The Hidden Gem of New England & Zeb Powell
New Hampshire has a long history with skiing and in its heyday was the epicenter of skiing in America. Small ski areas popped up all over New Hampshire’s glacial carved notches, but few last to this day. Tenney Mountain is a rare survivor and a secret to everyone but the few hundred folks that regularly ski there.
I visited Tenney Mountain this past February on a day where most other resorts would have a lift line to the parking lot. But instead, I strapped on my boots, clicked into my bindings and slid onto an open chair. The lift appeared to have me by a few years, but the 10 minute or so ride up made for some extremely long runs down. This winter has been disappointing for the ski industry to say the least. There have been very few storms and most of the ski mountains in New Hampshire are coated in classic northeastern hardpack ice.
But, Tenney didn’t seem to have one patch of ice and I didn’t ski around a single other person. There was snow to carve on and winding trails with no ropes stopping skiers from going down them. It seemed the ski area had been stuck in time since the 80s. It was a change of pace from the crowded slopes of Loon or Sunday River and it certainly had better conditions.
Skiing without a map is sometimes the best way to explore a mountain. Just following your gut and turning where feels right can lead to all-time runs. At Tenney, the runs are narrow, winding trails, with soft snow the whole way down. Carving down empty trails in New England is unheard of, and apparently a common occurrence at Tenney.
Tenney isn’t a mountain you’d just stumble upon and there are no signs leading you to the base. The “locals only” vibe was strong, but at the same time fellow skiers and riders were friendly and happy to share their powder
stashes. Just as we were pulling in, a gentleman was leaving with his family who were here for vacation week. He said how he had skied all over New England his whole life and called Tenney the “hidden gem of New England.”
Earlier that week I spoke with someone over the phone saying I would interview Mike Bouchard about the new mountain. I was expecting to meet a lift worker and hear about the daily processes of the mountain, but instead I met with engineer and general manager of the mountain, Sir Michael Bouchard. Although I have not met other ski area managers, I think he may be different than most, learning to ski just last year.
I also spoke with Alessandro Insolia, the managing partner of the family-owned company, who said his family is excited to develop the 900 acres that surround the ski mountain. At the moment they plan to develop a hotel, residential units and senior housing, but could also go beyond that.
One of the main differences on the mountain is the snow. The snow was softer and more abundant than what Cannon or Loon had that weekend. Yes, there were less people, but Bouchard has applied his engineering mind to create better snow. Tenney tests the snow on the slopes every night and adjusts their groomers accordingly. This makes it so the snow doesn’t become so hard and turn into ice like most New England ski areas. He also makes his snow differently, heating his water before shooting it onto the slopes – resulting in noticeably softer and deeper trails.
Tenney is what it would be like if a group of passionate, down to earth skiers got together and opened a mountain. There is no one telling you what to do or when to do it and the responsibility is in the skiers’ hands.
The price to ski for college students who show proof of enrollment is only $20 on weekdays and $25 on weekends.
- Devan Sack
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Interview with professional snowboarder Zeb Powell
What is your first memory of snowboarding?
“My first memory of snowboarding was actually kind of bad. It was a holiday and my family took us up to go skiing at our local mountain, before I even got introduced to snowboard- ing. They set me up riding regular stance and I had this really mean teacher who was all aggravated that I couldn’t ride regular. I was just not having fun. I remember I must have had a little sense of style because they gave me these colorful overalls and I was like no I don’t want to wear this. Then I got an all black kit, I looked good, I remember.”
What was it like to win an X Games gold medal?
“It’s definitely surreal considering I haven’t made it to a huge competition cir- cuit yet. It was a different type of pressure being in front of a screen on tv with all big dawgs and stuff. It was crazy. Everything up until the competition was wild. I was nervous and stuff. Then once I started competing I was having a blast and it was fine.”