Whaleback Mountain is located just east of Lebanon in New Hampshire along I-89. This is a classic New England ski resort with 85 acres of skiing and 30 named trails. There’s night skiing offered over about 2/3 of the mountain. Difficulty on Whaleback is about average, with 7 novice, 12 intermediate, 6 advanced, and 4 expert trails. There’s one lift, a double chair that ferries skiers to the peak and two surface lifts that cater to the learning area. There are two terrain parks, one a basic jib park, the other a progression park and both located just a short walk uphill from the base lodge.
Where to Ski at Whaleback
Whaleback is fairly unique in ski are design in that the mountain isn’t split in difficulty in its upper and lower halves. Instead, novices can hop right on the main lift and find a trail suited for their ability level in both directions when they disembark. That isn’t to say that if you aren’t sure of yourself that you should be taking the lift and going willy-nilly. There is a learning area to the far side of the resort, complete with its own parking and lifts. That being said, if you do take the lift, you’d be remiss not to take the Ivory Run. This long gentle cruiser skirts the park and provides one of the best views on its way down. Going to the left after you get off the lift will lead to Flipper or Whaletail, both nice groomers that met up at Lower Whaletail. Be careful as you continue, because a wrong turn will send you into the Canyon, an expert run with a drop in that’s as fun for advanced riders as it is fierce for novices.
Expert skiers will find a lot to love at Whaleback. Glades are all over the mountain, including one of the best in the state, the double black Y.O.O.Y.M. This stands for “You’re Out Of Your Mind,” and it’s a tight run that combines the best of a steep with some great tree skiing. If you’re after speed, however, you’re going to want to hit Jawbone and Blow Hole. The Face runs are the standard lift line trails that follow the fall line, but they get over skied a lot, leaving icy patches that can be a little jarring. Instead, Blow Hole has great rollers, bumpy snow and some awesome opportunities for air (if you’re into that sort of thing).
For intermediate skiers, most of the blues are left natural, which only adds to their appeal. Fluke and Leviathan combine to make one of the best double runs on the mountain for the intermediate set followed closely by the nearby Fluke to Blubber match up.
Even though Whaleback only has a 700-foot vertical and the trail map isn’t that impressive, don’t pass this ski area up on your drive through New Hampshire. Heck, even from the parking lot, Whaleback doesn’t impress all that much as you look up the double chair to the top of the lift. But trust us, this resort skis like a mountain twice its size. You’ll find a lot of runs to enjoy, and you might even want to make a weekend of it.
The Whaleback Pub is located at the Main Lodge and has cold beer on tap with hot pub food perfect for sitting a spell between runs or for taking a long lunch. There’s also a pool table, and it’s not unheard of for locals to come and enjoy watching skiers as they come down the mountain. If you’re looking for more formal fare or a longer après ski party, head into Lebanon, ten minutes to the west.
The bottom line is this: Whaleback Mountain is a great spot to ski for families of all ability levels. It’s a huge local favorite and is run by a local non-profit. The local skiers are passionate about the mountain and many volunteer to help clear runs in the off season and improve the glades. This love shows when you’re skiing Whaleback. While you probably won’t find enough to make a full week, spending a weekend at Whaleback isn’t a decision you’ll regret; you might even find yourself making the trip more than once.