Though ski acreage is limited, Waterville Valley features a full offering of resort amenities including a gorgeous mountain village just down the road.
Located at the end of NH-49 in the heart of the White Mountains lies Waterville Valley, a fairly small but full service resort with plenty of character. One of only a handful of Eastern US resorts with a summit elevation topping out over 4000 feet, Waterville has been cultivating a crowd of racers, freestylers, and families since the first trails on Mt. Tecumseh were cut in the 1930s. With plenty of snowmaking and an eye on expansion, Waterville is poised to remain one of New Hampshire’s top resorts for years to come.
Waterville Valley has been a household name in New Hampshire since it’s opening in 1966. The resort claims itself as the “Birthplace of Freestyle Skiing” as original owner Tom Corcoran and friend Doug Pfeiffer led the first National Open Championships of Freestyle Skiing on its slopes in 1970. Much earlier, trails had been cut on Mt. Tecumseh as early as 1930, and today the resort offers 230 acres of terrain serviced by 11 lifts. Most recently, Waterville Valley is also known for Olympic mogul skiing gold medalist Hannah Kearney who grew up on its slopes.
A perfect resort for families, 80% of the terrain at Waterville is rated for beginners or intermediates. Off the mountain, Waterville offers a multitude of amenities, restaurants, and accommodations. While the mountain base itself is not very large, just a short five-minute drive down the road leads visitors to the town of Waterville Valley, including the Town Square area. Here, travelers can find shops, restaurants, bars, many different forms of recreation, and even the chance at seeing live music. Seasonal bus service can transport resort goers to and from the mountain to the center of town, so there is no need for a car at this resort experience.
The “resort at the end of the road,” due to winter road closures, Waterville is easily accessed but offers a quaint experience for those who want a White Mountain getaway. The town does have a small number of year-round residents, but the winter season brings more activity, entertainment, and a multitude of visitors from all over.
+ Simple resort layout is easy to get around and perfect for families.
+ Full-service resort provides everything travelers could need for a White Mountain vacation.
+ Plenty of beginner and intermediate terrain available for those learning and looking to progress their skills.
- Lack of challenging terrain may frustrate advanced skiers and riders.
- Small acreage may cause skiers and riders to lose interest on a multi-day trip.
A family resort at heart, the majority of Waterville Valley’s terrain caters to beginners and intermediates. Visitors should not come to Waterville looking for steeps nor tree skiing, but there is plenty in the line of fall line groomers and exhilarating short-but-sweet steeps may be found. The area may be divided into four main areas: High Country, Northside, Sunnyside, and the Lower Meadows.
The High Country portion of the mountain contains three wide intermediate runs located above the “summit” of the resort. These runs can be prone to wind, but offer fantastic views of the surrounding White Mountains as one of the few Eastern US mountains above 4000 feet. This extra boost in vertical also helps bring the vertical feet at Waterville over 2000, which keeps the mountain on another level again when competing with nearby resorts.
Northside is a section of north-facing intermediate slopes on the looker’s right portion of the resort. Tippecanoe, And Tyler Too, and Old Tecumseh are great runs on this part of the mountain, and they often hold snow longer due to the limited sun exposure of the north facing aspect. On the contrary, Sunnyside is the section of the resort located at looker’s left. Here, visitors may find a variety of terrain that is prone to corn conditions in the spring as the sun beats down. No Grit is an excellent intermediate run on this part of the mountain, and those looking for more advanced terrain will undoubtedly spend most of their time here. True Grit, the steepest run on the mountain, is located here, and runs like Ciao and Gema also offer fun tests for advanced skiers and riders.
Finally, the Lower Meadows section of Waterville Valley is a separate area dedicated to beginner guests. By keeping the area apart from the rest of the mountain, beginners are able to learn and progress their skills in peace, without worry of faster and more advanced resort guests speeding by. There is also a small beginner area know as The Pasture located on the other side of the mountain. Waterville is looking to expand into the ridge above the Lower Meadows in the coming years, further growing their intermediate and beginner terrain offerings.
Beginner terrain is located solely on the lower mountain at Waterville valley, but beginners do have a fair amount of runs to choose from. Most of this terrain is located in the Lower Meadows and Valley Run areas. Lower Meadows provides a secluded area for beginners to learn and grow separate from the end of more advanced runs on the mountain. This setup allows beginners peace of mind that they won’t have to deal with faster skiers crowding their slopes. More beginner terrain can be found off of the Pasture J-Bar lift. For beginners looking for a slightly longer run, the Valley Run Quad brings a bigger mountain feel into play.
With 60% of the terrain rated as blue square runs, intermediate skiers and riders truly have the run of the mountain at Waterville. Intermediate runs exist on all aspects off nearly every lift at the mountain. For a nice warm-up run, head to the Valley Quad lift and cruise through Stillness. When you’re ready, head further up the mountain and enjoy the crisp groomers on the Northside of Old Tecumseh, Tippecanoe, and And Tyler Too. No Grit offers a great winding alternative on the Sunnyside, just be sure to avoid the steeper slopes straight down the fall line in this area.
Intermediates also have the ability to take in the best views available at Waterville. The High Country lift serves three blue square trails located above the “summit” portion of the resort. This lift tops out over 4000 feet, and intermediates are afforded with a great view of the White Mountains including Mount Washington, and the full 2000 feet of vertical at their mercy.
Only 20% of Waterville Valley's terrain is offered for advanced and expert skiers, and the majority of these runs come in one small area of north-facing slopes. Tree skiing is few and far between too, located mostly in small pockets between other marked trails on the mountain. True Grit is easily the steepest option on the mountain, and does offer an exhilarating and decently lengthy fall line run. Even the black and double-black diamond rated trails at Waterville offer plenty of space between trees, and for good reason, as the more skilled skiers flock to these areas and the slopes can seem crowded. Still, these runs contain short bursts of no joke terrain, and should not be taken lightly!
Waterville Valley does not offer much in the line of backcountry and off piste skiing. Adventurous skiers may find pockets of off-piste terrain between other trails or near the resort boundaries, and much of these options will be low angle tree skiing. Though there are a number of available backcountry options located in the White Mountains, some quite exceptional, none are particularly close to the Waterville Valley ski area. Most resort guests stick to the areas within the boundary.
Waterville Valley resort hopes guests come hungry to its slopes. With four excellent dining options available to resort guests, each catering to a different eating experience, good food is abundant. From cafeteria-style food to homemade sandwiches and a classier on-mountain dining establishment, resort guests really can’t go wrong.
At the base area, Waterville offers two completely different dining options. Buckets Bones & Brews is the best option for après ski, drinks, and appetizers. With a large deck facing the mountain to soak up the spring sunshine, this area can get crowded on warmer days for those looking for a beer at the end of their day, or to enjoy nachos and wings. On the other side of the base area, the T-Bars Restaurant is a more upscale on-mountain dining experience. The restaurant also occasionally offers après ski events, and the menu features more adventurous and creative dishes.
Elsewhere on the mountain, the Sunnyside Timberlodge offers the typical ski area cafeteria options. This area can fill up quickly during lunchtime throughout the winter, so be sure to grab your spot quickly if you find an opening. Otherwise, the Schwendi Hutte at the mountain summit is an excellent lunch option. Though limited, the menu is creative and features homemade sandwiches like Korean BBQ. These items are perfect to get you refueled and back onto the slopes with plenty of energy to last the day, just don’t fill up too much!
The quaint mountain village is synonymous with skiing in Europe and portions of North America, though this type of amenity is often lost on eastern ski resorts. Such is not the case with Waterville Valley. Just a short drive down the road from the ski area, Waterville Valley offers an adequate and lively mountain village filled with entertainment, shops, plenty of lodging and restaurant options, and more.
Unique to New Hampshire, Waterville’s mountain village is centered around Town Square, a walking-only section that includes a multitude of shops, bars, restaurants, and recreation. Live music and entertainment is sprinkled throughout the ski season in Town Square as well, offering even more reasons to explore the village. Perhaps best of all, a shuttle service is offered between Town Square and the mountain, so resort guests need not worry about transportation while they are staying in Waterville.
The village is located at the end of the road on NH-49, and offers a quaint feel that keep families coming back. There is not too much trouble for children to get into, but plenty in the line of amenities and activities that the whole family can enjoy. From skating to snowshoeing, the village offers it all, along with many accommodation options to handle the winter surge of visitors.
Looking to eat while you’re at the mountain? Lunch at the mountain summit’s Schwendi Hutte is a great option as you can refuel on homemade but creative sandwiches and bakery items. If a more robust dining experience is in order, head to T-Bars restaurant at the mountain base and enjoy a more in-depth menu of North Country fare. If beers are in order, Buckets Bones & Brews is the place to be.
In addition to four on-mountain restaurants, Waterville Valley’s village also features plenty of restaurants and bars to feed the whole family. From pizza at Olde Waterville Pizza Co. to pasta, grilled American classics, and gourmet breakfast food, Town Square is the place to be to find three meals a day when you need it. The local favorite is the Valley Pub and Grille, and this is the clear hotspot for nightlife during the height of the winter season. Their creative take on adding some spicy heat to Hawaiian pizza is not to be missed! If sports are on your mind, there is also a sports bar located within the Town Square complex.
While skiing is generally the name of the game in Waterville, the resort setting does offer a variety of other activities. Winter hiking and snowshoeing is a common activity in the area, as well as ice-skating. The rink in the Waterville Valley village commonly hosts hockey tournaments with teams from all over New England and beyond, but a free skate session is also normally available certain days of the week. For those looking for more on their off day, Town Square has a variety of amenities, including shopping, and massages may be available at the White Mountain Athletic Club for those who need to work out the kinks after a long day on the mountain.
If a summer trip is in the cards, Waterville Valley also offers warmer weather activity. Located in the heart of the White Mountains, hiking trails are abundant in the area, and golf is available in the mountain village. For the more adventurous, lift-accessed mountain biking is also quite the treat and located right in town.