By Kathy Bennett
I was not raised in a family of skiers. I came by it as an adult and was so smitten I moved to the Valley and never looked back. So skiing was not a part of my family’s traditions growing up. But I’ve done my best to make it part of my own family’s new tradition to squeeze as much skiing as possible into my holidays.
Here’s a tip to remember for next winter – the slopes and trails are decidedly less crowded on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Compared to the crowds that come up starting December 26, you’ll do well to enjoy the time to yourself before everyone else arrives.
Christmas Eve Day I took to the trails of MWV Ski Touring Foundation’s Whitaker Woods in Conway with my husband. This year’s snow conditions are off to a wonderful start and the packed powder snow surfaces were well groomed. We even had a chance to chat with a groomer who was out doing a mid-day groom. This was our first day out on Nordic skis so we took it easy and stayed on the easier flatter terrain, going from the Whitaker House out to the Intervale Crossroads and back, cutting across the Power Line trail and then out to a trail paralleling the train tracks. It’s fun living in a town like Conway where skiing literally and figuratively connects neighborhoods. Why go further north when there’s such a nice network of trails so close to everything.
The MWV Ski Touring trails link many of the inns, hotels and restaurants in and around North Conway and Intervale including the Stonehurst Manor, 1785 House, all the way north to Tuckerman’s Tavern. Its terminus in the Village is walking distance to all of North Conway’s little shops and restaurants. Make like a local and finish up your day of ski touring and walk into town for a Maple Latte at Frontisde Grind. No one will mind your cross country ski boots.
Christmas Day, after a hearty breakfast at home and a whirlwind of opening gifts, we headed to Bretton Woods, one of several areas open on the holiday. If you are thinking ahead to next year, be sure to call ahead as not every area operates. To make the day even sweeter, Bretton Woods was offering a $30 lift tickets, so we had plenty of company on the slopes, but still decidedly less than a typical holiday date. They had been going at it with the snow making since our visit last week and also benefited from natural snowfall off and on all week – another gift for holiday skiers this week. There were even a few natural snow trails open already, which were fun to try out in the still-fresh powder. Watch out for their infamous early-season water-bars and whoop-de-doos on those ungroomed beauties and you’ll have a good time without taking any spills. A welcome break at their mid-mountain lodge allowed us to drink in both the spectacular views as well as a whipped cream topped hot mocha.
While Christmas Week is a holiday period, it is a school-break timeframe that is less frantic here than those that come later this winter. Now is a good time to take a lesson, and spend time with the kids on the bunny slope. Then figure out a way to head north a few days earlier next December to build a new Christmas tradition for your friends and family, if you haven’t already made it a habit. I’m glad I did.