Full Disclosure: The lift tickets used for this review were provided to the WICed Fest after a less than stellar experience very early in the 2011/2012 season. Media Relations at Waterville noticed a tweet that the WICed Fest put out about our bad experience and asked that we come back later in the year on their dime to experience the mountain again. The write-up below is the result of this return trip. We are happy to see resorts doing their best to make their visitors happy.
1 Ski Area Road
PO Box 540
Waterville Valley, NH 03215
Facebook: Waterville Valley Resort
P: 1-800-GO-VALLEY (468-2553)
General Mountain Information
Waterville Valley is located in the White Mountain National Forest Area of New Hampshire. The mountain advises to check your GPS directions and to avoid Sandwich Notch Road and/or Tripoli Road Via Lincoln, NH. The roads are closed and non-accessible during winter months. Access the resort via Route 49/Valley Road off of Interstate 93. Travel about 11 miles on Route 49. You can then take a left and follow the ski area signage onto Tripoli Road to access the mountain village. The car drive is approximately two hours from Boston.
Trails and Snowmaking
The mountain claims 220 skiable acres of a total 500 acres on the resort. The summit elevation is 4,004 feet, with a vertical drop of 2,020 feet. The longest run is three miles. In total, the resort features 52 trails, 20 percent of which are novice, 60 percent of which are intermediate, and 20 percent of which are advanced. The mountain also boasts of having 5 glades, covering 4.5 acres for all levels, and six mogul fields. Snowmaking covers 100 percent of the 220 acres.
Waterville Valley features 12 lifts, including two High-Speed Quads, two Triples, three Doubles, and five surface lifts.
The Valley Run High Speed Quad runs on the left side facing the mountain, and services easier green circle and blue square terrain. It brings riders to the Sunnyside Timber Lodge.
The White Peak Express Quad is the busiest lift and brings riders to what is typically known as the top of the mountain, covering more advanced and expert terrain. From there, the High Country Double brings riders another 370 feet in vertical, at a length of 1570 feet, to the official summit of the mountain. Few riders look to bother with the lift, however. It brings you to more open, less populated terrain, but the length of ride is not worth the modest 370 feet on blue square terrain.
Other lifts service pockets of the mountain, including a tow rope dedicated solely to the exciting Exhibition terrain park.
Speaking of terrain parks, the mountain boasts four of them.
The Exhibition Park, visible from the base of the mountain, is the most popular and the most expert, featuring some 30-foot booters, kickers and boxes. At the onset of the park, riders are challenged by a drop-down hit, and a ledge to 10-foot gap hit. The park also boasts challenging rails and ledges, many with kinks and also a C-rail. This park is where the majority of contests are held, and Waterville Valley boats one of the more challenging parks in the Northeast.
Intermediate park riders can still be challenged in the mountain’s South Street Park, a new addition in the 2011/2012 season. Located on the upper left if you are facing the mountain, off the blue square run Oblivion that runs from the White Peak Express Quad, riders can find moderate hits followed by several ledges and kinked rails. Some rails are ride-on, while others have a gap. At the end, riders are challenged by a three-foot wall ride.
As usual, the mountain has also built some fun hits in Psyched, a small terrain park located in the middle of the mountain on the Psyched Out black diamond trail that runs right alongside the White Express Quad. This year, the park only featured two hits, but they were challenging and fun.
The mountain also featured the Burton Progression Park, located at the base off the mountain, to the right if you are facing it, off the Lower Periphery trail. The park has only small features, and a recent visit showed it only featured a mini-pipe with no hits or rails. Still, it allows for some enjoyable free-styling at the end of a summit run. If Waterville does anything, it places parks appropriately for some quick fun in between free riding.
Also, skaters, check out the wooden half pipe located under the main lodge. Find the secret door.
I must admit I was a little skeptical of riding Waterville Valley, even though it boasts great spring skiing in early March. I had just come back from a trip to Colorado and the conditions I experienced there were going to be hard to beat. Plus, the Northeast hasn’t had the best snowfall this year. The mountain itself was saying only about 35 trails were open. And, a view of a ski report for New Hampshire mountains at a rest stop along Interstate 93 on the way there showed that conditions were loose, granular. Not quite the powder I was hoping for. Plus, on the first lift of the day on the White Peak Express Quad I could hear the sshhhhingg of snowboard edges ripping ice patches, plowing nothing. That said, I was there for the day and I was going to enjoy it. And enjoy it I did.
There were two of us, and we got on the mountain about 10 a.m. A little later than I had hoped. But luckily, the lift lines were quick. A coordinator at the main White Peak Express Quad, by far the most populated, was directing doubles to join with doubles, singles to join with triples, and so on. It expedited the lift wait to the point there really wasn’t one. We didn’t have to hear the New England classic “Front Row!” for instance.
We made sure to cover all of the mountain, every trail we could. Even when trails split off with a side track (and they tell you that’s two trails) we make sure to go back and hit them both. We weathered the long, tedious double up to the official summit of the mountain to hit that quick 370 feet of vertical drop. I haven’t done it in forever because I never wanted to wait. But you know what? I’m glad we did because it at least gave us a chance to hit some terrain we otherwise would not have. It was fast, with plenty of snow.
At around noonish we stopped for lunch. It wasn’t two hours of riding, I know, but we were hungry. Plus, we weren’t ashamed: with no wait in the lift lines, we got about five runs in already, from top to bottom. The workers at the lift lines were already starting to recognize us.
We stopped at the Buckets, Bones, and Brews, in the main lodge. I know that the mountain has some great sit-down dining. I have been to a few before: The Schwendi Hutte at the summit is great for a mountaintop view while eating; the Sunnyside Timberlodge is often as sunny as they say it is; and the T-Bars Restaurant offers great plates as well.
But we had to stop at the main lodge to change our gear, anyway (it was colder than I had thought it would be, that’s a good thing) so we stopped at Buckets. There, you can get some great draft beers with a bucket of wings, barbecue or buffalo, that are quite tasty. Like I said, I was exceptionally hungry so I went with a steak bomb. A surprisingly low $7. So worth it. I don’t know why anyone stops at the cafeteria when you could get the steak bomb. The restaurant also offers typical orders such as burgers, and fish and chips. It was a little packed, which kept us there for a while, but worth the wait.
We got back to riding, and continued on to pretty much last chair, around 3:40 p.m. The weather warmed up a bit, and it seemed the snow even got a little better. We could have taken the shuttle back to the car, but the walk to Lot 6 wasn’t much at all.
It was only a two hour drive back to Boston, so we didn’t stay. However, the mountain does offer nearby lodging. Check out the Waterville Valley website for more lodging information.
Trails and Lifts
The thing about Waterville Valley is there is only one lift worth taking, the White Peak Express Quad. Other lifts are either too slow and not worth the wait (particularly the double that brings you to the true summit) or they bring you to areas that features only beginner terrain. That said, we were able to see the mountain from one location that helps for this review.
If I can recommend any trails, they would be the trails directly going down the face of the mountain. They may be the most skied out, but they are also hit by the sun the most and, as such, are softened up a bit. (The mountain tends to be a bit shady which is a downside on cold, windy days). The straight runs are also the most challenging. Try White Caps and Upper Bobby’s Run, two blue square trails that lead right into blacks including the aforementioned Psyched Out.
Oblivion, to the upper left of the mountain, brought us to the previously mentioned South Street Park, which we would not have found if we did not wander off. And, the park brought us to never traveled before Stillness trail, which was a moderate blue square but still fun for ground tricks. Plus, it was terrain that one wouldn’t see if it weren’t for travels through the park.
Tippecanoe is a much travelled trail off the right side of the mountain which can be fun, with twisting, steep runs. It was probably the most plowed out. However, at the bottom you can lead into the Boneyards black diamond trail, which was surprisingly open. It usually isn’t. That just tells you that Waterville had snow.
- Lift lines are quick, if not non-existent
- There’s always something to do on the mountain, from moguls to mini park features
- People are friendly
- Family friendly, with terrain reserved for beginners
- Mountain had snow despite a warm winter for the Northeast
- Few choices for lifts
- Grooming could have been better
- Lodges can get kind of packed
- Mountain can get shady, and therefore windy and cold
- You can ride the whole mountain in less than a day
I have to say that I had a great time. Waterville Valley would not be my first choice for a weekend mountain getaway because of its smaller size. That said, I got what I wanted: I rode, with little wait in line. The snow could have been better, but there was snow. The lodges were kind of packed, but once I sat down I enjoyed a nice beverage with an economically priced sandwich. I would not do a multiple-day trip there, but it’s great for a quick day-trip. Ironically enough, I spoke with a co-worker once I had returned and she said she had been there the same weekend. She said she had a great time.