New Hampshire resorts have been growing massively in the last decade. Cannon recaptured the Mitersill side, Loon replaced the Kancamagus quad with a heated bubble eight-pack as part of their 2030 plan, Waterville Valley added Green Peak, and Bretton Woods put in a gondola and lodge in recent years. Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford, New Hampshire saw record visitors, pass sales, and revenue last season, and is now aiming to build off that momentum. On Saturday, the mountain revealed their plans in detail in a town hall meeting. The timeline is a bit ambiguous, but the leaders stressed a sense of urgency in order to keep up with the heavyweights of the New Hampshire ski resort industry.
If all these expansions come to fruition, thirty-one trails would be added, three detachable quads and a triple chairlift would be built, one of their lifts will be extended, and a triple chairlift, new overnight accommodations, a summit hiking loop new parking spots, and a summit road that would lead to a new restaurant/bar at the top.
I made the trip over to Gunstock, before ironically realizing hours later that I could’ve just watched their live stream on Youtube. On the bright side, I got some good close-ups on the potential terrain expansions on the master development plan maps. Here’s a breakdown of the plans: Top Priorities: The imminent improvements involve improvements to summer and winter operations. These will cost $5.5 million. In order to improve skier circulation, the resort wants to replace the Ramrod and Tiger chairlifts with a high-speed detachable quad. A new ski trail would be added from the top of the chairlift to provide another trail for skiers. This won’t happen next season, as they noted supply chain issues and the lack of availability of new lifts, partially due to Vail’s Epic Lift Upgrade.
Other improvements will be the summit road, which will connect the base to the summit for a great scenic drive. The road will be open during the offseason and stay closed during the winter due to it being a part of the upcoming Eastside expansion. The summit will feature a new lodge and restaurant to service guests. Along with the road will be glamping sites, providing great views of New Hampshire’s largest lake: Lake Winnipesaukee. A summit hiking loop will also be sculpted. Eastside: The Eastside expansion is the first priority following the summer road addition. A high-speed quad will service mostly intermediate runs and will provide an alternate lift to make it up to the summit. The terrain will be surrounded by the summit road, glamping sites, and potentially the planned hotel. The estimated cost of this expansion is $15.3 million.
A hotel will also be added in later years, and the question will be where the location will be. Three sites have been circled: two around the base area, and one partially up the summit road. A private partner will be needed, but based on rival Cranmore Mountain Resort currently building a slopeside Fairfield Inn & Suites, it sounds feasible. Alpine Ridge: The most interesting portion of the master development plan is the comeback of Alpine Ridge. The mountain ran from the 1960s through the 1980s. This pod will feature intermediate and advanced terrain, and be serviced by a triple chairlift. The existing Penny Pitou lift will be extended to make for easier access to the Alpine Ridge pod. The hub will provide an additional base for Gunstock, including a new base lodge and guest services buildings. An old map from the 1980s of Alpine Ridge is below. The runs will likely not follow the original runs that made up the long-closed mountain. The estimated cost is $7.4 million. Backside: The backside expansion is the most ambitious project, which is due to the land not currently being owned by the mountain. There will be no base out of this area to park at, so you will need to access the terrain pod via the Panorama lift or the upgraded Ramford lift. This will also feature mostly intermediate terrain and will be serviced by a detachable quad. This section would cost $17.3 million.
I generally like the plans, but there are some portions that seem a bit iffy for me. The parts that I love are the summer toll road, the Alpine Ridge expansion, and the overnight accommodation plans. The hotel site that I don’t like in particular is the first one. The resort officials like this one because with it being partially up the mountain, you get some quality Lake Winnipesaukee views. The problem with this site though is it’s far away from the skiing and isn’t ski-in/out, even if the Eastside expansion happens. I feel like having a base side option will be better for skiers, particularly site two next to the Pistol chairlift. If they can add trails or even a lift to that site, it could work. I also feel like Gunstock lacks gladded runs, and this plan doesn’t really address that. Lastly, replacing Ramrod with a high-speed chairlift is a nice move, but removing the Tiger lift as well in that area due to its proximity to the new lift will reduce capacity somewhat, which could cause more crowds.
You can view the master development plan maps here. Comments on the plan can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. The full video is below, and the speakers begin around fifty minutes in.