Jan 122013
The Omni Mt. Washington Hotel in New Hampshire's Mt. Washington Valley

The Omni Mt. Washington Hotel in New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington Valley

The Omni Mount Washington Resort is a high-end 4-season resort located at the base of New Hampshire’s 6,000 foot tall Mount Washington in the midst of the White Mountain National Forest and the Mt. Washington Valley.  This area is one of our favorite family vacation destinations at any time of year.  Since Omni Hotels began managing this historic property in 2009 there have been an ongoing series of major updates to the hotel, the golf course, and the adjacent Bretton Woods ski area.

Bretton Woods, New Hampshire’s largest ski area with 434 acres of skiing and snowboarding, including 101 trails and glades and four terrain parks is always a family favorite with lots of options for all ability levels.  Off slope activities include sleigh rides, a winter canopy tour, ice skating, nordic skiing, snow tubing, dog sledding, an indoor pool, game room and spa.

Kids and tweens snowmobiling at the Omni Mt Washington Kids Snowmobile Park

Kids and tweens snowmobiling at the Omni Mt Washington Resort Kids Snowmobile Park

New this winter, the Resort launched a snowmobile park specifically designed for kids and tweens ages 4 to 13 (and under 135 pounds).  The resort partnered with with FB Spaulding and Polaris to offer state of the art equipment and a well maintained course complete with banked turns, straight stretches and wooded runs.  They provide full-face helmets and supervision before and during the ride including training on how to safely operate and shut-off the machine.

The Resort has one of the most extensive programs we have seen for kids and tweens — including day and evening kids club activities through age 12,  spa manicure and pedicure packages for kids and tweens and ski school options that include the Hobbits Ski & Snowboard School with skiing for ages 4-12 and snowboarding for ages 6-12.  Private lessons are always available as well.  For the most part, teens ages 13 and up are treated more as adults in terms of activities and lessons.

Check the Resort’s web site for the lastest deals and family discounts including free lift tickets with many overnight stays and the Family Interchangeable Ticket that lets Mom and Dad each go skiing for the price of one. This option lets Mom and Dad purchase two identical tickets at the single-ticket price. Only one may be used at any given time. Regular full-day daily ticket pricing applies. This is great option if one parent wants to stay with kids or tweens off the slopes.

Photos courtesy of the Omni Mt. Washington Resort

Nov 252012

Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, New Hampshire’s Cranmore Mountain Resort is continuing to invest in many on and off mountain upgrades that we think will be a big hit with many families, particularly those with tweens and younger teens.  Since 2010, the Resort has seen its new owners invest more than $8 million dollars to create a state-of-the-art New England family ski and summer vacation destination.

New high efficiency snow guns will help Cranmore Mountain Resort open more trails and terrain earlier than ever in 2012

New high efficiency snow guns will help Cranmore Mountain Resort open more trails and terrain earlier than ever in 2012

This year, Cranmore Mountain opened for Thanksgiving, thanks to 60 new high efficiency snow guns that bring the mountain’s total of high-efficiency snow guns to 378, serving 163 acres and 16 miles of terrain. That number is up over 350% since 2008.   The resort has also replaced its 1950s vintage East Double Chairlift with a $1 million, re-positioned triple chair designed to open up much better access to several intermediate and advanced trails and provide additional access to the summit on the east side of the mountain.

Cranmore Mountain Resort started making snow in mid-November 2012

Cranmore Mountain Resort started making snow in mid-November 2012

Simultaneously, the resort is in the final stages of a total makeover of its snowboard terrain parks with a major emphasis on making them more accessible and family friendly. Recognizing that the majority of people who are coming to the mountain to ride are beginners or intermediates, the plan is to transition snowboard park features to be 80 percent beginner-to-intermediate friendly and 20% advanced.  Combined with ongoing investment in the family friendly KidsRule Mountain Camp programs targeting kids 14 and younger, Cranmore Mountain is looking like a great destination for families with tweens that want to learn how to snowboard or ski.

Off the slopes, the Resort has continued to expand its Mountain Adventure Park.  In addition to tubing, the Giant Mountain Swing, the indoor adventure park and the Mountain Coaster, the Resort will be offering winter access to its 700 foot zipline this season.  Combination tickets are available to provide discounted access to all the activities.

The Cranmore Mountain Adventure Park expands with the addition of winter ziplining

The Cranmore Mountain Adventure Park expands with the addition of winter ziplining

Although there is no on-mountain lodging, Cranmore Mountain Resort is located in North Conway, NH in the heart of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley.  This area is one of the best New England family vacation destinations at any time of the year.  The area offers all types of lodging and restaurants to suit  any taste and a variety of Ski and Stay discount packages are available on the Resort’s web site.  The outlet malls and downtown boutiques are a lot of fun too.  If you haven’t visited the area previously, the updates at the Cranmore Mountain Resort are a great excuse to get to know this delightful corner of New Hampshire.   If you haven’t been to visit in a while, its probably time you came back – particularly if you have tweens or younger teens looking to get out on family friendly mountain just 3 hours from Boston.

Photos courtesy of Cranmore Mountain Resort

Make New England Leaf Peeping Plans Today!

 Posted by on September 18, 2012  Comments Off
Sep 182012

Its coming, “The Peak”, the peak of the New England leaf peeping fall foliage season that is.  After a muted season last year, all forecasts are for a colorful and vibrant display this year thanks to a warm summer with decent amounts of rain here in New England.  Already, north of Boston hints of color are creeping onto the leaves and in just a couple of weeks much of Maine, central Vermont and New Hampshire and western Massachusetts will be at peak color.

Vermont's fall foliage was on full display over Columbus Day weekend

Vermont’s fall foliage on full display over Columbus Day weekend

Columbus Day weekend often offers particularly good views in central Vermont but, as you might expect, hotel reservations go quickly.   Depending on your time, budget and interests,if you make plans now you should still have your pick of campgrounds, motels, full service hotels, bed and breakfasts, or condos at resorts such as Vermont’s Smugglers’ Notch or Sugarbush or New Hampshire’s Attitash Mountain in the Mount Washington Valley.

Wondering when exactly “Peak” will come to the area you are visiting?  Foliage tracking maps like this one from Yankee Magazine will be providing daily updates.  So, if you plan to head North to see the leaves turn make your plans now.  By Columbus Day weekend you may not be able to get reservations anwhere close to the brightest colors of the season north and west of Boston, although there will still be time to catch the colors around Boston and on Cape Cod through mid to late October.

More Summer Family Fun Arrives at New England Ski Resorts

 Posted by on May 28, 2011  Comments Off
May 282011

Giant Swing at the new Mt Cranmore Adventure Park in New Hampshire's Mt. Washington Valley

     For a number of years, New England’s ski resorts have been investing in a wide range of attractions and activities designed to encourage families to visit all year round.   This summer, there seems to be an emphasis on attractions of interest to families with teens and tweens at some of our favorite New England summer destinations.  If you are heading to New Hampshire’s White  Mountains this summer be sure to check out the new Adventure Park at Mount Cranmore in the Mount Washington Valley.  In Vermont, Smugglers’ Notch is adding a number of new summer adventure options and jazzing up its day camp and evening programs for teens and tweens.

Mt. Cranmore Mountain Adventure Park Opens Memorial Day Weekend

     The new Mt. Cranmore Mountain Adventure Park opened Memorial Day weekend.  It offers plenty of action and thrills to keep teens and tweens busy all day.  These include:

Disc golf and chair lift rides at Mt Cranmore

  • An Aerial Adventure Park with a high  ropes course through the trees that includes rope ladders, bridges, cargo nets and ziplines
  • A chairlift serviced Mountain Coaster which drops over 1300 feet at speeds of up to 25 miles an hour
  • A giant swing
  • Summer tubing
  • A Four Plex euro-style trampoline
  • An 18-hole disc golf course
  • Chairlift rides
  • Bounce houses and more

     A wide range of ticket options and combo passes are available on the Cranmore web site.  Reservations are recommended for scheduled 3-hour sessions in the Aerial  Adventure Park.  Stay and Play lodging and ticket packages are also available for a number of area hotels including the Red Jacket Inn, home to the an indoor water park!

Smugglers’ Notch Updates Teen and Tween Activities

     Vermont’s Smugglers’ Notch resort is well known for its teen and tween winter programs.   The resort has long offered summer days camps and evening programs for kids, teens and tweens as well, but this year they are updating the options for teens including:

Segway tour at Smugglers' Notch

  • Introducing Adventure Connection family packages that include outings like the Arbotrek zip line course, llama treks, canoeing or kayaking, and a Segway tour.
  • Adding an outdoor, high-definition video screen measuring 12×19 feet that will be set up for Big Screen Night for teens on Thursdays at 9 pm, under the stars.
  • Continuing to offer night time teen and tween parties — such as the glow in the dark night programs with a DJ dance party and glow in the dark ping pong— as well as late night swims at the Courtside Pool, evening teen gatherings at the indoor FunZone, and a nightime dodgeball tournament.

     Of course, in addition to all the man-made attractions, New England’s four-season ski resorts continue to feature beautiful scenery and lots of opportunities to take day hikes in the mountains.   If you go, let us know what you think of these newest summer activities for teens and tweens in the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont.

Photos courtesy of the resorts

Jan 012011

     As any New Englander knows, the weather in the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont can be cold, windy and unpredictable.  Undaunted by 17 inches of snow at home on the day after Christmas 2010, we packed up all manner of ski and skate gear, shoveled our driveway and headed north from Boston on Monday morning for a long planned Christmas ski and snowboard vacation with our Vermont based cousins.

December 27, 2010 - the storm is over, lets hit the road!

     Our initial destination, Burke Mountain in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom would normally be a 4 hour drive via Route 93 through New Hampshire’s White Mountains.   Although the snow had stopped at home and we saw blue sky in Southern New Hampshire, things got interesting as we approached the Mountains. 

Entering the White Mountains things got interesting

     Apparently, no one had told Mother Nature that the storm was over as we hit total whiteout conditions that reduced visibility to about 10 feet and came complete with whipping winds and wind chills.  Although it was 1:30 in the afternoon it looked like the dead of night.     With snow plows and other cars all crawling along within feet of one another and covering just a few hair raising miles in a half hour we decided enough was enough since we still had about 90 miles to go.  We want to thank the kind folks at Tony’s Italian Grille in Thornton, NH for letting us get out of the snow and pointing us towards local accommodations.   We also want to thank the kind folks at Gilcrest Cottages and Motel in Thornton, NH for welcoming us in from the elements with no notice or reservations. 

Waiting out the storm at the Gilcrest Cottages and Motel in Thornton, NH

      Located within a reasonable drive to Waterville Valley, Loon and Cannon Mountains, this cozy, traditional New England motor court was a great, affordable port in a storm.  The Gilcrest motel rooms are basic but very clean.  We enjoyed the fireplace and found that two connecting rooms provided enough space for the marooned parents and teens.   Once we got settled we had time for some family games as the wind and snow continued until well after dark and we were pleased with our decision to break up the trip. 

Time for family board games as we wait out the storm

     As things calmed down in the evening we ventured out to the nearby Mad River Tavern in Campton, NH for great family dinner fare and friendly service.   After a restful night’s sleep we were up early as the new day arrived with brilliant sun and we enjoyed the daylight drive through the dazzling White Mountains and Franconia Notch on our way to the Northeast Kingdom.  

Passing through Franconia Notch on a sparkling morning after the storm

     We’ll be sharing our ski adventures shortly, but as an end note to the story of our unexpected New Hampshire sidetrip, by the time we returned home, on New Years Day, Boston was seeing 60 degree weather and the snow banks were receding rapidly.    As the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather in New England just wait a minute, it is sure to change.

Share Unexpected Christmas Vacation Sidetrip Stories

     We know the Christmas blizzard of 2010 wreaked havoc with lots of travel plans and we are grateful we got where we wanted to go with only a one night delay that actually turned out to be pretty  pleasant.  We know other families spent days at airports and some probably never reached their destination.  If you’ve blogged about your unexpected Christmas 2010 vacation detours, we love to hear about it.  Please leave a comment and a link.  And Happy New Year to all!

White Mountains Family Vacation on raveable

Best New Hampshire Ski Resorts for Families with Teens

 Posted by on December 3, 2010  Comments Off
Dec 032010


Ski New Hampshire, courtesy Omni Mt Washington Resort

     Our checklist for picking the best ski resorts for families with teens includes a lodging set-up that allows teens a fair amount of independence and a range of on and off slope options for everyone in the group.  We found the following three resorts that fill the bill in New Hampshire.

Omni Mount Washington Resort at Bretton Woods

     The Omni Mount Washington Resort  in Bretton Woods is New Hampshire’s largest ski area with 464 acres of skiing and snowboarding on 102 trails and glades, four terrain parks and nine lifts.  Located in the heart of the White Mountains’ Presidential Range, the scenery is spectacular and the choice of available activities is impressive. 

Omni Mount Washington Winter Canopy Tour, courtesy Omni

     There are no specific teen lesson programs but an innovative Family private lesson option pairs up to 5 family members of any age with 2 instructors for a one hour private lessons to get every one started or to brush up on skills.  Teens 13 and older can participate in adult group or private lessons.  The Terrain Parks offer lots of options for boarders.  Teens age 13-17 get a $14 daily discount off of adult rates and additional ticket discounts are available to visitors staying at the resort.

     Off the slopes the resort has 100 km of nordic trails and many other activities including family sleigh rides, snow tubing, dog sledding, and a 25, 000  square foot spa.  Teens 16 and older can experience any spa service while younger teens and tweens can accompany parents for manicures, pedicures or hair services.    New this year, the Bretton Woods Canopy Tour, provides one of the longest canopy tours in the U.S. including the Williwaw Racing Zipline.  Together they allow you to get a view over the treetops from 150 feet up in the air. 

    The resort offers ski in/ski out condo rentals, a family friendly lodge, 34 rooms in the historic Bretton Arms Inn and  200 rooms and suites in the recently renovated grand Mount Washington Hotel.

Cranmore Mountain Resort

      Located in North Conway in the heart of the Mount Washington Valley, the Cranmore Mountain Resort features a good size mountain with 2000 feet of elevation, 54 trails and 10 lifts.   Teens age 13-17 get a $10 daily discount off of adult rates.   Less  expensive night tickets are available for skiing on Saturdays when there are fireworks and select school vacation times when the mountain stays open after dark.

In the parks at Cranmore Mountain Resort, courtesy John Webster

     The area is compact enough that teens can navigate it on their own with buddies or make some new friends in the terrain parks.   The 3 parks aptly named the Lucky Loop, the Other Side and the Darkside were designed by SPT, a group that also consults to the X games. 

     The resort has recently opened  the twisting, turning Mountain Coaster sled on rails and expanded its popular snow tubing park to 10 lanes wide with lift service. 

     There are no condos right on the mountain but many lodging options are available very close by in the numerous hotels, inns, and condo rental complexes available in North Conway.  Many have heated indoor pools and hot tubs available.  Check the Resort’s web list of lodging partners – many will include free lift tickets, breakfast and other incentives in their stay and ski package promotions.  Not a skier?  Drop the teens at the mountain and head down the street to North Conway for lunch and tax-free shopping.

 Waterville Valley

      One of the closest big mountain ski areas to Boston, Waterville Valley resort is a self-contained outpost located  in the White Mountain National Forest. 

Waterville Valley

      The mountain has vertical drop of 2,020 feet with 52 trails at all levels, including moguls, a half pipe and a superpipe.   Overnight lodgings are not permitted within the National Forest but  the base village hosts a range of condo, suites and hotel options is a short shuttle ride away.    Teens age 13-17 get a $10 daily discount off of adult rates

     The resort is not fancy and does not have mountain coasters or zip lines.  However, the self-contained nature of the area and the short ride from Boston makes it a good option for a weekend getaway.  We have found the lessons to be top notch.  This is the resort where hockeyprincess learned to snowboard last winter and we expect to make a return visit this year.

Mountains Open Early This Year!

     It is already shaping up to be a good ski season in New Hampshire as the temperatures are falling and the snow guns are going.  Waterville Valley and Bretton Woods, as well as several others, were open for skiing on Thanksgiving and Cranmore has a good turnout for the opening of its Mountain Coaster.  Whether you ski, snowboard, shop or go to the spa New Hampshire’s mountains make for a fun family winter getaway with teens and tweens.

White Mountains Family Vacation on raveable

University of New Hampshire: First Impressions

 Posted by on October 8, 2010  Comments Off
Oct 082010


Welcome to UNH

     The University of New Hampshire (UNH) — home of the Wildcats –  in Durham, New Hampshire, is a mid-size university of slightly over 14,000 students.  We recently attended an open house that included an admissions overview session, a student-led question and answer opportunity, in-depth presentations from faculty representing different areas of study, lunch, a resource fair, and a campus tour.  

    We were impressed with the school’s commitment to promoting undergraduate research opportunities.  Unlike many universities that channel research grant funding toward graduate students, UNH actively encourages undergraduates to work on grant-funded research across many disciplines and to compete for University provided funding for their own research initiatives.    The school’s dozens of research centers collectively receive over $100 million in external research funding annually so there are a myriad of opportunities for students to get involved with hands-on research programs.  As an example, the the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM) recently received $35.7 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to continue a national ocean-mapping research center. The funding  provides the center with over $7 million annually through 2015.  The undergraduate research conference held each Spring  typically features as many as 900 undergraduates sharing their findings.

UNH Campus in Durham, NH

     More than 100 degree programs are available with business, psychology, English, biology, communication, mechanical engineering, political science, civil engineering and nursing being the most popular.  An Honors program is available to students who graduate in the top 10% of their high school class.  All students are encouraged to participate in study abroad programs as well.

Dorms are cozy

     Beyond the classroom, the majority of the school’s students hail from New England, with just over half coming from New Hampshire.  The school is largely residential with freshman being guaranteed housing.  There are 27 dorms spread around the campus with the largest holding about 600 students.  Roughly 8% of students live in frats or sororities.  

     We found the dorms well kept and welcoming.  We saw a double room but were told that triples are fairly common for freshmen.    Freshman are not allowed to bring cars but the campus has its own Amtrak station that connects to Boston and Portland, ME and the school runs free buses to local destinations as well as around campus.  We thought the complex was compact enough that walking would be the primary way to get around campus.

Go Wildcats!

     We had the opportunity to eat lunch in one of the three dining commons.  We thought the food was good quality and there were plenty of choices from deli and grill options to salads, specialty entrees, a brunch buffet, desserts, soups and healthy snacks.  

    Sports are big at UNH.  The men’s and women’s hockey teams are perennial powerhouses and school spirit permeates the campus.   Club level sports and intramurals are also popular – we are told broom-ball is a highlight.  A large, well appointed student recreation center includes a suspended track, an extensive array of machines and classes, basketball courts, tennis courts, and a pool that are all available as part of the mandatory full time student fees.

Many UNH student participate in sports from Division 1 varsity through intramural levels

    Overall, we thought UNH provides good value for the money with in-state students paying $21,000 for tuition, room and board and out-of-state residents paying $35,500.   It remains to be seen if #1 Son will apply but we were impressed with what we saw.