Let's get this straight: You don't go to Wildcat to be coddled. You go there to ski. There are no boutique hotels or fancy restaurants. Aside from no-frills facilities, there's no development at all. And if you go, dress for warmth. Wildcat can be bitterly cold and windy. OK, now that we've gotten rid of the posers, here's why serious skiers of all abilities adore the place. For starters, the location and elevation have a silver lining: snow. It's plentiful, and it usually comes early and stays late, often well into May. The mountain is blessed with a continuous 2,112-foot vertical drop. And though many trails have been widened, they still retain their old New England feel. Lynx curves, rollicks and rolls, toying with you as it drops. The legendary Wildcat Trail retains its bite, especially when ungroomed. There's a separate learn-to-ski area, and when novices have mastered the basics, there's Polecat, which gently winds 3.75 miles from summit to base. As for the view across the valley to the legendary bowls of Mt. Washington, readers agree: The "breathtaking scenery, with no ugly condos in sight" is one of Wildcat's biggest assets. No, it's not a good choice if you want to roll into bed after a night on the town and out of it onto the slopes the next day. The closest lodging is the no-frills Joe Dodge Lodge, but Gorham, Jackson, Bartlett and North Conway are within wining, dining and sleeping distance. -H.N.
2003 Number 16 Resort in the East: Wildcat, N.H.