"Mountains, forest, peace; old friends, a welcoming inn with familiar ways."
A half century ago, Nathaniel Goodrich used those words to extol the virtues of Waterville Valley Resort, a historic New Hampshire town surrounded by 700,000 acres of national forest. "Superficially it changes, as all things must," Goodrich wrote. "But basically it remains the same."
These days, Goodrich might be surprised to see Waterville Valley Resort 's nationally ranked tennis courts, summertime skateboard park, year-round ice arena, and cultural activities that range from bluegrass festivals to Shakespeare under the stars.
Or maybe not. Waterville Valley Resort has always been about wholesome, fun activities. It's a unique combination of resort area, historic town, and nature-lover's paradise, with an emphasis on family and community that brings people back year after year.
In the 1800s, visitors came to the valley by stagecoach to escape the heat of the city and enjoy an abundance of natural beauty. These days, visitors arrive by car, wending their way along the picturesque Mad River, which surges over boulder-strewn rapids on its way to "the town at the end of the road."
When you arrive in Waterville Valley Resort, you can generally park your car and forget it. The Town Square is a pedestrian-only zone, and most activities are within walking distance or a short ride on the free open-air trolley that serves the valley. And activities there are, in abundance: year-round sports of every imaginable variety, for everyone from absolute beginners to experts; arts and education programs for children and adults; outdoor theater, gardening, and clubs. In Waterville Valley Resort, the words "I'm bored" are rarely, if ever, heard.
In the 1960's, Waterville Valley became a year-round resort community when U.S. Olympic skier Tom Corcoran first came to the area. Corcoran envisioned a planned community free from the urban sprawl of fast-food restaurants and big box stores, a place where families could come to enjoy the outdoors in a safe, healthy environment.
The beginning of Corcoran's vision was the Waterville Valley ski area, whose motto ("Altitude without the Attitude") echoes the family-fun atmosphere of the valley. The resort features 2 high-speed detachable quads, 2 triples, 3 doubles, 5 surface lifts, and has trails for skiers of every ability.
Waterville Valley has hosted 13 World Cup skiing events. It's also home to the Waterville Valley Academy ski school—an academic sports program for competitive skiers and snowboarders—as well as the Black and Blue Trail Smashers ski club, whose members have won several major awards in regional championships.
At the Adventure Center in Town Square, the focus of winter activities is cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Waterville Valley has 120+ KM of groomed trails, almost all of which are 16-feet wide, with a classic track on the outside. The trails are nationally ranked in ski guides, and according to cross-country skier Bill Cantlin, "The grooming is extraordinary." Bill Cantlin, who has helped out with NCAA tournaments says, "It's better than the grooming the NCAA does."
And no one gets left out of the fun. The Waterville Valley ski area sponsors the AbilityPLUS Adaptive program, which teams physically and mentally challenged children and adults with caring volunteers who help them enjoy the thrill of skiing, free from the encumbrance of wheelchairs or braces.
That's typical of the attitude in Waterville Valley Resort. "It's a small community with a big heart," says a one-timer visitor who now runs a successful business from Waterville Valley. This year, Waterville Valley hosted the winter games for Special Olympics New Hampshire, with about 400 inspiring athletes competing. "The whole community supported the games," says Saenger.
They also pitched in to support Wounded Warriors, a program that brings wounded veterans from Walter Reed Medical Center to Waterville Valley for a retreat. The guests stay in private homes and are treated to skiing, activities, and a reception, all donated by the community.