There are only a certain number of things you can do after midnight. Last call comes to mind; maybe finding a ride home. Or as JJ Cale so eloquently put it, "we're gonna let it all hang down."
At Crotched Mountain, a ski area in the backwoods of New Hampshire, you can also go skiing. In fact, you can ski clear till 3 a.m. as part of Midnight Madness, a night-skiing spectacle that takes place every Friday and Saturday night from Christmas break through February, when the average low temperature in southern New Hampshire is in the single digits.
"It's this weird thing, where you're skiing for a while, you're having fun, and then you look at your phone and it's like, damn dude, it's 11:30," says Dylan Jones Hall, shop owner at Manchester's Ken Jones Ski Mart. "Then the herd thins out. At midnight, that's when you see your college kids, the crazy local dude who's out there skiing in his Carhartts. It's a hardcore scene because it's freezing cold out. But people just keep going."
The event started in 2003 when Crotched reopened after being dormant for 13 years. But Midnight Madness got a significant boost when the ski area installed a new high-speed quad in 2012. They named it the Crotched Rocket, because that's not weird at all. The lift covers 1,000 vertical feet to the summit in just minutes, so you can hot lap all night long. Last season, local snowboarder Dylan Pearse-Theroux, 30, and Vermont skier Scott Howard, 65, used Midnight Madness to break 100,000 vertical feet in one day.
Pearse-Theroux finished with 123,500 feet, while Howard (who later in the spring broke the world record for vertical feet skied in one season with 6.5 million) tallied 130,000 feet.
But for most people, it's about the scene. Skiing with friends and family after dark, maybe stopping in the base lodge for drink to warm you up, is what makes night skiing night skiing, no matter where you are. The difference at Crotched is that it's in the wee hours of the morning. "That's the experience," says Pearse-Theroux. "If you have it in you to get out there and go against the cold, it can be really special."
But there's still one thing left to do. Every Midnight Madness, the ski area builds a bonfire at the base. Says Hall, "If you ski past midnight, you gotta jump the fire."
Night Skiing By The Numbers
1963: Year night skiing became a thing, at Bousquet Ski Area in western Massachusetts. After his mink farm failed during the Great Depression, Clare Bousquet cut a trail on his steep pasture in 1932. Four years later, he partnered with General Electric in nearby Pittsfield to install mercury vapor lights over one of his trails, according to the New England Ski Museum. Winter nights would never be the same.
14: Cost, in dollars, of a lift ticket to ski Crotched's Midnight Madness on Valentine's Day.
3.5: Length, in miles, of the Schoolmarm trail at Keystone, Colorado, the longest night skiing run in the U.S.
551: Annual snowfall, in inches, at Grand Hirafu, Japan, which operates its Ace gondola until 8:30 p.m., meaning you can ski powder through Hokkaido's famous birch trees at night—a life-altering experience.
2,500: Rough cost, in dollars, of a round-trip ticket from San Francisco to Sapporo, Japan, in January.
960: Number of acres lit up at night at Mount Hood Skibowl, Oregon, the largest night skiing area in the U.S. The resort even offers a night-skiing-only season pass for as low as $169. Be sure to grab goulash and a pilsner in front of the massive stone fireplace inside the mid-mountain warming hut built in 1935.
8,755: Elevation, in feet, of the base at Brighton, Utah, home to Molly Green's, a great night-skiing bar. Go with the garlic burger and spicy marg, or one of the many local beers in a bottle (where alcohol content is real world).
440: Vertical drop, in feet, of Howelson Hill in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, which during any night of the week may host up to five different wintersports teams: Nordic, long jump, moguls, freestyle, and alpine. With Howelson as its training ground, Steamboat has sent more athletes (80-plus) to the Winter Olympics than any other town in the U.S.
22/20: Dates in December/January, respectively, of the last full moon in 2018, and the first one in January 2019.
750: Volume, in milliliters, of one bottle of red wine, which is a component of Glühwein, which is an accoutrement of nachtspektakel, which is a German word used for 'night ski tour,' which just might have the pleasure and passion you're looking for.
This story originally appeared in the October 2018 (47.2) issue of POWDER. To have great stories like this delivered right to your door, in print, subscribe here.