A chirp rings out, from a lone straggler who missed the memo to head south, and echoes through the seemingly motionless forest. The snowy stillness has descended around Lake Winnipesaukee – here to stay until the annual spring melt. As the holiday rush fades and the heart of winter arrives, the Lakes Region hits its stride. With miles of hiking trails pillowed in snow and well-maintained mountain runs tailor-made for shredding, a New Hampshire winter getaway is the best way to make the most of the season. Whether you want to swap your hiking boots for snowshoes or try your hand at maneuvering a snowmobile, take advantage of everything the Lakes Region has to offer with our list of the best ways to get active this winter.
Skiing: Cross-Country and Downhill
Some of the best slopes in the Northeast are right next door to Lake Winnipesaukee. They’re the perfect spot to achieve that adrenaline kick from downhill skiing – not to mention snowboarding or tubing. Gunstock Mountain Resort even offers night sessions, so you can get your adventure fix after hours on 22 of the resort’s best trails. And don’t worry, if your winter activity inclinations are of a more relaxed nature, there are also miles of trails for scenic cross-country adventures. Wildcat Mountain, the heart of scenic Pinkham Notch, has great skiing for everyone, novice to old pro, and boasts the longest ski season in New Hampshire, thanks to updates to their snowmaking system in 2014.
You don’t have to have Olympic medal aspirations to feel like Nancy Kerrigan in the Lakes Region. Pop Whalen Ice & Arts Center, just inland from Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro, offers eager recreational skaters the lowest ice rental rates in New Hampshire and public skating hours. If you’re craving some ice shredding in the great outdoors King Pine at Purity Springs Resort is the place to go. Their Tohko Dome skating rink is a covered, Zamboni-maintained outdoor ice rink – complete with a rink-side fire for when the chilly breeze calls for a quick warm-up.
In the early 1910s, the Lakes Region was the birthplace of the first snowmobile ever made, which, essentially was a converted Model T equipped with wooden runners. Today, you will find that the tradition of snowmobiling still alive and well in the Lakes Region, although you may notice some improvements from that first iteration (think: hand warmers and electric starters). The Bear Notch snowmobile trail system in Bartlett boasts unparalleled views of Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range and encompasses 50 miles of interconnected trails. Northern Extremes Snowmobiling offers thrill-seekers guided and unguided tours of Bear Notch all week long during the winter months. You can spend up to four hours zipping alongside mountains or opt for a shorter two-hour excursion. Snowmobiles double as great methods of transportation too. There are plenty of designated snowmobile trails that will bring you right to some of the best shopping, dining, and lakes around! Take the Wow Trail and Railroad Tracks right to the front door of the Lake Opechee Inn and let their spa treat your trail fatigue, or go ahead and spend the night in one of their plush guest rooms.
What if you could pop out the back door of your hotel and be in the middle of a wintery adventure? Dexter’s Inn, a 20-acre resort perched on a hilltop near Mount Kearsarge, provides its guests with just that. For $12 a day, from late December through early March, guests of the inn and the public can get a day pass to access their almost 20 miles of groomed snowshoeing trails through fields and otherwise untouched forest. If 20 miles is just not enough, pay a visit to the trails around Castle in the Clouds for an additional 28 miles of snowy splendor. If you’re visiting on a weekend day be sure to stop into the Carriage House Restaurant after your excursion to refuel with warm soup or a hearty burger.