On a list that includes heavy-hitters such as Zermatt, Switzerland, Chamonix, France, and Aspen Colorado, New England proves that it can hold its own.
Two local alpine destinations made it to National Geographic's list of the "World's Best 25 Ski Towns;" North Conway, N.H. and Stowe, Vermont.
On North Conway, author Aaron Teasdale writes:
North Conway may be less well known than many of the towns on this list, but only a few towns in North America can rival its skiing heritage. Tucked into Mount Washington Valley in the White Mountains, some of the first purpose-cut ski runs on the continent and a host of other innovations in grooming, lifts, and ski schools were developed here in the 1930s. North Conway was one of the leading lights in American skiing for decades before Western resorts rose to prominence. Much of that old New England character lives on today in the town of 2,349, where skiing is still tightly woven into the small community's social fabric.
This may have something to do with the fact that there are no less than seven different downhill areas with an easy drive of town (and six Nordic ones). Visitors here will likely focus on three. Cranmore sits two miles from the main village. It's an excellent starting point for families, with its revered ski school and abundant non-skiing activities, including indoor tennis, climbing walls, on-mountain tubing, and a plummeting rail-coaster ride. Attitash, seven miles up the valley, is the biggest of the bunch, with 73 runs and the region's best terrain park. No-frills, expert-friendly Wildcat, a half-hour drive, is the wildest, tallest mountain of the three, with the most vertical and spectacular views of nearby Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast. Wildcat and Attitash now share the same owners and feature interchangeable lift tickets, so if the weather is belligerent at Wildcat, which is not uncommon, you can skip 16 miles over to the more sheltered Attitash.
As for Stowe:
The archetypal New England ski village, Stowe is an impossibly quaint town of clapboard houses and steepled churches set in wooded hills at the foot of Vermont's Green Mountains. Main Street and Mountain Road are alive with boutiques and eateries. The larger community harbors more three- and four-star restaurants than any ski town in the Northeast. Partiers take note: Luxury lodging abounds, late-night revelry does not. You come to Stowe to live in a postcard, not a Harold and Kumar movie.
The skiing takes place a 15-minute drive up the road at Stowe Mountain Resort, where high-speed quads and gondolas whisk you up two separate mountains. Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont, has plenty to offer adventurous skiers and snowboarders, including the famed "front four" - four double-black diamond runs that are among the most challenging in the East. Spruce Peak, newly connected by a short gondola ride to Mansfield, is the place for beginners, with its ski school and gently arcing blue and green runs. Side- and backcountry skiing from the area is some of the best in the East, including Mount Mansfield's original run, the Bruce Trail, a narrow, twisting, 2,400-foot drop cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s.
Each piece features a local (Tom Eastman for North Conway, Sam Von Trapp for Stowe) dishing out the best spots for dining, lodging, and other activities as well. Can't argue with any of the suggestions. We wish Von Trapp were able to still suggest The Shed, alas, RIP.
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.