December 8, 2019
Day 3
Skiers: Carla & Erica

Today we visited our first small mountain, Granite Gorge in Roxbury. We traveled 101 West to 93 North, 89 North, and west along Route 9 to reach our destination. I am not familiar with Route 9 past Henniker, and really enjoyed the beautiful views of the Monadnock Region. Traffic was light, roads and sky were clear, and my belly was full after an early morning purchase of fresh hot homemade cider donuts from the Common Man at the 93 Northbound rest area. This is my go-to stop for coffee and the smell as you enter is divine! Donuts are served fresh from the fryer, and you can select from plain, cinnamon sugar, or maple glazed…. I’ll confess I got one of each this morning. Ok, enough about donuts.

Granite Gorge is a tiny little mountain tucked away off of Rt 9 and is accessed via a little bridge that crosses the Otter Brook. As we pulled into the parking area, the sun was rising behind the mountain and created a dazzling display of light illuminating across the snow. Snow guns were fired up and I my first impression was wow those front two trails look steep and fun! To note: GG hit a white jackpot earlier in the week with an 18+ inch snowfall, where its neighbors elsewhere in the state ranged between 4-12”. This snow allowed GG to open a full week earlier than expected, and they were offering $15 tickets for opening weekend. These factors made it an easy choice for ski day #3.


Sunrise over Granite Gorge. Note the steepness of the front trails

The base lodge is sizable, with areas for booting up, a rental room, and bar/restaurant addition on an upper level. There are homages to old ski equipment, and some awesome upcycles including a ski chandelier, snowboard pendant lights, and custom framed menu boards. Outside is a large deck that overlooks the mountain, and situated next to the lodge is a traditional Yurt. I had to peek inside and marvel at the spacious layout, and cozy fire burning in the woodstove. Additional outbuildings include a quaint little blue schoolhouse with a magic carpet for novice lessons, and smaller huts near each lift line. When we first arrived and entered the lodge, we were greeted by the owner Fred Baybutt and two staff members Leon & Jeremy. I was totally surprised, as I never personally met an owner of any ski area, or even been greeted 1:1 by any ski staff member before. I must say I felt rather special! Fred is most definitely a boots on the ground kind of guy, as evidenced by his pulling snowmaking duties throughout the night and into the morning. He was working the ticket desk, and later in the day was seen assisting with the handle tow.


Trail map from the side of the Pinnacle Lift. Note: central trails are steep & black, green beginners to left, and intermediate blues to right. Cross country and snowshoe trails run the length of Otter Brook

Open terrain consisted of the original Bunny Buster green trail served by a 600’ handle tow. It was a light traffic day at the mountain, and Erica and I easily lapped this trail 15 times without wait. The snow base was deep, lightly packed with a fluffy topcoat, and a few whales provided an environment for playful skiing and fun turns. Nearby the snow guns were blazing on the trail serving the GG Tubing park. We skied for about 2 hours and then retreated inside, spending time with Fred and learning more about the history of GG.


Erica on the handle tow. This was a first for both of us, definitely easier on the hands than a traditional rope tow but still a work out for the upper arms to hold on.


Top of the Bunny Buster trail, looking down towards the base lodge

I shared my Talls & Smalls adventure with Fred, and in turn he happily shared the history and the struggles of GG with me. GG was preceded by Pinnacle Mountain, a small ski area known as the “NH Gateway” that served the Roxbury/Keene community from 1959 through the mid 70’s. Fred and his family grew up learning to ski on this mountain and jumped at the change to purchase the abandoned ski area in 1999. With a background in construction, the family built a new ski area from the ground up and rebranded it as Granite Gorge. What initially started with a handle rope tow & Bunny Buster green trail, grew to new trails on the upper mountain and installation of snowmaking, lights for night skiing, and a double chairlift. Fred explained to me that the ski area is shaped like a catcher’s mitt. It is symmetrical, north facing, and completely protected from the wind. The mitt provides a natural cup for snow to accumulate and nearby Otter Brook and Granite Lake provide abundant water sources for snowmaking. Lack of snow is rarely an issue at GG, making this location a true gem for snow enthusiasts.


The Little Blue Schoolhouse

GG has faced several obstacles in recent years including vandalism and legal issues. At its peak, the mountain provided expansive night skiing, hosted racing events, and was famous for its green VW van terrain park. The double chair lift has not been operational for the past two years, limiting access to the upper Spruce Peak trails. Revenue is down, and they are holding on as the last family owned ski area in southwest NH. Competition includes Sunapee to the north, Crotched to the east, and Okemo & Mount Snow to the west, all recently acquired by Epic. The bread & butter keeping GG operational is tubing including the popular Saturday night Cosmic Tubing event, and novice lessons in the little blue schoolhouse. Fred is optimistic that the chairlift will be operational this season, but if not, he will offer snowmobile rides to bring skiers to the top. I am totally taking him up on this!


The Pinnacle Express lift, currently non-operational.

Overall impression: An impressive rescue of a former lost ski area with huge potential! A sweet collection of trails, including some awesome looking steeps that I can’t wait to return to ski later in the season. Customer service is outstanding, personalized, and the passion to keep GG operational as an independent is inspiring.

Snowy Wishes,
Carla Frontfive


Base lodge with Adirondack seating overlooking the mountain.


Inside the GG bar/lounge. There is such attention to detail, it is cozy and inviting! Love the framed menu boards above the grill.


GG Terrain park in its heyday, VW Bus complete with roof mounted box jump! Pictures courtesy of Fred Baybutt

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