Family fun on vacation in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

By Ann Schissler – After skiing for a number (a very high number) of years, we’ve learned to avoid skiing on school vacation weeks if possible. We’ve experienced the horror stories of expensive tickets, long lift lines and crowded trails. So when we offered the use of our condo to my niece and her family over Presidents week, we thought it would be a win-win for everyone. Then, my niece and her husband asked us to join them for a few days to ski with everyone. Our 2 bed, 2 bath condo was now the home for, 8 people (4 adults, 4 kids) and two 100 lb. dogs. It was all good though. These are the times that make for cherished family memories.

One benefit of visiting the mountains over a vacation week is the expanded activities offered to help keep the kids busy on and off the slopes. For example, the first night we arrived, my niece told me she was taking the group night skiing at Loon. That seemed odd to me since I knew Loon doesn’t offer night skiing. However, during vacation weeks, they open up the terrain park on the lower mountain for skiing and riding. It’s located right next to the tubing area and the skiers, riders and tubers were having a blast! Loon boasts it has the only lift-serviced tubing hill in the White Mountains.

Loon also offers cross-country skiing and lessons for all abilities, snowshoeing, (with guided tours available on the weekends), Ice Skating and for the more adventurous a thrilling Zipline that gives you a rush as you fly over the frozen Pemigewasset River and back. Be sure to check with the mountain for availability and make reservations if necessary.

The next day we decided to ski at one of our favorites, Bretton Woods. We were concerned about the crowds. If the parking lot was any indication, we may be looking at some long lines. After booting up in the lodge we headed to the Bethlehem Express lift, the main lift up the mountain. It was busy, but not awful. After queuing up for about 15 minutes, we were on the chair. We didn’t want to go back down to the line again so we skied Outer Bounds to Granny’s Grit and down to the Zephyr chair. On the way we stopped on the side of the trail to talk. That’s when we looked around and realized we were the only people on the trail! It was deserted during President’s Week and on a Saturday no less. We remained on the Zephyr lift for the rest of the afternoon and experienced no lines and no busy trails. Pure bliss. The entire day was blue sky, blue square, blue ribbon skiing. We left exhausted and exhilarated.

On our last day skiing together as a family we choose to visit Waterville Valley. The weather started out pleasantly enough with an inch or two of fresh snow for our initial runs down Valley Run, a long beginner cruiser. After skiing with the family for a while, the boys headed to the terrain park, the girls explored other trails and the adults headed to a few of their favorites. One thing we learned about skiing with a group is the coordination factor. Jumping from lift-to-lift and making sure everyone is in the right place at the right time, or at least keeping tabs on where everyone is, can become a Herculean effort. Cell phones and text messages become the instant glue to holding everyone together. If you want to stay together while being spread across the sides of a mountain you must keep the lines of communication open. If you’re going to be in a similar situation, remember to keep your phones fully charged.

In spite of it being a school vacation week the family ski vacation was a memorable one. Everyone had a great time playing together in the “Alps of the East”, New Hampshire’s White Mountains.