On December 21st, the winter solstice marked the start of when days will begin to grow longer, the official start of winter. New Hampshire has so many winter activities to enjoy at this time of year. Here are a few ideas to put on your calendar to get you through the cold months.
New Hampshire offers a wide selection of alpine and cross-country ski areas with slopes rated for all abilities; after all, skiing is New Hampshire’s official sport. There are 32 alpine and cross-country ski areas throughout the Granite State. Many major ski resorts are close to one another, making it easy to experience. Bretton Woods bills itself as the largest ski resort in New Hampshire, with 63 trails, 35 glades, and 3 terrain parks on 464 acres with 10 lifts and night skiing on Friday and Saturday.
A new 8-passenger gondola and Rosebrook summit lodge add to the amenities. On the other hand, Loon Mountain is the closest large resort to I-93, with 61 trails and a vertical drop of 2,100′ (3,050′ elevation). Just up the road, Cannon Mountain offers some excellent, challenging trails with an elevation of 4,081’has a new high speed 8 person chairlift offering stunning views, 81 trails, and 10 lifts with a new expansion at Mittersill Alpine Resort offering a wide variety of trails. Gunstock Mountain Resort in our backyard offers panoramic views of Winnipesaukee, 49 trails, 7 lifts, and the best night skiing in the state with 21 well-lit trails and 6 lifts. The tubing park is another favorite. Snowmaking and grooming have always been consistent at Gunstock, with a significant investment in high-efficiency snowmaking equipment and groomers. Waterville Valley is a beautiful self-contained resort offering 50 trails served by 11 lifts. Ragged Mountain to the west of the Lakes Region includes 57 trails and 5 lifts with a high-speed 6-pack lift. The above ski areas are the closest ski areas to the Lakes Region; however, there are many others to explore.
Nordic Cross-Country Skiing
There are 12 major cross-country Nordic ski areas in New Hampshire. The trail networks vary from 20 kilometers to more than 150. The Jackson Ski Touring Foundation is one of the longest cross-country and snowshoe centers in the east, offering 154 kilometers of trails from an idyllic New England Village. Bretton Woods Nordic Center offers 100 kilometers of trails through the grounds of the Mount Washington Resort with truly spectacular views. The Nordic Center at Waterville Valley includes 76 kilometers of trails with open and wooded terrain
beginning at the Town Square Village. Right in our backyard, Gunstock Outdoor Center includes 38 kilometers of groomed trails. A rustic warm-up cabin and snowmaking on some trails help extend the season. There are eight cross-country centers scattered throughout the White Mountains to visit.
Thousands of miles of snowmobiling trails navigate New Hampshire’s backcountry; in fact, there are 7,422 miles of trails! The Great North Woods Region offers pristine terrain, and snowmobilers can even cross the international border into Canada from Pittsburgh, New Hampshire! The New Hampshire Snowmobile Map is a must. The trail map is also available for Android and iPhone users. There are over 100 snowmobile clubs to choose from
in New Hampshire, which are the backbone of the NH Snowmobile Association. Each club provides maintenance and grooming for its trail networks.
SnowCoach Tours in Gorham, NH
Mount Washington in the winter is an awe-inspiring place, and less experienced adventurers can hop aboard the SnowCoach. This 12-passenger vehicle rides on four tracks rather than wheels as it journeys two-thirds of the way to the Summit of Mount Washington and back down again.
Ice Castles in Lincoln & Woodstock
This is a magical place for children where you can meander through huge structures carved from approximately 25,000 pounds of ice. The colors are inspiring and it is a fun place to visit in Snow Country!
Outdoor Ice skating venues
Sipping hot chocolate while skating on a frozen pond or lake is a popular New Hampshire experience. At Nestlenook Farm in Jackson, you can skate on a maintained 3-acre victorian skating park with an enclosed warming center. Little Pond in historic Sandwich is a whimsical setting that skaters frequent. The Gilford beach rink is popular with the locals and Lily Pond. The indoor ice skating arena in Laconia is popular. The indoor rink at Plymouth State University, the indoor arena at Waterville Valley, and Purity Springs Resort in Madison are all great outdoor venues to explore, skate, and snowshoe.
If you’ve always wanted to try dog sledding, bundle up and head to the New Hampshire Dog Sledding Outfitters, where their well-trained canines love to pull with their joyful barks. Muddy Paws Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, New England Dog Sledding in Colebrook, and Northern Exposure Outfitters in Milan are other choices. A must-see is the World Championship Sled Dog Races in Laconia, held in February. For 83 years, this musher event has attracted large crowds along the 15-mile course.
How about a nostalgic, old-fashioned sleigh ride? Nestlenook Farm in Jackson is the place to be. You don’t need to be an athlete or buy special gear. Other great options include the Bretton Woods stables at the Omni Mount Washington Resort and Stonewall Farm near Keene.
This winter sport is so versatile and easy to experience. The State Parks, forests, groomed snowmobile and cross-country trails are scattered everywhere. The Franconia Notch Recreational Path and the Flume Gorge Trail are favorites. Coleman State Park on Little Diamond Pond in Stewartstown and modest hiking trails like Mount Major and along the Belknap’s make great excursions.
Tubing and sledding
Everyone can take advantage of the thrill of tubing and sledding. At Gunstock Mountain Resort, the 10-lane, lift-serviced tubing hill is fun for everyone. Cranmore Mountain in North Conway also has a similar complex along with Loon Mountain and King Pine Ski Area. Sledding is popular in every town. In Gilford, the sledding hill at the intersection of Cherry Valley Road and Route 11B at the “outing club” is popular.
Ice fishing and Pond Hockey
The annual ice fishing derby on Meredith Bay is lined with bob houses like a Currier & Ives setting. The 14th New England Pond Hockey Classic on February 3-5th features 275 teams competing in 500+ games across 26 rinks for coveted trophies. A well-attended festival with music and food vendors on the frozen bay,
So get out there this winter and take advantage of New Hampshire’s great outdoors!