This East Coast Ski Resort Is the Ultimate Getaway for Cozy New England Vibes

Waterville Valley, in New Hampshire's White Mountains National Forest, has 52 trails, fluffy powder, and a charming village.

After 17 years in New York, I am, once again, a New Englander, which means begging off the reality of middle-age by getting back into a sport I found in childhood: skiing. Where I grew up, skiing was a mid-week affair. You could drive up to New Hampshire’s White Mountain region in just under two hours, ski for the day, and make it home in time for dinner. 

The main town square of Waterville Valley lit up at night and covered in snow

Courtesy of Waterville Valley

My four- and six-year-old boys had been on skis just once when we headed up to the mountains from our Massachusetts house to Waterville Valley, a ski resort within New Hampshire’s White Mountains National Forest with 52 trails, 265 skiable acres of terrain, an elevation of just over 4,000 feet, and a vertical drop of 2,020 feet. 

A skier at the Waterville Valley mountain summit

Hannah Selinger

Waterville, built onto Mount Tecumseh and Green Peaks, began drawing skiers over 80 years ago, says Sarah Van Kralingen, Waterville Valley’s marketing communications manager. “People first began skiing down Mount Tecumseh in 1937, when the Civilians Conservation Corps cut the first ski trails of Waterville Valley,” she says. But Waterville first became a proper ski resort in the 1960s, when two-time Olympic skier Tom Corcoran founded and developed the mountain. 

A week of heavy snow had seasoned the slopes before our arrival on a February morning in the middle of a cold snap. Before we even hit the slopes, we prepped for the day in one of the resort’s six slopeside spaces. The Green Peak Suite, ours for the day, included a leather Chesterfield sofa, a television, some complimentary drinks and pastries, a large picture window with a pristine view of the mountain, and ample space for all our gear. Outside, a dedicated premier parking spot made loading and unloading just a little bit easier. 

Skiers at the mid mountain point in Waterville Valley

Courtesy of Waterville Valley

Our kids then headed straight to Kids Kamp, a ski school available for young ones aged four to 12. Two-hour morning and afternoon sessions are punctuated by lunch, and at the end of our runs, before heading back to the Tecumseh Express, a speedy six-person bubble chairlift that opened in 2022, my husband and I snuck peeks at their increasingly controlled “pizzas.” Kids under five ski for free at Waterville, although parents with Adult Plus Season Passes are each offered one free junior ski pass for kids under age 12.

We had come on a Wednesday, in the old tradition of New Englanders who prefer to ski the mountains in the absence of tourists. Conditions, it turns out, were good, thanks not only to back-to-back storms, but also to the property’s rigorous snowmaking and nightly grooming across two peaks. 

Aerial view of the mountain at Waterville Valley

Courtesy of Waterville Valley

At Waterville, my husband and I were often some of the only skiers on the morning’s fresh pack. We caught chair after chair, without a line or a fellow passenger, each time getting to the top in five-and-a-half minutes. “I’ve never skied like this before,” my husband confessed. It’s the luxury of being able to hop right to the mountains.

“There's something incredibly special about East Coast skiing,” Sarah van Kralingen says. “East Coast mountains are home to a community of dedicated, passionate, and gritty skiers and riders, whose love for the sport is so strong, it doesn’t matter what the weather is, or how many trails a mountain has.” Indeed this was true for us, two skiers who found ourselves at the summit, looking toward the White Mountain Valley. The temperature? Minus four degrees. 

The temperature did not keep the more adventurous among us from taking off toward the terrain park. Everyone seemed to know it was a good day on the slopes. Waterville Valley is also known as the birthplace of freestyle skiing; The resort is responsible for the United States’ first freestyle skiing instruction program, which launched in 1969. In 1994, the year before I first skied Waterville, the resort introduced The Boneyard, the Granite State’s first terrain park. Ever since, Waterville has drawn professional snowboarders and freeskiers, many of whom we watched from the top of the Tecumseh Express, as they took the High Country T-Bar up to the highest trails of the mountain, only to flip, jump, and pirouette down through the built-in obstacles of a blue-square run called Hassle. 

We spent a lot of the day at the top, in fact, choosing which runs to take, catching a glimpse of the white-capped Mount Washington in the distance, and, of course, visiting the Schwendi Hutte, a rustic lodge at the top of the mountain that was built when the resort opened. There, from a soft leather armchair, I dove into a warm helping of mac and cheese while I watched the soft greens and blues of the mountains through the window. 

Exterior of Schwendi Hutte Mountain Fare in Waterville Valley

Hannah Selinger

Looking out the window at a snowy mountain from Schwendi Hutte Mountain Fare in Waterville Valley

Hannah Selinger

The Schwendi Hutte, in all its cozy, wood-framed glory, is a reminder, too, of the property’s long legacy. I stopped for a moment, in reverence, to look at two photographs of Robert F. Kennedy, an old friend of Tom Corcoran’s and a passionate Waterville skier. Upon Kennedy’s death, Corcoran named one trail “Bobby’s Run,” and that winding, wending path still exists today, just as it did in 1968. We skied it, wondering how many times a young Kennedy had in his days on the mountain, before it bore his name. 

That lineage translated to our own experience, when, at the end of the day, we picked up our boys from Kids Kamp. My oldest was ready for one more run, and so my husband got him on his first-ever chairlift, a quad to a network of larger trails. From there, they sped down in the last, flat light of the day, a new skier and a well-practiced one. 

Snow falling down in front of the Town Square archway in Waterville Valley

Courtesy of Waterville Valley

Then, it was time to pack up and go, but not all visitors to Waterville have to leave right away. When I stayed at the resort in 1995, I spent a week at the Town Square Condominiums, and these are still ideal for families spending a night, a few nights, or even a week at the resort. With three bedrooms and two bathrooms, each condo can accommodate up to eight people and are perched right within the town square village, a bespoke community of stores and snow-covered walkways that connect to the ski area via the 1.5-mile Nordic Trail. (There's also resort-operated shuttle buses for guests, which make numerous stops throughout Waterville Valley, including at every lodge, condo, and hotel, as well as at the lower parking lots.)

We were not destined to stay over this time — although perhaps a snug stay in the condos, with a wintry walk through the picture-perfect Waterville village, lies in our skiing future. Now that we’ve rediscovered East Coast skiing as a family, I could easily picture a weekend up in the mountains, pausing between runs on Tippecanoe for a toe-warming visit to The Bookmonger. After all, skiing, as Sarah van Kralingen says, “is more than simply the sensation of sliding on snow. It’s about the people we ski with. It’s a shared experience with the people we love.”

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