CONWAY — Mount Washington Valley is gearing up for the first of two February school vacation weeks as part of the Presidents Day holiday — and in one of the best ski towns in North America, there will be no shortage of fun things to do for visitors and locals alike.
Jessyca Keeler, president of Ski NH, based in Conway, said despite a bit of rain that hit the region earlier this week, things are looking up at this point in the season.
“So far this winter, skier visits across the state are tracking slightly ahead of the 2020-21 ski season,” Keeler reported, adding, “After an initial big start to the season, we lost ground on the following weeks until the holidays, and then we saw a big rebound due to some good trail conditions in the first part of the holiday week vacation that drove visitation.
“As far as what to expect this coming long weekend and February vacation week, that remains to be seen, but given the warming trend on the horizon we may very well see a lot of people wanting to head north to ski, maybe do some tubing and enjoy other outside activities,” Keeler said.
They will find plenty to do, on and off the slopes, with off-slope activities including skating outdoors at the enchanted setting of Emerald Pond at the Nestlenook Farm in Jackson (rentals available) or Schouler Park in North Conway. The Ham Arena (hamarena.com) in Conway offers public skating and stick-and-puck sessions; rentals available. King Pine at Purity Spring Resort in East Madison is home to the Tohko Dome, a covered skating rink.
Or for a truly memorable experience, you can go for a snow train ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad to Attitash — the trains depart daily through March 6 from the 1874 Victorian Train Station in North Conway to Attitash at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.
“Some people do like to bring their skis and head up to Attitash for a few hours and then come back; others just like to go for the train ride,” said the CSRR’s Cheryl Wentworth. For more information, go to conwayscenic.com.
Or, if you’ve ever wanted to try snowmobiling, offering rentals are Northeast Snowmobile and ATV Rentals ( snowmobile.com) of Fryeburg, Maine, and Gorham and Northern Extremes (nxtsnow.cm) of Bartlett and Bretton Woods. Offering sales and service is Profile Powersports (profilepowersports.com) of Conway.
Another interesting form of mechanical winter travel is Great Glen Trail’s SnowCoach (greatglentrails.com) in Gorham, which takes passengers up the Mt. Washington Auto Road — reservations recommended.
Or how about a ride on the historic Mount Washington Cog Railway? Ride the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway to Waumbek Station (elevation 4,500 feet). For more information, go to thecog.com.
For a sleigh ride, operators include Nestlenook Farm (nestlenookfarmsleighrides.com) in Jackson and ther Stables at Bretton Woods (omnihoitels.com). Reservations are recommended.
Tubing enthusiasts will want to try out Great Glen Trails (greatglentrails.com); Cranmore Mountain Resort (cranmore.com), Bretton Woods (omnihotels.com) and King Pine Ski Area (kingine.com).
Green Mountain Conservation Group of Effingham will be offering fun learning opportunities for those seeking new adventures outdoors, including an Animal Tracking Workshop with tracker Barbara Bald Feb. 19. It will be offered from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at GMVV’s conservation center, the Blue Heron House, located at 236 Huntress Bridge Road. Dress appropriately for the weather and with proper footwear. Please contact [email protected] to preregister for this program as space is limited to 15 people. If the space is already full, we will notify you if a new space becomes available.
The Mount Washington Observatory (mtwashington.org) offers remote learning programs. Coming up March 1 at 11:15 a.m. is program entitled, “North American Climate Zones.”
With its rich ski history, North Conway is now lucky to be home to the New England Ski Museum’s Eastern Slope Branch, located next to Schouler Park on Main Street and open daily. Free admission (donations accepted). Marvel at their collections of skis through the years along with exhibits pertaining to skiing’s development from the 1930s and beyond to today’s sport. As Yankee Magazine proclaimed, “A small museum shouldn’t be this good!” For more, go to skimuseum.org.
Art lovers have many galleries to visit, including the Mt. Washington Valley Arts Association’s Main Street Gallery at the Shops at Norcross Circle in North Conway. Go to mwvarts.org for more information.
Other galleries include the Cassidy Gallery in the Majestic Building on Main Street in Conway (cassidygallery.com); landscape artist Erik Koeppel Fine Art in Jackson (erikkoeppel.com), the Jackson Art Studio and Gallery in Jackson (jacksonartnh.com); White Mountain Photo Gallery (whitemountainphotogallery.com), also in Jackson; the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (northconwaynhcrafts) and the Jackson Historical Society’s Museum of White Mountain Art, featuring Erik Koeppel’s largest White Mountain School of Art lansdcape painting, “Autumn in the White Mountains.”
Also for indoor amusement, try out Mystery NH’s Escape Rooms at the Mountain Valley Mall (MyasteryNH.com); which is a fun way to spend a fun family or group outing; or visit Saco Valley Lanes (heybowling.com) in Fryeburg, Maine. Settlers Green is home to Ryan Family Amusements (ryanfamily.com), featuring more than 50 of the hottest and newest games.
To see the latest in movies, check out Mountain Valley Mall Cinema 7 (yourneighborhoodtheatre.com).
The M&D Playhouse is presenting Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park” through Feb. 27. Go to m&dplayhouse.com for the schedule.
For an insight into the art of making liquor, check out the award-winning Cathedral Ledge Distillery (cathedralledgedistillery.com) in North Conway, where you may see their operation while sampling a selection of their grain-to-glass spirits.
Or head to the tasting room at Tuckerman Brewing Co. (tuckermanbrewin.com), located at 66 Hobbs Street near the Ham Arena.
For a taste of how life used to be, visit the renowned Zeb’s General Store, a must-stop in North Conway Village for their food specialty items, vast selection of penny candy and other New England novelties. Right nearby is the North Conway 5 & 10, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And, speaking of candy, be sure to visit Sweetz & More, New Hampshire’s largest sweet destination, at Settlers Green in North Conway, where they carry more than 48 flavors of Jelly Belly’s and more. And the Christmas Loft is like visiting Filene’s at Christmas time with its New England Village indoor settings.
Add the valley’s fine dining, shopping and entertainment and you’ve got the ingredients for a fun place to be during your winter vacation.
Here is the outlook for February vacation week at local ski resorts:
• Attitash (attitash.com) and Wildcat (wildcat.com): Adam White, senior manager of resort communications and marketing for Vail Resorts, Inc., says Attitash and Wildcat are both looking forward to strong February vacation weeks.
“The mountain ops crew at Attitash has put in a lot of hard work getting the mountain in great shape for the upcoming holiday. Our EpicMix app shows 40 open trails and 5 of 7 lifts spinning today, including the Summit Triple and Abenaki Quad,” he reported earlier this week, prior to the storm.
He said live music has returned to Attitash after being suspended last year due to pandemic protocols, so be sure to check out both Ptarmigans at Attitash and the Den at Bear Peak.
Performing at the Den Sessions at Bear Peak are: The Riley Parkhurst Duo Feb. 19 and 20; Marshall Cassell Feb. 20; Chimera Feb. 21; Chuck and Scott Feb. 26 and Mitch Alden Feb. 26.
Fellow local Vail Resort Wildcat Mountain, meanwhile, offers apres ski entertainment every Friday and Saturday.
• Black Mountain (blackmt.com) will be featuring apres ski every day during vacation week: Feb. 19, Jon Sarty; Feb. 20, Swamp Dog; Feb. 21, Mitch Alden; Feb. 22, Candie Tremblay; Feb. 23, Mitch Alden; Feb. 24 and 25, Candie Tremblay; Feb. 26, Swamp Dog; and Feb. 27, Scott Baer.
Ski the Whites’ Friday Under the Lights uphill race series Feb. 25 will be part of the Mt. Washington Backcountry Ski Festival events.
• Bretton Wood (brettonwoods.com) has been enjoying a great season. Call for updates.
• Cranmore Mountain Resort (cranmore.com): Located in the heart of one of America’s best-rated ski towns, North Conway, Cranmore is a four-season, family-friendly ski resort known for its ski school, sunny, south-facing slopes and a festive atmosphere geared for skiers and non-skiers alike.
Notes Marketing Director Becca Deschenes, “It’s all about fun this February at Cranmore Mountain Resort. This President’s Week, Cranmore will have extended hours with night skiing and tubing offered daily and a plethora of family-friendly events scheduled throughout the week.
Saturday, Feb. 19 through Feb. 26, Cranmore will feature Cranapalooza, Cranmore’s signature family event, will take place each day from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Held in Schneider Square, the block party style event includes $1 s’mores, music, appearances from Cranmore’s penguin mascot, C-more, lawn games, giveaways and more. On Saturday, Feb. 26, Cranmore will host an early fireworks show at the base of the South Slope at 6:30 p.m.
New Hampshire’s No.1 Tubing Park will be open daily, Saturday, Feb. 19 through Sunday, Feb. 26, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., for the New Hampshire Vacation period, Monday, Feb. 28-Friday, March 4.
For best availability, advanced reservations for tubing are strongly recommended. Tickets can be purchased online at cranmore.com or at the Artist Falls Lodge on the day of arrival, based on availability.
Presented by Tuckerman Brewing Company, guests can enjoy live music in Zip’s Pub from some of the valley’s favorite musicians, scheduled daily through the vacation period, 4-7 p.m.
Cranmore’s second terrain park event of the season will take place on Saturday, Feb. 26.
The second event of a three-part series is open to skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities.
On Sunday, Feb. 27, Cranmore season passholders with a valid season pass for the day are invited to ski first tracks with a pro from Cranmore’s Ski School. Passholders can meet at the Skimobile Express Quad at 7:45 a.m. for an 8 a.m. lift load.
• King Pine (kingpine.com) in East Madison strongly recommends that guests purchase lift tickets, rentals, and lessons online a minimum of 24 hours in advance as we do sell out of rentals, lessons, and tickets. Also, recommending skiers and riders “Know Before You Go.”
The Pine Meadows Tubing Park is open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. for the Presidents’ Week vacation period, but will also have additional scheduled operating hours for the following New Hampshire vacation week period. Snowtubing is popular at King Pine and tickets regularly sell out, so it’s best to purchase online well in advance.
Enjoy live music in the Trail’s End Tavern from 3-6 p.m. on Saturdays: Feb. 19, Dan Haedicke; and Feb. 26, Riley Parkhurst Duo. Also, every King Pine lift ticket includes access to the Tohko Dome Ice Skating Rink and Purity Spring Resort XC & Snowshoe Reserve for extra winter fun opportunities. King Pine offers snowshoe and XC rental equipment but do not have an ice skate rental inventory this season, so guests should be sure to bring along their own skates to enjoy some time on the ice.
Guided Snowshoe Tours, Wednesday, Feb. 23, and Saturday, Feb. 26, leave from the Mill at Purity Spring Resort 2 p.m.
• Bear Notch Ski Touring (bearnotch.com) in Bartlett was recently featured on “New Hampshire Chronicle.” Laid back and friendly, Bear Notch offers well-groomed, scenic touring along the Saco River and the Bartlett Experimental Forest is just what every ski touring or snowshoeing enthusiast loves. Call ahead for rentals and lessons (603-374-2277).
• Bretton Woods Nordic Center (603-278-3322) offers 70 kilometers of skiing on three networks on the grounds of the historic Omni Mount Washington Resort, set against the backdrop of Mount Washington.
• Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center (greatglentrails.com): SnowCoach, snow tubing and 45 kilometers for snowshoeing asnd ski touring set at the base of Mount Washington. Book a fat biking rental or lesson.
“We will have s’mores and hot cocoa on the tubing hill all week! So fun,” says “Nordic Nate” Harvey of GGT.
• Jackson Ski Touring (jacksonxc.org) offers scenic inn-to-inn trails and a 154-km network for ski touring and snowshoeing. World-renowned, the JSTF offers a top notch ski school.
• MWV Ski Touring and Snowshoe Association (mwvskitouring.org): Offering 45 km of ski touring and snowshoeing, as well as fat biking on selected trails, the MWVSTA offers great terrain town-owned Whitaker Woods in North Conway Village that connect to trails in the Intervale.
Weekly guided snowshoe tours will be offered Feb. 19 and 26, departing the touring center at Ragged Mountain Equipment at 1 p.m. Cost is $25 per person included a daily trail pass. Rentals available at Great American Ski Renting Co. in North Conway.
A highlight of February Vacation Week is the 32nd annual Chocolate Fest set for Feb. 27 — always “the Sweetest Day on the Trails.”
Cross-country ski or snowshoe the network trails stopping at seven trailside businesses to enjoy a complimentary chocolate treat. Five additional chocolate stops are also available with a short walk or drive from the trails. Shuttle buses will also be circulating continuously from noon-5 p.m. Visit every trailside stop an enter a drawing for a $200 gift certificate. Tickets are limited this year and are now only available from lodging members when reserving a festival package, which includes lodging and tickets.
• 100 Acre Wood: (believeinbooks.org) in Intervale offers maple sugaring demonstrations, a half-mile storybook trail and cross country ski and snowshoeing trails. Winter Entertainment Series: Fridays at 6:30 p.m.: Gravel Project Feb. 25; Studio Two: the Beatles Tribute March 4 and Adam Ezra Group March 11.
• The Reserve at Purity Spring Resort (kingpine.com) offers 15 km of snowshoeing and cross country skiing, along with skating at the Tohko Dome.