North Conway, New Hampshire – We can’t go to Florida for winter break this year, but we can go to New Hampshire! We have had so much fun skiing this winter, we decided to keep it going with a pandemic getaway to North Conway – ski capital of New England.
Normally, during winter break, we head south to soak up some sunshine in Sarasota, Florida. This year, we were not really welcome, since the grandparents’ condo association has strict Covid protocols in place. (Last year I wrote about how we left Daddio at home sick in bed when we flew to Florida. This was before we knew Coronavirus was “a thing.” In retrospect, it was indeed “a thing” and Daddio had it early on. Thank goodness the rest of us were in Florida at the time!)
White Mountain Hotel & Resort
Anyway, I waited too long to plan anything for winter break this year. When I finally got around to it, I made it easy on myself by glomming onto our friends’ vacation plans for a pandemic getaway to North Conway, New Hampshire. They were booked to stay at Red Jacket Resort, with free time at the attached Kahuna Laguna Indoor Waterpark and skiing at Cranmore Mountain Resort. We couldn’t get a room at Red Jacket, so we ended up at the White Mountain Hotel & Resort.
So… we couldn’t go to the waterpark, but that was for the best. I mean, it’s hard to imagine how they can keep an indoor waterpark safe during a global pandemic. (Lots of chlorine…?) Instead, we enjoyed the outdoor heated pool and hot tub at WMH. There’s something about snow on the pool deck and steam rising from the water that makes outdoor swimming in the winter even funner than in the summer! There was plenty of room for the few swimmers in the pool, so it felt very safe. We did have to wait our turn for the hot tub (one family at a time), but it was worth it!
Other ammenities we enjoyed at WMH: game room with ping-pong table (apparently used only by us); the wonderful and delicious Ledges Restaurant; and incredible mountain and forest views all around.
For Valentine’s Day, I had pre-ordered the special Ledges take-out dinner for the whole family. It included a charcuterie platter, perfectly grilled filet mignon, a side of potato cakes and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, and chocolate mousse for dessert. We brought our own wine. We ate in our room, which was, er, cozy. But the food was delectable. And we enjoyed the same fabulous view as did the diners in the restaurant.
Cranmore Mountain Resort
We met our friends for skiing at Cranmore Mountain Resort. The resort has some of the strictest Covid protocols I have seen yet. Indoor dining required reservations, but there were food trucks and picnic tables and other options for outdoor dining. For equipment rental, we enjoyed the full attention of staff who helped us in an otherwise empty room. The equipment return was equally efficient. My only complaint was the lack of on-site storage, so I had to take our boots back to the car before we could ski.
Cranmore was recently touted by the Boston Globe as one of the better smaller New England ski resorts. I guess it is small compared to nearby Attitash or Wildcat. That said, it is definitely bigger than the southern New Hampshire resorts where we have been skiing. (Of course, it helps that the mountain itself is significantly bigger!)
Of Cranmore’s 57 slopes, nearly half are intermediate (blue squares), which is plenty challenging for the kids and me. We only used two out of five chair lifts, mainly due to the long lines at the others. We were happy to discover the Schneider Triple: it is not at the mountain base, but sort of three-quarters of the way down the mountain, so it rarely had a line. (This limited the slopes we could ski on, but it was worth it.) Apparently, when we were there, Cranmore was operating at 50% capacity, for which I was very grateful. In a normal season, lift lines must be excruciating, not to mention the crowded slopes.
The next day we went back to Cranmore for snow tubing. Picture a perfectly groomed sledding hill, complete with tracks so you don’t crash and a magic carpet so you don’t have to climb back up. Sounds like a snow dream, right? Personally, I was done with tubing after the first few runs. I think it was a little too well curated for my tastes. I mean, the dangers and challenges of variable speeds and unpredictable courses are really part of the fun of sledding, aren’t they? But it was a nice change of pace from skiing and the kids had a blast.
So ends our winter break Valentine’s Day pandemic getaway to North Conway. And, I suspect, so ends our ski season. But it’s been a good one. We couldn’t go to Costa Rica or Italy or Florida, but we could still go to New Hampshire, which means we could still go on pandemic ski trips!