MT. WASHINGTON VALLEY SNOW NEW ENGLAND'S SPORTS CAPITAL
Some might say that the 7 alpine ski areas and 6 Nordic centers make Mt. Washington Valley New England's ideal mountain vacation destination. After all, they represent over 250 trails for downhill skiing, and more than 450 km of cross-country trails. This is indeed a formidable claim to fame. However, the skiing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to snow sports in Mt. Washington Valley. Add the ideal terrain for snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice climbing, and you simply can't beat it. Then offer guided sightseeing tours to the top of Mt. Washington, along with ice skating, sledding, sleigh rides and winter trail rides on horseback, and you'll begin to understand what makes this New England's mecca for snow sports.
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These Shoes are Made for Stomping – Snowshoeing in Mt. Washington Valley
Although snowshoeing has been around since Indians populated this area, its popularity has grown tremendously in recent years. The cumbersome shoes made of rawhide and rope have been replaced with new lightweight, high-tech materials. With 770,000 pristine acres of White Mountain National Forest land surrounding Mt. Washington Valley, the snowshoeing opportunities abound in Mt. Washington Valley.
Snowshoes can be rented at many of the ski areas as well as many local shops, and even some Bed & Breakfasts. Among the areas offering showshoe trails and rentals are: Bear Notch Ski Touring Center (603- 374-2277), Bretton Woods (603-278-3300), Great Glen Trails (603-466-2333) King Pine Ski Area (1-800- FREESKI) and Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring and Snowshoe Center (603-356-9920). A number of these areas also offer clinics, including how-to courses, animal tracking workshops, demo days, and events surrounding snowshoeing. The Appalachian Mountain Club (603-466-2727) offers a number of overnight programs, too. And if you want to snowshoe in luxury, visit some of the inns in the area with their own private trails, including The Snowvillage Inn (they also offer rentals) 1-800-447-4345, The Forest, A Country Inn (1-800-448-3534), or The Darby Field Inn (1-800-426-4147).
The Snowmobile Trails go for miles and miles
For over 30 years, snowmobilers have enjoyed more than 6000 miles of the state's snowmobile trails, established and maintained by more than 100 snowmobile clubs. And some of the best snowmobile terrain can be found right in Mt. Washington Valley. Locally, on one of the main state corridors, Corridor 19, a trail that runs from New Hampshire's southern border up to Canada and loops around the Green Hills in Conway is a favorite. Snowmobilers may rent machines and pick up maps at Bartlett Rental Equipment on Route 302 in Bartlett (603-374-6069) or at Profile RV on Route 16 in Conway (603-447-5855). These businesses also service snowmobiles. The New Hampshire Off Highway Recreational Vehicle Dept. maintains a snow phone for snowmobilers at 1-800-258-3609.
Ice Skating In The Valley
With the opening of the Ham Ice Arena on West Main Street in Conway, Mt. Washington Valley moved ice skating to a new realm. This indoor ice arena offers a pro skate shop, rentals, cafetaria and seating for 400 on bleachers. There is public skating on most afternoons, and lessons, hockey and other ice sports throughout the week. Call for schedules and rates (603-447-5886). In East Madison, the Tohko Dome at Purity Spring Resort (1-800-FREESKI) offers a covered, lighted outdoor rink, along with rental skates and plenty of hours for skating everyday. Skate rentals are $5 and admission to the rink is $4 per person, unless of course, you have a King Pine ski ticket for the day, in which case admission is free. The North Conway Outing Club maintains a free rink in Schouler Park. Free skating is offered throughout the day and evening, although several slots have been reserved for childrens' and adult hockey games. To the north, skaters can enjoy the ice on Emerald Pond at Nestlenook Farm and Resort in a lovely Victorian setting. There's a warming hut and skate rentals available too. Call 603-383-0845 for up-to-date information on rental and admission costs. Additionally, Cranmore Mountain Resort has a skating rink open day and night on weekends and holidays with rentals available (603-356-5543). The towns of Conway, Bartlett and Jackson also offer ice skating rinks.
Ice Climbing among the best in the world
Accomplished ice climbers know that Mt. Washington Valley is among the best places in the world to train. It is said that the terrain in the Valley closely simulates that on Mt. Everest, which makes this area an enticing hot spot for ice climbers. Climbers can obtain gear, advice and participate in climbing schools and programs at the EMS Climbing School (603-356-5433), or International Mountain Equipment. Ragged Mountain Equipment (603-356-3042) is another favorite store among ice climbers, as the often hard-to- find technical equipment may be found here. The Appalachian Mountain Club offers programs on ice climbing, and winter camping, too (603-466-2727).
Snow Toys & Snow Tours
For those who'd rather find their way down a ski trail by alternative means, consider some of the snow toys found at Cranmore. In addition, tubing has become popular for those who'd rather spend only a few hours on the mountain, and as a wonderful after-dark activity. Tubing parks are found at King Pine Ski Area and Mt. Cranmore. Because space is limited, a reservation is required. Call Cranmore or King Pine to schedule your tubing time.
Finally, winter sightseeing tours to the top of Mt. Washington are available in the comfort of a heated van at Great Glen Trails. One of the Mt. Washington Auto Road vans has been specially fitted with a Mattracks system to allow maneuverability over snow. The vans provide an ideal, warm environment from which to see 5 states and Canada from close to the top of Mt. Washington on a clear day. The tours go on-demand, there is no set schedule. They do promise you'll leave within 45 minutes of when you sign up. The ride includes a lively narration about the climate, history and wildlife viewing on Mt. Washington. Those who'd like to ride up and ski or snowshoe down, are invited. It should be noted that the Snow Coach tours are dependent upon the conditions on road and weather conditions, so it's a good idea to call ahead to make sure they're going (603-466-2333).