The towering buildings and crowded sidewalks of Boston become a distant memory as the drive to Waterville Valley, New Hampshire takes you deeper and deeper into the countryside, through woods, and finally into the mountains. White Mountain National Forest is one of the closest and most convenient ski destinations to Boston and worthy of an early morning departure for a full day of snowy fun.
You’ll want to get up early to make the two-hour trip up Route 93 to Waterville Valley and arrive in time for a sustaining brunch at The Espresso Emporium in Town Square. Sit by the window and watch the skiers disappearing down trails into the woods as you sip your coffee, and then head downstairs to the Nordic Ski Center.
If you’ve never skied before, join a group lesson, or ask for a few pointers from Bob and Kay, who staff the rentals desk. The learning curve for cross-country skiing is quite fast-you’ll be gliding along in no time. Follow the path around the pond for a short trip, or choose to veer off onto any number of secluded, groomed trails through the woods. If you’re lucky, a light snow will be falling. You won’t miss the clamor of the city amidst the hush of white-coated pines.
When your legs get tired, grab a hot cocoa, and climb into a red sleigh pulled by two horses. They’ll take you across the valley to take in stunning views of the mountains and a glimpse of rural New England life, including picturesque homes with old snowshoes on the porch, and tiny clapboard libraries. You’ll want to bring a blanket for your lap and your camera for the landscape.
If it’s a Saturday, stop into the Curious George Cottage Studio to watch local illustrator Nat Scrimshaw continue the tradition of “chalk-talks” started by Hans and Margret Rey, the creators of Curious George who spent summers in the valley. Local and visiting children crowd around an easel to watch Scrimshaw draw zebras, tigers and (of course) monkeys. They help him invent stories for the animal characters. Even if you don’t have a child in tow, he’ll still be happy to draw a picture for you.
There’s nothing better after a day of outdoor activity than a hot stone massage. Masseuse Brenda Warren at the Waterville Valley Recreation Center uses flat, black river stones and a combination of grape seed and almond oils to work out any knots in your back, ease sore muscles from skiing, soothe chapped skin, and warm you to the core. You will be totally relaxed and ready for dinner.
A new Italian restaurant in Town Square, Aglio, serves old favorites like tomato bruschetta, home-made lasagna, veal parmesan and chicken piccata in a cozy setting with red-and-white table
cloths and views of the mountains. The atmosphere is friendly; you might spot the owners playing with their daughter near the kitchen, and the wait staff will be happy to give you a weather report for the drive home. Be sure to splurge on a glass of Chianti from the wine list and a homemade dessert.
Guaranteed, you’ll return to the city refreshed and renewed.