With Bretton Woods and Loon Mountain opening up in a few weeks, New Hampshire skiing is about to kick off. As a condo owner and renter near these mountains, that is obviously a good thing! But it is also exciting since it means that I am only a month or so away from strapping on the ski's and hitting the slopes of one of the nearby mountains. And since the mountains are all updating their snow guns and their après ski activities (thanks to two solid ski seasons under their belt), this ski season, weather notwithstanding, could be a good one. The mountain's that I use the most are Attitash and Wildcat given their close proximity as well as the challenge that the latter provides (more on that in the coming week). As a side note, as I explained in “The nervous dad,” the ski lessons (and instructors) at these places are pretty good as well– Attiash is slated to open the first week of December while Wildcat opens around Thanksgiving. Loon Mountain (about an hour from our place) in Lincoln, and Bretton Woods, north up 302 (about a half hour from our place), are both set to kick off ski season in a few weeks (Mid November).
So as we head towards opening day for the New Hampshire ski season, let's start sharing some statistics so you can make an "informed decision" on which mountain to visit if your plan is to ski New Hampshire this winter. Today we start with user ratings for the mountains that you can reach from our condo within an hour, from the onethesnow.com site (I will be looking for additional review sources as well in the future). For a full listing of New Hampshire mountains, click here or New England, click here. We will attempt to follow up with more data as the week progresses and introduce a new feature simply titled "The Weather" next week.
Liftopia.com recently posted a note (that was reposted by Huffington Post) about the 3 best ski towns in the East. #3 on the list was North Conway which is a town that neighbors ours in the valley (we are in Bartlett). It gives a great description of the terrain that one encounters here and the options that are available. It is worth a read.
Over my lifetime, skiing has been a sport that I have enjoyed but I have only got out a a few times each winter. When I blew out my knee several years back, I was very reluctant to ski following the surgery and that reluctance lasted for almost 10 years! I finally got back on the slopes last year hitting both Attitash and Wildcat for runs during a very nice spring season. Last year I got out a few more times but this winter approaches, while I plan on skiing some, my focus is on the kids because they are the one's learning how to ski. As I type this note, I am reminded of the first time my oldest daughter took her first lesson at Attitash.
As the picture shows above, I was nervous heading into the lesson. I positioned myself on the deck closest to the bunny slope, watching from afar so my daughter would not see me (I was told that it was best to stay away so she would learn something - if I was visible, she might stop and then not learn anything). It was her first time on the mountain (and at Attitash as a result) anywhere and while the bunny slop is not that imposing, I was still worried how she would handle it as she was somewhat shy and new experiences seemed to bother her (not anymore by the way but that is a story for another day). So as I sat there on the deck, somewhat excited and somewhat worried all at the same time, I thought back to my first lesson...wait a minute, I never took a lesson! But I do remember my first time on the slope.
It was at Nashoba Valley, in Massachusetts, some 20+ years ago, as part of a school program in the 7th grade. We ventured to the slopes and for whatever reason I decided that I did not need lessons on this day because I was a hockey player (and good skater). While that logic only holds a little merit (skating helps with the balance end of things), it was probably not the best choice at the time. I started on the "T bar" (I think it was called) and as soon as I got on, I fell down, blocking the line...for a very long time! Heck, I could barely stand up so this was predictable...and embarrassing. It happened a many more times that night (and I STILL have trouble with such a lift). Later, after having got up the mountain and skiing around, I decided I was good enough for the jump and that ended up being a problem as well as I crashed right in front of it blocking the jump... for a while! It was from this experience that I decided my kids should at least take a lesson in this sport if they are ever going to pursue it so there actions don't lead them to be embarrassed by it.
Returning back to my daughter's lesson at Attitash, she ventured out to the bunny slope wearing her "Dora the Explorer" helmet in what is expected to be a 2 hour group lesson - luck would have it, nobody else is in the group showed up and she ended up getting a 2 hour private lesson! The ski instructor, as I tweeted a long while back, was fantastic and he sat down with her, going over the basics at the start. They covered all sorts of things and by the end, she was not scared to go down the hill or get onto the magic carpet for that matter. Granted, she could not really control her direction or her speed (she almost crossed over the magic carpet at one point) but she was having a blast. At one point she went in for some hot chocolate (because her toes hurt) and later came back out for some more bits of knowledge like "Pizza" (which she had been learning in dancing and it was a similar formation with one's ski's). At the end, she ventured off the bunny slope with her tiny ski's, sporting a very big smile all awhile.
As for my my nervous state, it evaporated over the course of the lesson because any fear I had of my daughter not doing well never came into play and the care that the instructor was taking with my daughter was just fantastic (in fact from beginning to end, registration to skiing, the whole process went so smoothly). The instructor shared with me after the lesson what he went over with her and what we could work on before the next lesson. So what is the takeaway here? Well, if you are not a good skier "skill wise" (like myself) or if you never took a lesson, perhaps one is in order for your first time skier before you get them on the hill. I personally like Attitash since I have had good experiences with their school and people. Other options would be Wildcat (the sister Mountain of Attitash), Bretton Woods (I read they are doing a major upgrade to their ski school), and Cranmore Mountain (very popular given it is a very family friendly place). Whatever place you choose, I think it would be worth it (versus enduring the embarrassment I undertook several years ago).
With that said, below is some links to the Learn to ski programs in the area near our place, if so choose to explore this option.
Bretton Woods: http://brettonwoods.com/winter_sports/nordic/ski_school
Cranmore Mountain: http://www.cranmore.com/winter/childrens_lessons
Attitash Mountain: http://attitash.com/ski-school.html
Wildcat Mountain: http://skiwildcat.com/lessons.html
King Pine: https://www.kingpine.com//lessons
Cannon Mountain: http://www.cannonmt.com/skischool.html
If you were to ask a random sample of kids who is their most favorite Disney Princess (prior to Frozen showing up earlier this year), Cinderella is probably the most popular answer among the group. If you were to question kids on their favorite holiday, I would imagine, those of Catholic faith, would suggest Christmas as their favorite day of the year and the lead character of this holiday, Santa Claus, as their favorite person when it comes to asking for presents! These 2 iconic characters to the best of my knowledge, have never been compared...till now!
If you know the valley, the amusement park Storyland is located Glen, NH (about 5 minutes from our place) and situated in the back of this park is Cinderella's Castle. The one person at Storyland that always attracts a crowd is Cinderella, regardless of the time of day or year. She takes photo's from the castle (I can't tell you how many we have of her with our kids) and has Tea times over the course of the day as well. "Cindy" as she is referred to by her fell characters (Rapunzel, Little Bo Peep and Pinocchio) also participates in the show that closes the park out each day and offers another photo op for the kids following the show. She in many ways is the center of every little girls day at Storyland (though the Roar-o-sourus is moving up the ladder).
Venture up north, about 55 minutes up 302 from our place and you will arrive at Santa's Village in Jefferson, Obviously at Santa's Village, Jolly old St Nick is the attention listening to kids wishes of what they want for Christmas. Much of the time, you will find him in his house but you might also come across him over the course of the day walking through the park, giving high fives and taking requests. Then at the close of the park, the elf's do there thing, singing songs near the front entrance and shooting fake snow into the air, followed by Santa coming out from one of the building, high above, waving to the screaming kids - very similar to the story of the "Polar Express" when the screaming kids cheer as Santa shares the first gift of Christmas.
Over the past week, as part of our "Routes" series for those runners who stay with us at our condo or in the area, we have featured 2 local paths close to the condo: the "Cow Hill Loop" and the "302." Today we feature one that is a short drive from our condo - The "Cathedral Climb." This route starts at Echo lake (which by itself is worth a visit...especially if you have kids) and makes its way to the Cathedral Ledge - a great spot for pictures of the local area and beautiful views of Echo lake from far above. This route is a tremendous climb moving from slightly under 500 feet to over 1000 feet at the high point. It is an extremely tough run in that the climb to the top of Cathedral Ledge does not really let up meaning the burn on the legs will be high as there is basically no letup till the top.
With that said, one could take a break at the top and take in the following view (among many others)
Outside of running this route, another option is to simply visit by driving to the top as there are small hiking paths and wonderous views - From what I have been told (but have not done), one can hike from Echo lake far below to the top of Cathedral ledge (click here for more information on Cathedral Ledge). And if you are a rock climber, this area is well known for such as people every day scale this rock feature (though again, I have not achieved such and probably will never).
As for running the path, here are the details
Total Route: 5.25 Miles
Total Elevation High Low of 302: 495ft / 1000 ft
Easiest Path: Honestly, I don't know of an easy way to run this route as going up and down does not offer an edge in climbing the Cathedral route.
Hardest Path: It's just hard!
Yesterday, we posted the Cow Hill Route on our blog. Today we present "the 302." Now for those of you who do not know our area, 302 is the main road that runs from Maine, through Conway along 16 and then up towards Cannon Mountain. It is a major rode utilized by many cars and big trucks and the average speed limit is normally 55 mph. I ran this path last Saturday and honestly, it is kind of unnerving given the amount of traffic that runs up and down this road on a regular basis (as well as 6:30am in the morning on a Saturday). The path starts at our condo, runs down 302 to the Attitash Fields, goes through the Mountain Village, and then returns to the Seasons via 302.
Overall the path is basically flat with a drop of about 100 feet from high to low over the course of the path so I would term it as an easy run so to speak. I have seen many people run down 302 during the day so it is not uncommon to run this road but this path forces you to run off the side of the road and in some cases in the weeds. As an alternative, if you don't want to fight the 302 traffic (or hurdle through the weeds) is to take the short 302 route from the beginning of the run (wide open, easy to avoid traffic) and then do Attitash fields to the village and back to the fields or if you want to take the COW Hill Road run (posted yesterday), that would add .75 miles to this 4 mile jaunt (and make this path a very challenging one) which would allow you to avoid the someone tough parts of 302. That route is shown below.
So your choices are run 302 and be careful or cut out some of 302, using the COW Hill Road run, putting in an additional 400 foot climb to the upside (followed by a drop of a similar amount) and then finish up in a relatively safe run on 302 back to the Seasons.
Here is the Details
The 302 Route: 4.2 Miles
The 302 Route + Cow Hill Extension: 5 miles
Total Elevation High Low of 302: 600ft / 500 ft
Total Elevation High Low of the Extension: 1000 ft / 595ft
Easiest Path: Easiest of the options presented would to take the Attitash Fields and then reverse and head back down the Fields avoiding much of 302.
Hardest Path: Take the whole route with Cow Hill above but instead of going down to Attitash fields from the Seasons, turn up Cow Hill and basically reverse the path mentioned above.
A few weeks back I promised to start sharing some of the runs I do while I am up in the Mountains of the Valley at our Condo. This is the first of the "series" if you will of the runs - this one is known as the "Cow Hill Loop." And why do I title it such a way besides the fact that it is one of the roads the loop happens to utilize? Because the hill is a tremendous accent higher and makes you feel like a cow (ok that last part is not true)! This path is perfect if you have a mountain race coming or any because it really puts tremendous strain on the legs going both up and down hill building up strength in the face of any obstacle and giving you more of a push later.
From my post on the "Reach the Beach relay" back in September, I did not mention the "hills" of the run. Some were simply tremendous with 700 foot climbs and then 500 foot drops (over several miles). One way to simulate the runs of the RTB Relay is to simply run down 302 from Cannon (which can be done near our condo as we are 45 minutes from Cannon) or one can simply run this path! Just be careful as steep rises and falls can lead to knee issues. In other words, I wouldn't do this path every day but if you have a hill run coming, this might be helpful.
Here are the metrics of the run
Total Distance: 2.3 Miles
Distance from Condo: 1/2 mile down 302
Total Elevation High/Low: 975ft / 595 ft
Easiest Run: Climb Attitash Mt Road side as it is really steep (up almost 400 ft) but once at the top, you are all downhill for almost 1 mile to the fields of Attitash. I usually park in the Attitash parking lot located at the bottom of Attitash Mt Road.
Hardest Run: Start from the bottom of Cow Hill Road as you will have a mile uphill climb going up 400 ft and then a very steep drop which can be a killer on the knees (so take care). I try to park in the hotel located at the bottom of Cow Hill but beware as it is private property.
Think back to the days where you were young and climbing trees, rocks and things alike was a normal course of action in one's day. It was the thrill of the climb that we all did it for and more often than not, someone "fell out of the tree!" As I get older, I am no longer climbing trees (though I am now running up paths and hiking to some extent) or rocks on a regular basis but when I get the opportunity to climb along the rocks at Nubble Light in York ME or FT Williams in South Portland, ME, it generally fun. So as myself and my 7 year old daughter ventured to Cranmore Mountain on Saturday, I was wondering what the "Aerial Adventure Park" was all about…would there be a thrill with this tree adventure? Well, I can tell you it indeed was!
For those of you who do not know what I am talking about, the Cranmore Aerial Adventure park is “an aerial forest ropes course consisting of 5 individual, elevated courses for different ability levels consisting of dozens of elements that will challenge you to new heights” (from the Cranmore site). They have five courses on their website (Orange being the easiest, Black being the most difficult) and on these courses you cross on thin wires, fly through the year on zip lines, bound up rope ladders and scale some other obstacles, all awhile weaving through the trees with a harness – which has you connected to the course at all times (ie one is supposed to be hooked to a line at all times so you don’t tumble off the platforms or the obstacles).With the seven year old in tow, we hit the orange course.
So what was the experience of an easy level? Well, I can say that at first it was kind of “wobbly” so to speak as I had to go along a thin metal wire. Funny thing though – the “experienced” 7 year old went across this without a problem and basically taunted me to do the same! Much of the rest of the 2 hour move through the trees, which included similar moves on thin wires, wobbly bridges and a small zip line (which my daughter loved by the way), was more of a breeze so to speak as I got accustomed to the movement of the obstacles. By the end, instead of 2 hands on the wires to keep her steady, she was using one as she was so confident of her ability to cross the obstacles.
So as I said in the opening paragraph, summarizing our day, it was a thrill. Yes, the course was easy but you have to start somewhere, right? Next summer when we head back to this park, the two of us will be attempting harder levels. The height of the obstacles and platforms for Orange was around 10 feet at the most and it is a good “tutorial” for what occurs at higher levels. The instructors give a great rundown before you venture up the hill to the park and the harness is pretty secure (at least from my perspective). The harnesses are always attached to the tree as one end is always locked. I suppose one could finagle it so that nothing is attached but that is not advisable! Overall, this is indeed geared for kids and in each case, you can help the young one’s with the obstacles. Higher up, it gets more challenging!
Besides hitting the aerial park this day, the kids also did the same rides we wrote about back in August. Nothing new to really report there! I avoided the big swing as it slammed me into a motion sickness spiral back then and the family we were with shared similar sentiments (so if you have motion sickness issues, seriously consider skipping the giant swing). The kids did the zipline this time around and said it was great. Also my son loved the tube ride (especially with the water shut off on the sides so we don’t get wet when we fly by). The one negative we encountered was the bouncy house obstacle course was all wet – on a 55 degree day in full clothes, this is not exactly ideal. My son was a bit annoyed though some bouncing on the bunge trampoline ended that annoyance. And as I mentioned in the previous note on this place, the food is very good. The burger (on a gluten free bun) and the chips they have are great and the kids liked the pizza. Next year we will be heading back.
As part of my trip up north this past weekend, we ventured to the Margarita Grille, which is about 3-5 minutes from our house (about he same distance as Attitash is from our location just going the other way). We tend to avoid this place based on the fact that it is small and always packed - big place for the Storyland Crowd as well as the ski crowd which does not want to venture all the way into Conway following skiing at Attitash (or even Bretton Woods and Wildcat). We went with another family on Saturday night with four kids in tow. Here is the review we posted to Yelp
Voyaged to the Margarita Grille last night and encountered a huge amount of people there at 515pm - some of it the Storyland crowd but a heavy contingent of people at the bar without kids. Wait time was manageable at 15 minutes but once we got in the wait times skyrocketed! We sat down and weren't served for 20 minutes! Thankfully someone from our party grabbed one of the servers and we were finally able to order. Oh, did I mention we had four kids with us?
Continuing our restaurant reviews that were originally posted to yelp in August of this year, today we present our review of Fabyan's Station, located across from Bretton Woods - a short 25 minute drive from our condo up 302. This place has been our destination of choice for dinner following trips to Santa's Village which is also up 302 in Jefferson. One major reason is its proximity - it is half way between our place and Santa's - and the food is good. We rate it as a 4 stars out of 5.
Here is the review we posted on Fabyan's back in August.
"We Stopped here on the way back from Santa's Village and have done this before. The First time service was subpar and and the server was somewhat rude. This time around, both were the polar opposite! We had one of the most kind servers I have ever encountered and the food was great as well - Greek salad with chicken and the strawberry salad my wife had was good. Had the onion rings as well..."ok" I would rate them. Nachos are huge. Menu is ok in terms of the options (you might have an issue with picky people) but quality is good.
In terms of the ambiance so to speak, the kids loved the trains around the Restuarant (it is an old train station) and the fact that "Frozen" was showing in the waiting area. Not given 5 stars because of the previous experience though periodically they have bears walk by on the tracks outside which is an added treat!
from the Author
Welcome to our blog. Here you will find unique insights on the Mount Washington Valley and things to do while you are staying with us. You can also follow us on twitter @mccartyseasons for the latest updates of the condo as well as the rest of the surrounding area.