Skiing in New England – A Review.
An interesting alternative to Europe for families.
About this time of year, just when the wind catches the trees, blows the blossom off the branches and fools me into thinking that it’s snowing, I start to reminisce about our time skiing in the mountains this year, and wonder where we might holiday next winter. This, my non-skiing wife assures me, is strange and unusual behaviour, but fellow skiers will understand completely. Already the ski brochures are arriving through the post, and countless spam emails are tempting me with early booking discounts and/or lift price special offers.
The big problem though is that I’m not looking just for me. If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you’ll be aware that I’m also catering for a pair of full-on boys (the eldest being a proper tweenager), as well as a non-skiing wife (whose health is an issue too). We know broadly what is needed. There needs to be a decent variety of grades of runs, reliable conditions, some tree line skiing for poor weather days, decent watering holes, something for mum to do during the day, and most of all, plenty to keep the kids entertained. I’ll let you know what we are planning in due course, but for now, let me tell you how New England measured up this year.
Most UK skiers have only ever skied in the Alps. And why not? Flights are less than 2 hours from Blighty, there are literally hundreds of resorts to choose from, many are linked, and hotels, food, lift systems, ski schools and reliable snow conditions under normal conditions, make it the prime destination for Brits. So how does a trip across the pond stack up?
Let’s take travel. Since the demise of Concorde, I can’t promise you a 2 hour flight. London to Boston is about 8 hours. But, there’s a 5 hour gain due to time difference, so the flight arrives only 3 hours later! Of course, on the way back there’s a 5 hour add-on, but you fly overnight so get some kip in recompense. Car hire and drive to resort is easy, 2-3 hours at most, on very good roads. None of those crazy hairpin bends and steep precipices you get in the Alps. All good there then.
What about the skiing? There is plenty of variety. Killington in Vermont, for example, has plenty of tough skiing for the experts, and is a regular venue for international racing. The resorts we visited though, all in the Mount Washington valley, were what you would call family resorts, and can be summarised as follows:-
– Closest ski station to North Conway (our base, just a 5 minute drive). Good place for finding your ski legs, mostly beginner or easy intermediate slopes, all tree line skiing. If you’re at a higher level than intermediate, you’d be pretty bored after half a day, but like I say, good for limbering up.
– 20 minutes from North Conway, 2 linked ski stations with a greater variety of runs. Most pistes are beginner/intermediate, but there are a few steeper runs for the advanced skier, and when there’s powder, some good skiing through the trees. The car park for Attitash is on the opposite side of the busy main road, but you can walk to the base station via an underpass. To avoid a long walk, park up half a mile down the road at the Bear Peak base lodge and get your lift tickets and trip up the mountain there. As I said, there is a link between the 2 mountains anyway. Enough to keep you entertained for a day or two.
– half an hour from North Conway, with magnificent views of Mount Washington, home of the world’s worst weather (Google it!). There’s a fantastic long, easy run from top to bottom, which is great for the kids, as well as a tough, narrow, bumpy double diamond black run from the top for the experts. I liked Wildcat, and could have spent more time there but the boys didn’t like it for some reason. Maybe it’s the weather, being so close to Mount Washington it is often very windy, and is much colder than the other resorts. One top tip though, the lift pass is also valid at Attitash, so if the kids start whining, go there for the 2nd half of the day.
– In a spectacular location, not far from Crawford Notch, just down the road from the world famous Mount Washington Hotel. It’s the biggest ski station in New Hampshire, but still quite small by European standards. Plenty of variety though, but emphasis is on beginner/intermediate for the main runs, although there is good off-piste through the glades. There is a cozy pub and restaurant at the base station, as well as Latitude 44 bar and restaurant up the mountain. There is plenty to keep kids entertained if they get fed up of the skiing, the older kids have a climbing wall, and they can even rent mini snowmobiles to ride around a marked track. How cool is that? Night skiing is offered here, and we loved it. The kids were just racing flat out as you can see every undulation in the snow.
All of the resorts have a great snow record. Bretton Woods for example averages about 20 feet of snow over the season. They look after their snow here, and all resorts have extensive snow making for when Mother Nature needs a hand.
That having been said, it’s not Europe, and there are some key differences. Unless you rent an expensive on-slope condo, there is no doorstep skiing. There are no tour operator ski kindergartens, no chalet parties, and with the exception of Bretton Woods, no mountain restaurants to dine in and enjoy a beer on the verandah. It’s different, to be sure, but in a good way. No language barriers (well, almost…) for a start. No lift queues, Plenty of places to eat and drink. Tax free shopping. And the friendliness of New Englanders is just incredible.
One final question. How did the cost stack up against a package holiday to the Alps? Well, we booked with Virgin Holidays, and the cost was considerably less than we’d have paid going to Europe. The issue with Europe was that we were going during the February school holidays, when prices were sky high, but not in New England, as their half term was a week later!
My advice? Consider it, even if you just go once. It is different, but as they say, variety is the spice of life. Now, where did I put that Ski Esprit brochure???
Please pin this for whenever you’re planning your next trip!