You’ve skied Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, and you’ve skied New England. Right?
Last week yours truly had the distinct pleasure of being able to ski a couple resorts in New Hampshire's White Mountains for the first time, thinking Vermont’s neighbor must be not much different, except just farther away.
Not exactly. NH definitely had a different vibe than the many Vermont resort areas I've skied my entire winter sports career.
If I had to sum it up, I think the title of this piece says it best: Vermont has “the scene.” New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley has the scenery.
The first thing you notice about the Mt. Washington area, whose namesake mountain boasts the worst weather in the contiguous 48, is that it’s a year-round outdoor sports attraction. While Vermont's resort villages are known for their quaint white steeples and curio shops, you're more likely to find climbing supplies, hiking lodges, cross-country ski fields, and mountaineering stations dotting the roads. It's clear that this part of the state attracts serious outdoor sports enthusiasts versus the typical weekend warrior who wants to do a few great runs at a Vermont resort.
That's not to say there is no fun to be had in this area. Route 302, also known as the White Mountain Highway, boasts its share of restaurants, bars and activities. Especially in the bustling village of North Conway. The people here are all having fun, and focused on you had a good time on their mountains.
But one thing that clearly sets New Hampshire apart from a lot of Vermont resorts is the scenery. Going beyond the pretty white steeples of it neighbor state, the ski resorts here all seem to offer a fantastic view of the White Mountain range, capped by Mt Washington to the north.
Granted, many of the mountains here are not as large as those in Vermont. The verticals are smaller, peaks are lower, and in some instances, the trails are fewer. Passing through Bretton Woods, Attitash, Wildcat and Cranmore, there wasn't an abundance of high-speed quads or gondolas. (By the same token, many area folk I spoke to noted that lift lines weren't issue at these resorts either.) But for winter sports lovers, I felt that New Hampshire offers up a "total package" that more than makes up for easily-navigated mountains.
The proximity of many resorts in the Mount Washington Valley area (add Cannon, Loon and the daunting Tuckerman Ravine to the above list) also provide lots of variety to your ski trip. Much like Park City, you could easily do a different resort every day without driving more than a half hour to each from North Conway. And you’ll likely have different weather at each.
Finally, there’s much more to do here for non-skiers than most areas in Vermont. Sightseeing around the Valley was easy and picture perfect, with outlet shopping not too far away. The North Conway area had its share of restaurants and shops, and also had activities that span summer and winter—such as adventure tours of Mount Washington, Moose safaris, sleigh rides, dogsledding, ice skating, kids' snowmobiling and more. The Canopy Tour of Bretton Woods is one of the longest zip lines in North America.
Much of the Valley reminded me of parts west…Tahoe or even some parts of Colorado. I think if you want to ski a “resort,” Vermont is great and close to home. If you want to "conquer" a few mountains —and really do “winter” and “outdoors”— then yes… New Hampshire is worth that extra two hours on the road.
For you other WSR members that were up there… thoughts?