Day 1: Snowboarding Ragged Mountain

I had gotten on a plane. I had flown four states away. I had rented a 4-wheel drive, put on Hendrix, and driven deep into the mountains. I had thrown down a tuna sandwich from a country store. I had pulled on base layers, boots and goggles. I had ascended over 1000 feet, strapped in, bombed down, again and again, under perfect bluebird skies.

I felt that tired satisfaction of a full day, but it was only 1:30 p.m.

Ragged Mountains groomers. Photo: Jon Coen.

Fortunately, I got my second wind. Because I'm in New Hampshire for seven days, and there is simply no time to be tired.

This is the heart of New England. It doesn't have the cache of the Wasatch, the vertical of the Tetons, nor the glamour of the Rocky Mountains. But you’d be hard pressed to find a region with more charm.

From mountains to coast, it’s the recreational backyard of the country's most sprawling metropolitan corridor. New Hampshire is everything to love about New England.

My flight arrived in Manchester by 9 a.m., the kind of place where the baggage claim department is essentially a jovial guy named Tom. In only a few minutes I was headed out of the city on a major interstate highway… with about four other cars. Another 90 minutes, and I was looking up Ragged Mountain.

Ragged Mountain, where you can pretty much ride by yourself after a holiday weekend. Photo courtesy of Ragged Mountain Resort.

Ragged Mountain, where you can sometimes ride by yourself. Photo: Courtesy of Ragged Mountain Resort.

Conditions were decent. Following the kind of cold that had moose complaining about chapped hooves in 2015, and then a balmy El Nino winter in 2016, this winter has been more normal for the mountains of the Northeast. Between natural snowfall and temperatures conducive for snowmaking, the early season was solid.

Ragged Mountain. Yeah, it's that kind of hill. Photo courtesy of Ragged Mountain Resort.

Ragged Mountain. Yeah, it’s that kind of hill. Photo: Courtesy of Ragged Mountain Resort.

"It seems a little busy for a weekday," a local girl said on the lift. I was a little confused. I was literally riding for a full mile without seeing another human being. "This place doesn't get the kind of tourists that the other hills get in New England," she informed me.

The visibility was unreal and you could make out the 6,288-foot peak of Mount Washington in the distance.

By the time the lifts closed, I was checked into the New Hampshire Mountain Inn, a traditional boarding farmhouse with every rough-hewn beam telling its 200-plus-year-old history.

I'm told there's another group of guests, but I have yet to see a soul. That might be a bit eerie, but judging from all the warm and happy locals I met today, if there are spirits living here, they're just going to talk about good snow and local craft beer.

Good morning from the New Hampshire Mountain Inn. Photo: Coen.

Good morning from the New Hampshire Mountain Inn. Photo: Jon Coen.

Then it was back to the lodge at Ragged Mountain where the locals and ski patrol were firing up to live music at the Stone Hearth Bar. I was invited to a bonfire at a house party where apparently the host breathes fire.

There's an additional buzz around the hill with the latest upcoming winter storm. This isn't supposed to be a winter knockout, but the White Mountains could get anywhere from 5 to 8 inches of joy.

The next day, I heard a kid working in the lodge talking about his burnt hand. That means it was a good party. I should have gone.