|it is winter somewhere|
Waterville Valley combines the quaintness of a classic New England ski area with the services of a destination resort to create one of the best winter experiences this side of the Mississippi. I recently had a great time skiing Waterville. Is this the right ski resort for you? Check out my review below to find out.
|image from: http://www.waterville.com/winter/trail-map|
Waterville Valley is located 2 hours north of Boston on Mount Tecumseh (one of New Hampshire’s 48 4,000 footers) within the White Mountain National Forrest. It has a 2,020 ft vertical drop with 52 trails across 220 skiable acres. 20% of the trails are beginner, 60% intermediate and 20% advanced. The mountain also features several terrain parks and pipes. All of this is served by 12 lifts including 2 high speed quads. A lot of ski areas can boast numbers like this but Waterville has a lot more to offer.
|Waterville’s Town Square|
For example, Waterville has the Town Square which is a full service village that includes restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, an indoor ice rink, sleigh rides, a Nordic Center and even fireworks on Saturday nights. I am happy to report that you won’t find a chain store anywhere near the Town Square. All of this is surrounded by affordable lodging with shuttle access to the slopes. This village is what makes Waterville Valley a true resort.
|Does your ski area have this?|
Waterville has a slick iPhone app that features an interactive trail map, snow reports, trail photos and an event calendar. You can even track your altitude, total distance skied and overall speed. It also lets you check in so you know which of your friends are on the mountain. Every ski area should have an app like this.
My Day at Waterville
I headed to Waterville very early on a Tuesday morning so I could catch the first chair at 9 am. I did not know what to expect, due to the extremely mild winter, but the temperatures dropped and snow began falling once I got within 10 miles of the mountain. Thankfully it is winter somewhere. I was amazed to see that Waterville was almost 100% open which is a notable accomplishment this winter. The parking lot was almost empty which was not surprising since it was midweek. Waterville is small enough that you can walk from your car to the slopes but they also have shuttles for those who want a ride.
|Waterville’s main base lodge|
Usually I gear up in my car and head directly to the slopes but Waterville’s base lodge is very cozy with clean facilities, a fire place and a great view so I chose to get geared up there. I was amazed at how friendly the Waterville employees were. Everyone working in the base lodge or at the lifts said hello and asked if I was having fun. This is the kind of charm that I don’t usually experience at big ski areas.
|the base area at Waterville|
Watervillle’s layout is one of its best features. Everything is built around a central base area. From here one can access lifts to the summit, beginner and intermediate areas. This is great for families or groups with skiers of different experience levels. The mountain also features several lifts higher on the mountain so expert skiers can repeat the steep stuff without heading all the way back to the base.
|which way down?|
After a few warm up runs, I jumped on the White Peak Polar Express Quad to get to the main summit area. From here skiers have a wide choices of blue and black diamond routes to choose from.
|heading down from the summit|
They can also take the High Country Double lift to the ski area’s highest point for a few more blue trails. There is no green route down from the summit but a sign always highlights the easiest way down.
The summit area also has Waterville’s famous Schwendi Hut which treats skiers to hot drinks and fresh pastries with a great view.
I made a bad turn on my third run and fell hard enough to detach my skis. Within seconds a ski patroller stopped to see if I was ok. I don’t know where he came from but it was nice to know that the Waterville slopes are well patrolled.
|heading for some steep|
The snow kept falling all day and conditions got better with very run. This convinced me to head over to the mountain’s black diamond and double black diamond terrain. These trails had ample amounts of the mountain’s best powder and it felt exhilarating to carve down the steep slopes. It was also nice that I had these trails to myself.
|sugar fueled refreshment|
I took a quick afternoon break for a waffle from the slope side Waffle Cabin. This gave me the energy I needed to put in a few more hours on the slopes.
|no lines here|
The absence of lift lines made it possible for me to ski every trail on the mountain by early afternoon. The diversity of terrain was able to keep me interested all day but I was starting to lose my mental focus so I knew it was time to get off the slopes although it was hard to stop skiing when the conditions kept improving.
|Waterville’s Town Square|
I headed to the nearby Waterville Town Square once I got off the slopes. This picturesque setting features resort amenities like shops, ice skating, restaurants and shopping. This is also the location of Waterville’s Nordic center for those who prefer to ski on level terrain. There are also many lodging options within walking distance of the Town Square.
Waterville Valley has everything that you could want for a multi day ski vacation or just a day on the slopes. It is not the biggest or fanciest ski area. However Waterville’s slopes, layout and customer service make it a ski area that I can’t wait to go back to.
Disclosure: Waterville Valley provided New England Outside with a complimentary lift ticket in exchange for blogging coverage. However, New England Outside is in no way required to provide Waterville Valley with a favorable review.