Winter is officially upon us and that means it’s ski and snowboard season! One of the reasons I love living in Somerville so much is its proximity to the highway and the ability to quickly escape the city for the country. I’ve been an avid snowboarder for well more than a decade and one of my favorite places to hit slopes is in New Hampshire, especially the White Mountains.
Where to Ski
Bretton Woods: My absolute favorite ski mountain on the East Coast is Bretton Woods (pictured below). It’s an incredibly beautiful spot, with expansive views on a clear day that give you a glimpse of towering Mount Washington. And the terrain is just my style, with lots of moderately difficult runs (with plenty of beginner and expert terrain too) and glades. This is truly a mountain that can accomodate everyone, from the snowboarder who wants to shred in the park to the family who wants to spend an easy day on the slopes together.
Cannon Mountain: Not for the faint of heart, Cannon Mountain boasts lots of expert terrain and is the home mountain of many competitive New England skiers. While Cannon can be a bit windy, it also creates its own weather sometimes, meaning it’ll often be getting snow when other mountains aren’t. Literally right off I-93 (you can see it from the highway), Cannon is very easy to get to once you’re up north.
Loon: The most crowded of the three mountains featured here, it’s also the closet to Boston. Loon is a big mountain, so you can avoid the crowds if you work for it. But avoid going on a holiday weekend if possible. Also be aware that Loon’s lifts occasionally get shut down because of high winds. In return for your patience, you get to ride in a cozy gondola and do some big mountain skiing.
Where to Stay
The Horse & Hound Inn: Located in Franconia, the Horse & Hound Inn was a recent discovery that I know I’ll be returning to. The place was renovated and restored in 2011, with the owners keeping many period details like the knotty wood paneling and big ceiling beams, while updating bathrooms and bedrooms with fresh, clean furniture and fixtures. There are several cozy common rooms with fireplaces that are the perfect place to sip a drink and play a game after a day on the slopes. The owners are incredibly kind, the rooms are reasonably priced and with a delicious breakfast included, it can’t be beat. (We were especially charmed when one of the owners new about Dave’s Fresh Pasta!)
Omni Mount Washington Resort: This is a gorgeous, grand hotel situated next to Mount Washington that boasts several restaurants and bars as well as a spa. The Mount Washington Resort offers a variety of accommodations, from a basic hotel room to luxury suites, there’s something for everyone. The rooms can be pricey, but the hotel often offers ski and stay deals, so look out for those.
South Mountain Resort: This place isn’t anything fancy, but it’s very convenient to Loon, has a hot tub/pool and rooms with kitchenettes. I stumbled upon it last year when I got a great deal on a stay from Hotels.com and while it’s not a cozy inn or a grand hotel, it gets the job done for a ski weekend. I love having a kitchenette while traveling for several nights in a row, so that’s a big plus and the room we stayed in had it’s own huge jacuzzi tub (pictured above), perfect for a soak after a cold day on the mountain!
Where to Eat
Horse & Hound Inn Dining Room: We opted to eat dinner right at the Horse & Hound (pictured below) when we stayed there and were so impressed by the attention to detail throughout the experience. The bartender was friendly, the service was prompt and the food was very tasty. We sampled the smoked bluefish pate (YUM!), quahog, mushrooms and creamy polenta, house salad and cod cakes as well as a sweet, rich rice pudding for dessert. The meal really hit the spot after skiing all day.
Common Man Lincoln: I mentioned this restaurant in my post about fall foliage in the White Mountains and it’s worth discussing again. With a gorgeous two-story fireplace, classic New England dishes and a cozy atmosphere, this is a great spot for dinner after working up an appetite on the mountain. I’ve been to many of the Common Man restaurants and they consistently provide good food and good service in a nice atmosphere that’s usually suitable for the whole family.
Flapjack’s Pancake House: A great little spot for breakfast before hitting the mountain at Loon. Fill up on the aforementioned pancakes and other breakfast specialities like French toast and inventive omeletts.
Gypsy Cafe: Also in Lincoln, the Gypsy Cafe offers food from around the world, from enchiladas and red curry to vegetarian pot stickers and a variety of panini sandwiches. It’s an eclectic little place that offers tasty food at reasonable prices.
Leave early. All three of the mountains are about three to three-and-a-half hours from Boston.
Bring your lunch. I’ve dined at all of these ski mountains with mixed results. Cannon and Bretton Woods sometimes have a delicious vegetarian chili that’s hearty and filling, but much of the rest of the fare is fried, greasy and overpriced.
Buy your lift tickets in advance. Before going skiing, I always check Liftopia to see whether the site has any deals for where I’m headed. It often does and sometimes you can save big bucks!
Horse & Hound dining room photo courtesy of the inn.