’Tis the season when New England ski resorts morph into summer adventure parks. Think zip lines, canopy tours, bungee trampolines, summer tubing, and mountain coasters. Some spots entice guests with gentler pursuits, like mountaintop yoga, disc golf, pickleball, and life-size chess — or the goofy gaiety of human foosball and knockerball, where you don a giant bubble and play soccer. Some resorts turn their stunning real estate into al fresco performance space, hosting music series, movie nights, and food-and-beer-fests. (Check resort websites for dates and deets.) Add perennial crowd-pleasers like gondola rides, mountain biking, and moose tours, and you’ll find lots of reasons to head to the hills this summer. Here’s a sampling.
Wildlife aficionados can hoof it over to Sugarloaf Mountain (www.sugarloaf.com) for a moose safari, offered by the resort’s guided adventure program. Guides also lead canoe trips and group hikes to one of the Maine Huts & Trails huts. Sugarloaf offers mountain biking and zip lines, along with some unexpected options, like Segway tours, pontoon boat tours, and fly fishing. New this year is an 18-hole disc golf course.
If your #lifegoals include learning a new sport this summer, head to Sunday River (www.sundayriver.com), which is a center for L.L. Bean Discovery Schools. Running Monday through Thursday until Aug. 23, classes focus on archery, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding. They, too, have a zip-line tour (including twin zips so you can race against a friend), plus lift-serviced trails for mountain bikers and e-bike rentals, disc golf, an outdoor climbing wall, and a bungee trampoline. But arguably the best thing here is the most low-tech: hiking Sunday River’s eight peaks.
Meanwhile, at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton (www.shawneepeak.com), guests indulge in mellow pastimes like blueberry picking and paddling in Moose Pond with an overnight stay in one of the mountain cabins.
Capture that Cali vibe at Ski Ward (www.skiward.com) in Shrewsbury. They’ve got three Olympic-size beach volleyball courts, flanked by an indoor/outdoor bar and grill. Ski Ward is also one of the few places in New England that offers summer tubing on four 250-foot lanes, serviced by a carpet lift.
The terrain at Wachusett Mountain (www.wachusett.com) and nearby Wachusett Mountain State Reservation offers a variety of hiking trails for all abilities. Tackle the summit of Wachusett Mountain, 2,006 feet above sea level, or hike to Balance Rock, featuring two stacked boulders that were deposited by glaciers thousands of years ago. Thinking ahead to ski season, check out Wachusett over Labor Day weekend (Aug. 31-Sept. 3). The resort will run a big sale of ski and snowboarding gear and winter apparel, a good opportunity to grab gear for growing kids. They’ll also host family activities that weekend.
If you’ve ever played soccer and thought, “This would be way better if I were inside a giant plastic orb!” you’ll want to schedule a trip to Cranmore Mountain Resort (www.cranmore.com). While there you can don a bubble that you wear like a backpack and play knockerball. Another unique activity: C-More’s Mining Adventure, a water-filled sluice where kids can sift for treasures. Action-packed Cranmore has its own mountain adventure park, too, with a mountain coaster, zip line, giant swing, bungee trampoline, ropes course, and a summer tubing hill.
The scenery you’ll enjoy at the 4,000-foot summit of Wildcat Mountain (www.skiwildcat.com) is a dandy reason to use the panorama setting on your phone. Ride the enclosed gondola up for killer views of Tuckerman Ravine, Mount Washington, and the Presidential Range. (Ski magazine gave it props for No. 1 scenery in the East.) They also have a four-person zip line — it drops 2,100 feet — for thrill seekers.
Summer guests at Attitash Mountain Resort (www.attitash.com) ride up the lifts and come down in a number of ways: by mountain bike, alpine slide, and mountain coaster. This resort has a crazy number of things to do in summertime — among them (speaking of crazy) jumping off a platform and free-falling into a 40-by-40-foot airbag. They’ve also got a waterpark with waterslides (which will seem pretty tame after that free fall) and the longest single zip line in the state.
Make this the summer you commune with horses. (Why? Horses are awesome.) Black Mountain (www.blackmt.com) offers equine-themed fun — riding lessons, horseback rides along mountain trails, pony rides for kids, and — our favorite — a trail ride to a cabin for an overnight with barbecue and s’mores by a campfire.
There are so many activity choices at Bretton Woods (www.brettonwoods.com), it would almost be easier to list what they don’t have. Instead, we’ll pull out some of the more unique offerings, like fly fishing, ranger-led mountain tours, archery, and an ATV park for kids. Their canopy tour (operating all year) is different, too — guides describe the native flora and fauna as you cross the treetop zip lines, sky bridges, and platforms.
Down Lincoln way, Loon Mountain Resort (www.loonmtn.com) is known for its aerial park and adventure center, but there’s something more Zen that’s drawing guests this summer: mountaintop yoga. Participants take a gondola to the 2,733-foot summit of Loon Peak for a 60-minute yoga session (Tuesdays and Saturdays); on Sundays, yogis ride the gondola to Loon Peak, and then hike up to the 3,100-foot summit of North Peak for yoga. “We’ve seen an increase in New Hampshire ski areas offering mountaintop yoga classes,” says Karolyn Castaldo of the industry group Ski NH. “For those looking for a more relaxing approach to summer in the mountains, there’s nothing more calming than the incredible views from these peaks.” Among them: Gunstock Mountain Resort (www.gunstock.com) and Mount Sunapee Resort (www.mountsunapee.com). Both offer adventure activities as well.
Get in touch with your Inner Ninja Warrior at Killington Resort (www.killington.com): The new Woodward WreckTangle is an obstacle course featuring cargo nets, balance beams, and rope swings. Killington is also home to an adventure center with myriad activities, plus kayaking and paddle boarding and a mountain bike park.
Speaking of cycling, Okemo Mountain Resort (www.okemo.com), home of the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, has expanded its Evolution Bike Park with a lift-served mountain bike trail from the summit — 1,600 feet of vertical. The Kingdom Trails network is a mecca for mountain biking — and Burke Mountain (www.skiburke.com) offers direct access. Give those overworked quads a break with a soak in the hot tub or a swim in the outdoor heated pool at Burke’s trailside suites.
“We have a saying in Vermont, ‘Come for the skiing, stay for the summers!’ ” says Mike Chait of Smugglers’ Notch Resort (www.smuggs.com), where they typically host a higher number of guests in summer than winter. Seasonal pleasures include llama trekking, geocaching, dog carting (that’s dogsledding on wheels), human foosball, life-size chess, and pickleball — not to mention eight heated pools. Add some learning to the mix with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) team activities; even tiny tots (the under-6 set) get into the act while designing and creating projects.
Summer dinners featuring local ingredients and Vermont craft brews are on tap at Bolton Valley (www.boltonvalley.com) on Thursday nights. If it’s an alpine slide you seek, you won’t do better than Bromley Mountain (www.bromley.com), home to a triple-track slide that’s one of the longest (two-thirds of a mile) in the world. They also have space bikes, which look like the Zipper carnival ride but on bikes (frankly, terrifying). Sugarbush Resort (www.sugarbush.com) offers a range of activities, including two 18-hole disc golf courses. At Stowe Mountain Resort (www.stowe.com), the thrills just keep on coming: Guests can conquer a treetop adventure course, tackle climbing walls, and zip down Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield, on a zip line. Just thinking about all that makes us want to find a hammock.Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at email@example.com.