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A Tank Away

Spring awakening

Yes, there is skiing, but also plenty to do off the slopes

Tuckerman Ravine and its network of steeps, chutes, and narrow lines on a shoulder of Mount Washington. Tuckerman Ravine and its network of steeps, chutes, and narrow lines on a shoulder of Mount Washington. (Marty Basch for The Boston Globe)
By Marty Basch
Globe Correspondent / March 9, 2011

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GORHAM, N.H. -- This little town sits at the backdoor entrance to the White Mountains and spring skiing in rugged Pinkham Notch, about 170 miles from Boston. Budget-conscious travelers know that Gorham often has better lodging and restaurant prices than does North Conway to the south, while offering the same closeness to outdoor attractions. All in all, a fine weekend destination for a late-winter ski getaway.

STAY

Main Street is loaded with motels, several offering package deals. In the middle of town, is the Royalty Inn (130 Main St., 603-466-3312, www.royaltyinn.com, seasonal $77-$101; midweek, purchase a full-price lift ticket to Wildcat Mountain from them and your lodging is free). Fitness buffs will appreciate the Royalty’s 10,000-square-foot health club, equipped with indoor pool, racquetball courts, cardio room, and soothing hot tub. The 160-room Town and Country Inn (Route 2, 603-466-3315, www.townandcountryinn.com, seasonal weekend overnight package for two adults with breakfast and dinner is $170) has grown from its 11-room beginnings in 1956 and features a Wednesday night buffet, indoor pool, and dry sauna. Three miles from Gorham in Shelburne is the circa 1850 Mt. Washington Bed & Breakfast (421 State Route 2, 603-466-2669, www.mtwashingtonbb.com, seasonal $100-$165), with wonderfully worn floorboards and seven guest rooms named for birds. Innkeeper Mary Ann Mayer welcomes guests with homemade cookies, and serves filling banana nut pancake and Amaretto French toast breakfasts.

DINE

White Mountain Cafe and Bookstore (212 Main St., 603-466-2511, www.whitemountaincafe.com, sandwiches $2-$7.95) is a mellow breakfast and lunch spot frequented by the outdoor crowd featuring a soup of the day, sandwiches such as the Madison, a turkey Reuben, and a variety of coffee, espresso, and chai drinks. With an assortment of extra virgin olive oils for purchase and a menu of pasta, pizza and panini, Saladinos Italian Market (152 Main St., 603-466-2520, www.saladinositalianmarket.com, $6.95-$12.95) offers a hint of Sicily in this chilly north. Try the satisfying Spicy Sophia panino with capicola, salami, pepperoni, green olives, and more. Foodies come to Gorham for heralded Libby’s Bistro (111 Main St., 603-466-5330, www.libbysbistro.net, Wed-Sat from 5:30 p.m., entrees $20.95-$27.95) inside a more than 100-year-old former bank building. Owner-chef Liz Jackson continues to impress with her seasonal, creative global-influenced menu inspired by her travels and training at the Cambridge School of Culinary Art and in Julia Childs’s kitchen. Look for her special Friday night three-course dinners.

DURING THE DAY

Travel eight to 11 miles south on Route 16 to the state’s spring skiing kingdom in Pinkham Notch with 50-trail Wildcat Mountain, Great Glen Trails, and Tuckerman Ravine on the southeastern face of Mount Washington. Wildcat (Route 16, 603-466-3326, www.skiwildcat.com, lift tickets adult midweek $63, weekends and holidays $70) features winding old-school trails, spring moguls, and deck barbecues. The trek to Tuckerman Ravine with its steeps, chutes, boulders, narrow lines, and wide bowl is a rite of passage. Always check conditions before venturing into the potentially hazardous glacial cirque. Skiers and snowboarders carry their gear from the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Pinkham Notch Visitors Center (Route 16, 603-466-2721, www.outdoors.org) for the 3.1- mile hike up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the storied bowl’s floor. Cross-country ski at Great Glen Trails or ride the weather-dependent snowcoach up the Auto Road (Route 16, 603-466-2333, www.greatglentrails.com, $18 adults, snowcoach $45 adults). In town, stroll Main and Exchange streets and stop in at nostalgic Scoggins General Store (133 Main St., 603-466-5204, www.scogginsstore.com) with its fudge, candy counter, and toys. Also visit North Country-themed Gateway Gallery and Gifts (36 Exchange St., 603-466-9900, www.gatewaygallery.biz). For those seeking other alternatives, make the drive to ski Sunday River’s eight peaks (15 South Ridge Road, 207-824-3000, www.sundayriver.com, adults $79) or visit North Conway’s outlets, all about 28 miles away.

AFTER DARK

Skiing is plentiful here while night life choices are adequate but not various. Begin après-ski at the Wildcat Pub in the base lodge with weekend entertainment including March acoustic Sundays. Watch the game with bar snacks served in small Red Sox helmets in Mr. Pizza’s sports lounge (160 Main St., 603-466-5573, www.mrpizzanh.com). The White Mountain Cafe has some low-key events from storytelling to slide shows while Town and Country Inn features rocking live music on weekends. Saalt Pub (Wed-Sun from 4 p.m., $9.95-$12.95) in the basement of Libby’s Bistro is a rural chic respite with a vintage vibe: red-bricked walls, secluded vault tables, and a bar with a view of the kitchen so diners can watch the cook at work. Whether you are warming up with a bowl of lamb stew or sipping shiraz, the pub soothes you with easy-listening performers most weekends.

Marty Basch can be reached through www.onetankaway.com.