Skiers and would-be skiers, snow lovers and winter vacationers of all kinds, could have a very good time by heading north to Massachusetts' neighbor New Hampshire, which makes the most of cold weather in a number of different ways.
This upcoming week, for example, is Ski Free Week in New Hampshire, going from January 11 to 17, during which beginners can register for a coupon from skinh.com, call one of many different ski areas fo make reservations for a coupon, and receive free equipment, a free lesson, and a free lift ticket, a pretty good incentive to take up the sport if you haven't done so already. And as long as you're up there, if you're anywhere near Loon Mountain you can visit the first Ice Castle on the East Coast.
Built by Utah-based artist Brent Christiansen using a latticework of icicles and a sprinkler system, and still growing, the beautiful icy structure with a 25-foot-high wall of ice and multicolored lights at nighttime, the castle, on Loon Mountain, at night has been described as "a frozen, glowing Narnia," and can be visited for fees ranging from $6 to $10.
Cranmore Mountain Resort, in North Conway, has spent $9 million in improvements since 2010 and is continuing to upgrade its Mountain Adventure Park, its lodges and lifts. Every Saturday throughout January, the resort sponsors its signature "Cranapalooza" event, offering s'mores making in Schneider Square, a visit with Cranmore's penguin mascot C-More, gem making at the new C-More's Theater, and fireworks in the evenings of January 18, February 15, February 22 and March 8. This Sunday, January 12, purchase a rubber penguin and race it down the slope for the Great Penguin Race, where all proceeds benefit the Pediatric Neurotransmitter Disease Association. Penguins will be available for purchase at registration located on the third floor of Skimobile Station from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and the race begins at the base of the North Slope at noon.
On January 18 meet a team of Cranore Ambassadors at the base of the Skimobile Express Quad at 10:30 a.m. for a guided mountain tour. Free to skiers and riders of all ages and abilities, the tour will feature a "backstage pass" to the mountain, including insider tips and fun Cranmore facts from the people who know the mountain best.
Freestyle skiers and riders of all ages and abilities are invited to come to the Terrain Park's Double Feature Throw Down competition, where competitors will lay down their best tricks for a chance at prizes provided by Shreddy Times, Rossignol, SAGA and Sweet Fleece. The event begins at 1 p.m.
January 26h Cranmore season pass holders are invited to ski first tracks with Cranmore President and General Manager Ben Wilcox for Ski with the GM, meeting at the Skimobile Express Quad at 7:30 a.m. for first tracks followed by coffee and pastries at the Meister Hut.
New Hampshire is the home of several World Class skiers who have been Olympic participants in the past and may be part of the upcoming games in Russia. Among them are Bode Miller, who grew up near Cannon Mountain, Leanne Smith, a Cranmore native, Warner Nickerson of Guilford, and boarder Scotty Lago, whose family has owned the beloved Lago Ice Cream company for several generations. While seeing any of these athletes will be a chance encounter so close to the Olympics, when most of them are practicing for the event, you can be sure to meet Olympian Kris Freeman on January 18 and 19 at Waterville Valley's Nordic Center.
Nordic Olympian Freeman hosts an open clinic for intermediate and advance Nordic skiers and speaks about his career in between training in preparation for his fourth Olympic appearance for the United States at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. As a competitor on the world stage for more than a decade, Freeman excels in long distances, winning a World Championship in the 30 km and is reigning National Champion in the 50 km, which he has won for three straight years.
"I began skiing at Waterville Valley when I was four years old," Freeman said. "When I grew up, I moved as close to the mountain as I could because it is still my favorite place in the world to ski." From 10 to 11:30 a.m. on January 18 he'll instruct at an Intermediate to Advance Skate Clinic, and from 10 to 11 a.m. on January 19 he'll talk about being an Olympic athlete in the Meeting Place located in Town Square near the post office. The clinic is $35 and you can register by calling 603-236-4666.
There's plenty to do in New Hampshire for non-skiers, too, including snowshoeing and winter hiking. Last year the Appalachian Mountain Club celebrated its 125th anniversary with a nod to the Madison hut, the oldest hut in the country, first built in 1888. This year they are marking the 100th anniversary of another of the White Mountain huts, Carter Notch hut, which is a part of their eight-hut hiking network along the Appalachian Trail. Carter Notch Hut is one of the three lower-elevation huts that remain open all winter for self-service and is also the oldest still-standing structure in the entire AMC historic network, as the Madison hut has been newly rebuilt. Carter Notch is the farthest east in AMC's chain of high mountain huts. During winter the Carter Notch hut, largely a snowshoeing destination, offers a unique, rustic, overnight in the White Mountains at 3,288 feet, tucked between Wildcat Mountain and Carter Dome. It received the first permit granted by the U.S. Forest Service for a permanent structure in the recently formed White Mountain National Forest. It now serves as the start (or end) of an eight-hut chain over 52 miles of the Appalachian trail. Check it out at www.outdoors.org/carter or for information on the various snowshoe treks into the hut, www.outdoors.org/lodging/huts/huts-winter-trails.cfm.
During school vacations, school-aged skiers can spend a week at King Pine Ski Camp near Ossippee, the longest running ski camp in the country.
When you come down from the huts, there is plenty of good lodging and eating while in New Hampshire; some of most notable are the Sugar Hill Inn at Franconia Notch, telephone 603-823-5621; the Gypsy Cafe in Lincoln, 603-745-4395, Tim-Bir Alley Restaurant in Littleton, 603-444-6142 and Common Man Restaurant and Inn, a 15-minute ride from Dartmouth and rebuilt and rehabbed from a set of old mill buildings.
For a chance to win New Hampshire getaway packages this winter, including a Ski New Hampshire season pass, ski and snowboard gear and music downloads, go to visitnh.gov/NHsnowday and click on the "Warm Up and Win!" contest.