From its time under the Muellers ownership with Okemo and Crested Butte, Mount Sunapee Ski Resort has long been a popular location for those looking to "ski free or die" in the great state of New Hampshire. At that time, the mountain itself was a distant third as far as winter visits go and a far more popular summer destination given its proximity to Lake Sunapee.
Vail Resorts Takes Over Mount Sunapee Ski Resort
Now, having been taken over by Vail Resorts in 2018, this is all starting to change. Yes, Lake Sunapee still dominates the summer scene and comparatively, the Mount Sunapee ski area still has fewer winter visits than Okemo and Crested Butte. However, there has certainly been an uptick in winter travel to the area in recent years courtesy of being on the Epic pass.
With that said, I recently decided to take my first ski trip to New Hampshire and check out Mount Sunapee Ski Resort for myself. In doing so, I found the mountain to be very well-run and a lot of fun (despite the lack of snow at the time). Then when the trails got a little skied off and the time came to celebrate the day we, of course, found the three best places to après ski at Mount Sunapee.
The 3 Best Places for Après Ski at Mount Sunapee Ski Area
Photo Credit: Mount Sunapee
I've been to a few mountains like Deer Valley and A-Basin that have areas they designate as "The Beach" and Mount Sunapee's certainly stacks up. It may not have the panache of Deer Valley's or the ostentatiousness of A-Basin's but it is a fun vibrant scene all unto its own. Located right along the first row of parking spaces and the Mount Sunapee skiing trail called "Flyway" it is the place to be if you are looking to tailgate at après ski.
If you want a spot, you'll need to get there early (roughly 6 am) because those parking spots go quickly. This is especially true when the weather gets warm and visitors are looking to hang out a bit longer at the mountain. Vehicles are backed right in and tailgates are set up on the snow. Some are even quite extensive and designed to accommodate an all-day affair that includes the three staple meals breakfast, lunch and après.
As the day winds down, the après ski tailgate really gets going. The smell of the food wafts through the mountain air becoming even more pungent as you descend the trails and get closer. Once there, take it all in. People will wander from tailgate to tailgate sharing beers, food and of course stories of their epic ski day.
Photo Credit: Mount Sunapee
Keep heading down Flyway right to the top deck of the Spruce Lodge and there you'll find Mount Sunapee's Goosefeathers Pub. If you're not hanging at "The Beach" then Goosefeathers is most certainly the place to be for on-mountain après.
Goosefeathers is not the wild après ski bar scene that you would find at other Vail Resorts, like Cuzzins bar at Mount Snow. What it is, however, is a laid-back, chill vibe that offers a family-friendly atmosphere and really good food and beer.
On Saturdays, the party kicks off around 3 with live music and, depending on the weekend, giveaways. I highly recommend you arrive early so you can get a table. Goosefeathers Pub can get a little packed. Then, once there you must, must, must order their Sidewinder Fries and Chicken Wings.
I'm not exactly sure what they do to make the Sidewinder Fries but they are like no other fries that I've ever eaten. This unique combination between a potato croquette and steak fries gives them a crispy exterior and pillowy interior that is out of this world.
Another dish that is uniquely Sunapee are the wings. Usually, when wings come out unsauced, I'm immediately turned off. However, that was not the case with the Buffalo wings at Goosefeathers pub. Whatever, wing dust they are coated in serves as a flavorful base that is only accentuated once dipped in the Buffalo side sauce and blue cheese.
Be sure to wash both of these fried delights down with Mount Sunapee and Henniker Brewing's collaboration beer, appropriately named "Flyway." A highly palatable and easy-drinking IPA the hops cut through the fattiness of the food in this case. And, on the off chance that you don't take my advice and order those two dishes, Flyway is an excellent choice on its own thanks to its quaffable drinkability.
Salt Hill Shanty
Don't think that you must stay at the resort for the only good après ski at Mount Sunapee.
Head right down the access road where, at the base, right on route 103, you will find the Salt Hill Shanty. Après ski is their specialty. Throughout the ski season, the Salt Hill Shanty has what they call The Acoustic Lift Ticket, a live acoustic music series every Saturday beginning at 7. That's just enough time to get showered up after the mountain and head over.
Once there, I suggest starting your night off with the Pub Pretzel. It's, hands down, one of the best Bavarian Pretzels that I've had at or around any ski resort. The Irish Poutine "Shanty Style" is another must-have. Irish Poutine topped with Corned Beef, this shareable plate will be gone before it hits the table. As far as the rest of the food goes, you can't really go wrong. Each dish is always consistent and well-prepared, especially the burgers.
Salt Hill also has a wide variety of local craft beer on tap. I suggest branching out and giving them a try. You cannot go wrong with any choice you make but if Frosty Goggles from the Woodstock Inn Brewery is on, you should give it a try. This popular winter seasonal is usually available from November through March and is a refreshing Red Ale that will pair well with food or stand on its own.
Photo Credit: Flying Goose Brew Pub Instagram @theflyinggoosebrewpub
Bonus: Flying Goose Brew Pub & Grille
You can never go wrong with a good brewpub. So, why list the Flying Goose Brew Pub only as a bonus when it comes to après ski at Mount Sunapee? At roughly a 20-minute drive from the mountain, it's not exactly close. That said, the Flying Goose is not an après ski bar in the traditional sense of the word but definitely worth visiting for dinner, if you are up for the ride.
The setting at the Flying Goose Brew Pub is what you'd expect from a brewery in rural New Hampshire. That is to say, it's quite rustic. What is interesting though is that there are two sides to the restaurant, the dining room and the bar area, and both are entirely different experiences.
The dining room offers more of a comfy and inviting farmhouse feel with exposed beams and a large fireplace. It is on this side that they are able to accommodate large groups (ours was 15), which is a welcome touch. On the other side of the building is the bar area. There, the scene is a bit more vibrant and what you would expect from a brewpub bar.
Nonetheless, wherever you end up sitting you will be treated to an eclectic menu of pub fare complemented by their own house-brewed beers. I'd recommend the Braised Beef Panini. Beef, slow-cooked to perfection and placed on a Ciabatta rolls with caramelized onions, it's a burst of flavor your taste buds will enjoy. Be sure to pair that with their award-winning Ragged Mountain Red Ale. The hoppier profile is unbecoming of a traditional Red Ale but a nice touch when combined with the malty amber backbone.
Après Ski Attire at Mount Sunapee Ski Resort
With most of the choices for après ski at Mount Sunapee ski area either on or right off the mountain it's best to have your après ski clothes already on. I always like to wear a t-shirt like our You Can't Buy Happiness T-shirt over my base layer. Rather than just wearing a bland base layer around the bar, our t-shirt gives this look a little more flare and is certain to start a conversation or two.