A skier sidelined by a mid-season knee injury, I find myself in New Hampshire’s White Mountains for a week, surrounded by near-perfect snow that I can’t enjoy. Surely I’m not alone — there must be other non-skiers looking for something to do in the Mount Washington Valley.
I turned to my innkeepers at Snowvillage Inn for advice, and with their help discover a full week’s worth of winter activities that don’t require two perfect knees. So if you can’t or don’t ski, don’t pass up a week in New Hampshire snow country. Try these while your companions throw themselves off a mountain top.
1. Go shopping in North Conway. Duh, should have thought of that one myself. North Conway is almost as famous for discount outlets as it is for skiing. I’m not a mall person myself, so I bypass those to stroll Main Street – it’s lined with boutiques, selling everything from fine handcrafts to creamy clothing. Stop at Zeb’s for a good selection of New England-made foods.
2. Visit the Mount Washington Observatory’s Weather Discovery Center. Listen in on the current weather chatter from the summit of Mt. Washington and get a feel for the world’s worst weather inside a replica of the wooden observatory where the highest-ever wind velocity was recorded – a re-enactment shakes the cabin and creaks its timbers realistically. Play with other weather toys and watch a film about wind.
3. Delve into ski history. Cross the street to the Eastern Slope Inn, and after browsing the vintage clothing and accessories at My Girlfriend’s Consignment Boutique, look behind it to find exhibits of The New England Ski Museum. Here you’ll learn about how North Conway was instrumental in establishing skiing as a sport in the US. While you’re in the building, stop for organic pizza from the big wood ovens at Flatbread Pizza Company.
4. Go tubing at King Pine. It’s like your old flying saucer sled on steroids, and fun for any age. A lift takes you up to the top of the snow chutes at Pine Meadows Tubing Park. It’s open evenings on weekends, so skiers can enjoy it with you.
5. Taste maple syrup at a sugar house. By late February or early March the sap is running and sugar houses are boiling it down into amber syrup. Step into the steamy sweetness of a sugar house to sample the syrup and maybe take home a jugfull. Black Mountain Sugarhouse in Jackson and Thorn Mountain Maples in Intervale are good choices, and you may be offered other mapley goodies during the annual Maple Weekend in late March.
6. See the mountains as the White Mountain Artists painted them. The Jackson Historical Society displays a remarkable collection of paintings by the 19th-century plein-aire artists who flocked here for the scenery and camaraderie of fellow artists.
7. Ride the SnowCoach up above timber line. The famed Mt. Washington Auto Road was the first of its kind in America, and now it’s open in the winter for specially designed enclosed vehicles that take passengers to the halfway point. Here they get views of the sparkling winter landscape and a look at wildlife in the winter woods and alpine zone above the tree line.
8. Ride the Mountain Coaster at Cranmore. You don’t need to be on skis to have fun at this ski resort. Loops and runways offer thrills during the long ride, and for those who don’t relish flying down the mountain at high velocity, each car has a brake to customize speeds.
If you’re willing to drive a little further, you can help harness your own team and ride through the mountain scenery on a dogsled at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, or ride the Aerial Tramway in Franconia Notch for panoramic mountain views and fresh pretzels in the summit lodge.