Skiing is the official state sport of New Hampshire. Not surprisingly, ski areas, small and large, dot the landscape. Pats Peak stands out among them as family-friendly and most of all, as one of the best-run ski resorts in the state, if not New England overall. What Pat’s lacks in size, it makes for in excellent ski operations, superb staff, and top-notch grooming.
Pats Peak hums with activity. Its close relationship with several school districts allows it to enjoy the presence of children on its slopes up to the evening, being one of the few resorts in New Hampshire that hosts night skiing. It has a top-notch ski school. And it has adapted to the dynamic demands of climate change and the recent pandemic.
Instead of relying on the whims of a corporation, Pats Peak is run by the Patenaude family. It was a dream dating back to 1963 when four brothers began working on a small mountain owned by their father. The sense of family permeates mountain operations, staff, and instructors.
As so many other areas drastically curtailed customer service during the Covid-19 pandemic, Pats Peak’s management adapted by adding outside bubbles where guests could congregate as families. It strictly enforced Covid protocols yet continued operations safely and efficiently. And when the weather went sour and many resorts were 25 or 30 percent open, Pats Peak remained 100% open. It is worth noting that the bubbles have become a permanent part of the outside, and are now equipped with dedicated heaters to ensure guest comfort.
Since 1963, the mountain has consistently improved to provide guest satisfaction. The lifts are fixed and relatively slow, but with two conveyor loader triples, getting to the top is quite easy. New groomers, a new expansion to the main lodge, outside igloos, and parking lot improvements in the last three years have allowed this small-to-medium resort to remain competitive and perhaps, perform significantly better than many of its corporate competitors.
Pats Peak is located in Henniker, New Hampshire, less than five miles from the I-89 interstate. Henniker is a charming town that hosts New England College in its central square. The town is dotted with restaurants, bars, shops, and the Henniker Brewhouse microbrewery. The Colby Hill Inn, less than five minutes away, offers both superb accommodations and fine dining. And often, families start the day with a hearty breakfast at the Intervale Farm Pancake House at the base of the hill leading to Pats Peak.
Accessing the resort from Route 114 via Flanders Road, the ample parking surrounds the main lodge. The parking areas were all regraded and in some instances, paved over the last year. Early arrival guarantees close-in parking.
Going up a set of stairs with low risers and wide treads, obviously built with forethought for ski boots and children, the ticket office is to the left, and further up the stairs, is the large patio with ski rentals. The school is to the right and the general lodge to the left.
Pats Peak has several types of season passes, and is part of the Indy Pass consortium. Perks are provided to many passholders at partner resorts like Jay Peak and Ragged Mountain. Tickets can be bought for the entire day or day only, noon to closing, or nighttime only. There are senior tickets for over 65 and both senior and military season passes.
Entering the main lodge, a huge area with its cafeteria welcomes guests. The building was recently expanded to provide additional meeting space for groups and special events. The second level has a large seating area and the Sled Pub, a full-service bar, and a restaurant.
Pats Peak has joined most ski areas in New England in not allowing bags on the lodge tables or against the walls. The resort now provides ample outside storage space with cubicles for bags.
The 11 lifts and 28 trails at Pats Peak cover an area of 103 acres with 95 acres dedicated to night skiing. It is one of the few areas in New Hampshire with fully 100 percent snowmaking capability. From its 770 feet vertical elevation, fully 50 percent of the runs are rated for beginners, with 20 percent intermediate and 14 percent advanced and expert. There are 9 gladed trails throughout, including the newer Cascade back bowl. Three terrain parks complete the ski and board terrain. On top of that, Pats Peak has a large tubing area for those who choose not to engage in riding or skiing.
A normal day at Pats Peak is to start at either the Hurricane or the Cascade Basin triple chairs to the top. The northern side of the mountain holds most of the challenging terrain, including the double-black diamonds Tornado and Hurricane, as well as several challenging steep glades. Several other blue runs are on this side including East Wind and Duster. The next lifts to the east allow access to the FIS race course and Vortex, another challenging competition run. The beginner terrain park and some learning glades are interspersed with these runs.
The backside of the resort has shorter and less steep runs and glades, a superb choice for beginners who want to enhance their skills in less challenging terrain.
Back at the lodge, the cafeteria offers regular resort food but they also sell what might be the largest chocolate chip cookies on the planet, the size of small plates. On the upper floor, the Sled Pub is a must for those with tired feet and a thirst for local brews.
Pats Peak is a gem in the ski industry of New England. It is still one of these places where parents can have their kids run around and not be afraid to let them loose. It is amazingly well-run and well-led. Although small, it is optimum for families and school-age children to hone their skills. It’s well worth visiting.
While actually born in the tropics (Cuba), Lou grew up in New England and went to College in Vermont, where he initially took up skiing. He then embarked on a twenty-two year Air Force piloting career that took him to over 50 countries. He has skied in Europe and America (both North and South). His second career as a senior officer with the Federal Government spanned thirteen years and in 2010, Lou retired to pursue a more leisurely life style.
Do you have a plan to cover these resorts? this season.
Any good places to stay between Attitash and wildcat? maybe hit up Stowe / Okemo.
- 3-day mid-week type plan.