Winter recreation can intimidate, and for good reason: It’s cold and icy out there! But facing those elements also makes the experience all the more rewarding, whether you’re cutting turns through fresh powder or sleeping under the stars. Make the most of the snowy season by trying something for the first time. Here are five locations—with facilities for skiing, camping, biking, bobsledding, and even biathlon—that are welcoming to rookies and veterans alike.
Pinkham Notch, N.H.
AMC’s Joe Dodge Lodge provides a base camp for some of the most iconic and extreme backcountry skiing in the Northeast, but not everyone needs to head straight up Tuckerman Ravine. New to skiing? Trek up the road to Great Glen Trails for a lesson and to get comfortable on groomed trails. Ready for a bigger challenge? Ski from Joe Dodge Lodge onto Old Jackson Road for a moderate 6-mile round-trip tour. Pause to take inspiration from the vets whooshing down Tucks and Gulf of Slides overhead as you make your way along the base of Mount Washington.
When you reach the Mount Washington Auto Road, a 1.3-mile descent to Connie’s Way Ski Trail offers a safe chance to try out some turns of your own. Connie’s Way follows a rolling path back to your starting point. Basic winter gear is available for purchase in the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, but you’ll need to arrange for skis elsewhere; a number of North Conway shops rent gear.
Monadnock State Park, Jaffrey, N.H.
Own a tent, a warm sleeping bag, and a stove to fix some hot beverages? Then it’s time to embrace the elements and spend a night out in the crisp winter air. A backyard overnight is a good way to test your winter mettle, and that of your gear, but once you’re ready to venture further afield, check out Monadnock State Park. It’s just 78 miles from Boston and 106 from Hartford and offers camping close to the frontcountry but with a dramatic backcountry setting to explore just beyond your site. Although the park’s larger Gilson Pond Campground closes for the winter, a small campground next to the headquarters, just off Poole Road, is open in winter on a first-come, first-served basis.
It’s the perfect winter base camp, connecting to miles of easy-to-challenging cross-country ski and hiking trails that extend up and around the mountain. Set up camp, spend a few hours on your skiis or snowshoes, then bundle up and starting warming some dinner and drinks over your camp stove. Winter hikers should be careful on Monadnock’s summit: The open rock faces can be extremely slippery in wet or freezing conditions.
FAT TIRE BIKING
Kingdom Trails, East Burke, Vt.
Northern Vermont’s mountain biking mecca, Kingdom Trails, has embraced the fat biking fad. The staff packs 25 miles of trails for cyclists alike, including many of the facility’s popular warm-weather single-track routes on Darling Hill. Beginners should have plenty of options for winter exploration. (Kingdom Trails maintains a separate, 15-kilometer network of groomed ski trails which are off-limits to bikes.) Year-round cyclist traffic to Kingdom Trails also supports several local bike shops, which offer fat-bike gear rentals: Village Sport Shop (Derby), Village Sport Shop (Lyndonville), and East Burke Sports.
To avoid riding on snow that’s too soft and potentially damaging the trails, check conditions online or speak with the staff before heading out. Adult day passes are $15 ($75 for an annual membership); day passes for kids are $7.
Blue Hills Ski Area, Canton, Mass.
Blue Hills Reservation is one of greater Boston’s recreation gems. Although best-known for hiking and mountain biking, the reservation also offers downhill skiing. Great Blue Hill makes the most of its modest 635-foot elevation, with 16 trails, a chair lift, and snowmaking equipment.
Located 10 miles from downtown Boston, the ski area is convenient for anyone looking to test out downhill skiing for the first time or to simply get in a couple of practice runs after work. An adult season pass is $449, but a variety of discounted passes are available, including evening ($229), midweek ($269), and college options ($169). Ski and snowboard rentals are also available.
BOBSLEDDING & BIATHLON
Lake Placid, N.Y.
Been there, done that? Then head to Lake Placid, N.Y., to let your inner Olympian loose. A number of Olympic venues remain in operation in this Adirondack town, which hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Games. Want to race on an icy track? Head to the Olympic Sports Complex and have a professional driver and brakeman take you down the mountain in the Bobsled Experience. For a solo sled, try luge or skeleton.
Prefer endurance sports? Book a biathlon lesson at Mt. Van Hoevenberg. There you’ll get your heart pumping on the Olympic cross-country ski trails followed by an hour of riflery instruction on the Olympic Biathlon Range. Need further inspiration? Check out the Lake Placid Olympic Museum or tour the ski jumping facility.
More Info: Whiteface Mountain; check out the January/February 2018 issue for an introduction to hopeful Winter Olympians from AMC’s region