoy. Even if you stay somewhere else don’t miss the Shuster Tavern at the inn. The linen table cloths, full bar, and cozy atmosphere are pleasing but the food is the reason to go. You’ll find a full, fine-dining menu with tasty dishes for less than you may be used too. They run a very good kitchen. www.gunstockinn.com
Gunstock has 1,440 vertical feet with 55 trails of which 24 have night skiing. Don’t want to ski or board? No worries. You can visit the cross-country center, snowshoe to the summit through the woods, hit the tubing park, or, if you’re really adventurous, ride the impressive zip-line. It’s huge, long, high and fast! For more info – www.gunstock.com