Firsthand Report
The Granite State and Lou: The Resurrection of Tenney Mountain 2
Author thumbnail By Lou Botta, DCSki Columnist

Few ski resorts have had a history of on, off, on again, off again, partly on, mostly off, on, off, and finally on, than New Hampshire’s Tenney Mountain. It’s hard to believe that a mountain with Tenney’s location and accessibility would have had such a rough life, but here we are. After a ten-year closure, Tenney is back on (and open) again - hopefully for a long time.

The entrance to Tenney Mountain. Photo by Lou Botta.

For this author, coming here had been a ten-year wish which came true on February 6, 2024. And visiting here should have not waited that long. The resort has risen from abandonment and decay to shine as a ski area, a recreation center, and a music entertainment venue.

The staff is eager to assist, friendliness permeates the atmosphere, the upstairs bar is authentic and the food is superb. What’s more, the miles of groomed trails and glades make this an uncrowded and pleasant experience. The clientele is well versed in ski/board etiquette and the shove-and-push found at corporate areas is conspicuously absent.

As one of the customer comments on their web page states, “If you want an authentic retro skiing experience where you can dial the pace down a bit and enjoy the peace of being outside in the snow, then try Tenney.”

Tenney Mountain Resort can rightfully be called the Gateway to the White Mountains. It is located on a smaller, 2,149-foot peak, with a 1,400-foot vertical elevation. Its base, at roughly 750 feet, is quite close to the Pemigewasset River, with all its amazing outdoor offerings. The resort is located within the town of Plymouth, a town of 7,000 people that is home to Plymouth State University, with nearly 5,000 students. Tenney is easily accessible via a short drive off I-93. It’s an hour from Mount Sunapee, two hours from Boston, 50 minutes from Cannon Mountain, and 40 minutes from Loon Mountain.

View of the White Mountains. Photo by Lou Botta.

For the Mid-Atlantic snow enthusiast, the Plymouth area is a four-season outdoor paradise. I-93 comes up from Boston roughly along the same path as the old ski trains to the White Mountains.

Besides Tenney’s attractions, two major lakes, Squam Lake to the East and Newfound Lake to the West, lie in the immediate area. Skiing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling are popular sports. New Hampshire sports 6,900 miles of snowmobile trails, and the Tenny Mountain area is ground zero for this activity. At Tenney, almost 20 miles of mountain biking trails and disc golf complement the offerings.

Tenney’s history goes back to the early 1930s, the days of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” when ski trains would go non-stop to Vermont and the White Mountains, and Plymouth was one of the destinations. Skiers would use old logging roads as ski trails.

In 1959, a T-bar was installed and dedicated trails were cut. In 1964, the Hornet Double was installed and although upgraded, it still works. With the addition of other lifts, and later, snowmaking, Tenney became a popular ski area.

From the 1990s on, a succession of closings, reopenings, stand-stills, vandalism and looting, copper theft, and abandonment made this venerable area a shadow of what it used to be. A succession of owners resembled a musical chair game. In 2009 the owners simply walked away with food in the kitchen left to rot.

View of the main lodge. Photo by Lou Botta.

In 2014, a new local consortium, the Tenney Mountain Development Group, bought the ski area and surrounding land and began a long, arduous process to rebuild the mountain from scratch. A series of construction projects began, and the mountain began limited operations in 2018. However, the COVID-19 pandemic made mincemeat of the plans, and the current owners, the NorthCountry Development Group, purchased it in time for the 2022-2023 season. After investing millions in the infrastructure, Tenney is now back in its original splendor, only modern and more efficient.

A salient feature someone may notice when looking at Tenney is just how affordable it is. Season passes begin at $450 for adults and $275 for people 18 and under. For school district students, the price goes down to $135. And all season passes include buddy passes for friends.

Tenney also sells three-packs of tickets for $175. The daily passes are an affordable $65 with kids under 5 going at no cost.

As affordable as it is, it is amazingly uncrowded. This writer arrived shortly after opening time and there may have been 15 cars in the parking lot. During lunch, half of the main parking area was full. Oftentimes, the skier/boarder will have an entire trail all to themself.

A small but uncrowded parking lot. Photo by Lou Botta.

One upcoming significant feature when winter finally returns to New England is the headlamp skiing days. Groups of 1-4 (with an added fee for more in the group) will be able to ski the mountain with headlamps at night with a guide, and obviously, congregate at the lodge for traditional refreshments. It is interesting to note that the author’s last time headlamp skiing was at Katschberg, Austria, and it is an amazing activity.

Tenney is also trying to attract the very active hiking and outdoor population by advertising a two-day skin-uphill pass with unlimited runs, something that very few resorts have. The $45 deal also includes one skin climb up and if the skier chooses, they can use the lift for the rest of the day as a good reward.

On the same subject, Tenney is a member of the Uphill New England Pass, a consortium of 12+ mountains that banded together to allow multi-mountain uphill passes. The pass includes many local resorts such as Berkshire East, Big Moose Mountain, Black Mountain of Maine, Bromley, Dartmouth Skiway, Middlebury Snow Bowl, Mt. Abram, Saddleback, Tenney Mountain, Waterville Valley, and Whaleback Mountain. Prices start at $215 for adults and $135 for students.

The ski instructor program at Tenney Mountain is simply amazing and extraordinarily affordable. One to four people can get a 2.5-hour lesson (sans lift tickets and lunch) for a price ranging from $175 to $250. A group of up to four can spend half a day with a two-time Olympian, Annalisa Drew, a member of the inaugural Olympic halfpipe skiing team in 2014, finishing 9th at the Sochi Games. She was the first woman to land a 1260 in the halfpipe. And for $175 for four people, you can spend a morning or afternoon with a decades-old Ski School Director, or several other professional instructors. At this time, beginner lessons are not offered, just intermediate and above.

For the non-skier or rider, Tenney has a superb tubing hill, three hours for $25.

Beautiful, narrow trails at Tenney. Photo by Lou Botta.

The Back Country Bar and Grille takes up almost all of the upstairs of the main lodge, with a huge outdoor deck and ski-in-ski-out access to the slopes. A rustic, yet modern and immaculately clean facility hosts a full bar and a cafeteria kitchen with a varied menu.

For the Mid-Atlantic skier/boarder visiting New Hampshire and wanting to hit a few trails, Tenney is only about six miles from Exit 26 on I-93 as the Interstate Highway meanders up from Boston towards Franconia Notch and Quebec. Tenney is two hours from Logan Airport, half an hour from either Loon Ski Resort or Waterville Valley, and 45 minutes from Cannon Mountain. It is well located.

While there is no hotel on the property, there are numerous condo units available throughout Airbnb and VRBO. As well, there are several hotels close to the nearby Newfound Lake.

Entering Tenney Mountain Resort, a drive through the condominium areas leads to the main lodge. The smallish parking lot, which reportedly seldom gets filled, lies in front of the lodge and between the two main lifts. Walking up to the lodge, the downstairs hosts a ticket office and a changing lodge with plenty of tables and boot bag cubicles. Once ready, an outside stairway leads to the double Hornet lift to the summit, or continues to the Triple Meadows lift.

View of the double chairlift Hornet. Photo by Lou Botta.

The Hornet Lift territory is primarily advanced and expert, with several glades and steeps. Part of the “retro” persona of Tenney is the narrow, winding, twisting runs particular of old New England ski resorts. These are a feature of the Hornet lift side. Several top-to-bottom runs come off the top of Hornet down 1,400 feet to the bottom. Forget-me-not, Hornet, and Shooting Star, all black diamonds, lead to gladed terrain. The blue runs Morning Glory and Tote Road parallel these and narrow connecting blues and black diamonds jump from one to the other.

On the other side, accessed from the top, lie two connectors to the B triple, otherwise the Meadows chair. It is important to note that at Tenney, runs and lifts are known by number as well as name, creating confusion for someone unfamiliar with the terrain. As well, the resort has no printed trailmap. The best way to find one’s way is by taking a smartphone picture of the display at the lodge.

Tenney Mountain trailmap. Photo by Lou Botta.

Side B is primarily blue terrain, with some excellent tree skiing areas added to it. Venus Fly Trap and Trillium are joyful, as are Tiger Lilly and Hall’s Meadow. For beginners, there are two rope tows and a T-bar in a relatively small learning area.

Lunch at Tenney’s cafeteria is moderately priced, quite different than the $20 hamburgers at corporate areas. Their veggie burritos are exquisite. Local microbrews are available at the full-service bar which often hosts musical events.

Tenney Mountain is as underrated as it could be. It is a joy to ski there. When there is copious snow, the mountain is unbeatable in its offerings of old-time skiing with narrow winding runs, glades, and trees. The excellent attitude of the staff is evident; they are well trained with excellent morale. Tenney has only one way to go: up.

The Granite State and Lou:

Lou Botta is in the process of profiling every ski area in the state of New Hampshire.

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About Lou Botta

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.

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Reader Comments

snowsmith - DCSki Supporter 
4 months ago
Member since 03/15/2004 🔗
1,578 posts

Thanks Lou - I have a NH ski tripped planned for March 3 thru March 10. I plan on skiing Loon, Attitash and Wildcat. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

lbotta - DCSki Supporter 
4 months ago
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,535 posts
Hi snowsmith!  The weekend seems pretty unstable with underdeveloped snow (ra*n) Saturday and spring conditions on Sunday. Next week is the same continuation of the spring conditions. 

In my opinion, Loon is going to have the most trails open. Wildcat, on the other hand, will have the best ski-conducive weather and a great base as it’s further north. Wildcat’s groomed trails are just about 100% open but virtually none of the gladed terrain is. 

Attitash will be fine, best is to park on the Bear Peak side to get the best parking close to the Lodge. And as well, all of Bear Peak is groomed. The main face is also groomed totally.  

My best wishes for total fun 

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