Favorite New Hampshire Cross Country Ski Areas
The Granite State is known for its massive rock formations, impressive peaks, and the charming New England settlements scattered amongst their foothills. In the winter months, these same quaint towns turn into gateways to some of the most expansive and interesting cross country ski terrain around. Highlighting the state’s alpine vistas, sweeping valleys and icy river basins, New Hampshire’s Nordic Centers provide access to endless adventure and winter exploration—all accented by small town hospitality and the picturesque roads that link these dreamy destinations together. Below are some of the best examples of what New Hampshire’s Nordic scene has to offer; be sure to follow the links and learn more about these sweet spots on their respective websites!
Ideally situated at the foot of Mt. Washington, the Bretton Woods Nordic Center offers an unbelievably extensive trail network paired with top quality amenities. One of the largest cross-country ski areas on the East Coast, Bretton Woods boasts 100 km of trails—perfectly groomed for both skate and classic skiing—which roll and loop through gorgeous meadows, flit past stands of spruce and fir, and often open out onto awesome views of the Presidential Range. Highlights include two trailside warming huts and a breathtaking, lift-served section of trails offering an alpine perspective from partway up Mount Washington. Get your tickets and rent a set of state-of-the-art ski gear at the charming and accommodating Nordic Center; and be sure to stop back in for lunch or drinks at The Grille, the in-house café!
Centered on the picturesque New England town of Jackson, this non-profit operated trail network gives skiers a unique hybrid experience, combining the charming and inviting sights of village streets with the snowcapped, mountainous grandeur of the Whites. A total of 150 km of groomed trails—which encompass three separate river valleys and 60 square miles of northern New Hampshire foothills—emanate out from the downtown Nordic center into the surrounding forests, fields and crests. (And this is not even to mention the vast snowshoe network that crisscrosses the Nordic terrain.) You could circumnavigate the peak of Popple Mountain, or summit the imposing North Doublehead in the morning, and sail down a long cruiser back into Jackson in time for lunch at the J-town Deli or the upscale Thompson House Eatery—both conveniently located alongside the trail.
With both the select amenities of a sizable ski resort and the charm and adventure of centers further off the beaten path, Waterville Valley promises a worthwhile ski getaway for the whole family. Operated out of the Resort’s multi-season Adventure Center, the Nordic offerings are vast: 70km of trails stretch well into the White Mountain National Forest, on which the center’s talented staff host snowshoe tours, kids’ camps, advanced ski clinics and more. With fat biking, alpine touring and après snacks of all varieties also on the menu, there really is something for everyone at Waterville.
Based out of its one-of-a-kind adventure center at the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road, Great Glen gives visitors unequaled access to the lower slopes of the highest peak in the East. With 45km of crisply groomed trails snaking alongside the Auto Road and crisscrossing the valley that surrounds the tranquilly meandering Peabody River, there is terrain for every type of skier, snowshoer or fatbiker. Plummet down the lower section of the Auto Road itself, or take the long, gently dropping switchbacks on your way back to the Center from one of the higher warming huts. To change things up, be sure to check out the kid-friendly tubing hill where speedy spins down a perfectly slippery slope await.
Taking a different approach than some of its higher-elevation neighbors, Gunstock employs a state-of-the-art snowmaking system to keep their extensive trail network well covered through the thick and thin of Southern New Hampshire’s winter precipitation. This network works its way rolling through the hills opposite Gunstock Mountain, offering panoramic valley views, riverside switchbacks, and excellent climbs and drops. The Gunstock Nordic Center is fully stock with a wide range of winter activity gear available for rental or purchase: from fat bikes and snowshoes to dog harnesses and skijoring setups, the knowledgeable and friendly staff have you covered.
On the shores of the sprawling and jaw-dropping Lake Winnipesaukee sits one of the finest cross country ski centers in the region. With 30 km of wonderfully multifarious terrain expertly maintained to world-class standards, a thrilling and beautiful ski experience awaits all visitors to Wolfboro XC Center. Steep, fast climbs ring the outer edges of the two trail networks encompassed by the Center, while rolling, more approachable slopes and flats dominate the middle portions of the area, closer to the Center itself. Speaking of which, the Wolfboro Ski Shop is renowned for its excellent selection of ski gear and apparel, its well-qualified staff and well-priced rental program—so much so that its been ranked the best ski shop in New England!
Expanding the traditional golf course-Nordic center model to exceptional proportions, the Eastman Cross Country Center boasts 36 km of widely varied terrain, suited for skiers of all abilities. With long flats stretching out alongside a 335-acre lake, and rolling hills providing excellent vantage points of the Eastman Forest and the area’s sparkling 18 holes, this Grantham ski hub is anything but boring. A team of PSIA certified ski instructors stand ready to aid and instruct beginners and offer advice to experienced skiers planning their route. Be sure to swing by the Farmer’s Table Café on your way in or out of town for a wood-fired pizza and some good old Grantham hospitality.
Adding to the seemingly endless array of outdoor excursions available in the White Mountains, the Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring Center takes a hybrid foundation-municipality management model to its 40km of excellent terrain, giving locals free skiing and snowshoeing, and giving visitors access at quite affordable rates. With gentle trails spanning some serious tracts of land, this gem of a ski center is perfect for a family touring adventure, or for a solo expedition from one of the three trail-connected towns to another (the three towns bound together by these ski trails are North Conway, Intervale, and Kearsage). If you’re in town in February, be sure to look out for the center’s annual chocolate festival: a not-to-be-missed celebration of all things cocoa!
As anyone who has passed through southern New Hampshire knows, the region is home to some incredible swaths of thick, rolling forests. Thanks to the dedication of the volunteers behind the Pine Hill Ski Club, skiers and snowshoers in the New London area can explore these very woods on 20 km of well-groomed trails, which wind through breathtaking the valleys and hillsides generously made accessible by private landowners. Day passes can be purchased at the Nordic Skater shop in Newbury, or via the honor-box at the trailhead. Learn more here!
Considering it’s a town of barely a thousand inhabitants, Franconia Village boasts an impressively wide variety of activities and adventures for intrepid visitors. This is due in large part to its ideal location in the very heart of the white mountains, between Mt. Lafayette and the Connecticut river. In the winter months, the village’s XC Ski Center provides access to the valley and undulating foothills in which Franconia sits. From the Center’s 25 miles of trails—which vary in difficulty from flat-and-wide greens to precipitous black diamonds—skiers of all abilities can soak in the glistening snow-capped peaks of the nearby mountains, and look back across the picturesque new England farmland. Of special interest is the Airfield trail, which circles the runway at Franconia Airport.
A bit of an outlier in the world of XC ski areas, Green Woodlands offers a vast trail network spread out across hundreds of acres of rugged, uninhabited central New Hampshire wilderness—and it is all self-service and free to the public. With two main entrances (one near Lyme Road and one off Rt. 118 in Dorchester) and several long trails that loop and traverse the distance between the two, it is easy to rack up the miles and even easier to plot your own unique venture through the mixture of marshes and dense woods with which the Woodlands are filled. The brainchild of former Dartmouth ski coach John Morton, the 30-odd mile trail system is built to Olympic standards and contains four hot-chocolate-serving warming huts scattered throughout. Whether you’re looking for a family outing or an endurance adventure, be sure to check out this gem when you’re next in the greater Hanover area.