CONWAY – It’s almost Christmas, and the valley is agitated.
The holiday spirit is alive and well in the Mount Washington Valley, with lightings of trees, cookie decorating, card making and more, as illustrated by accompanying photographs by Photographer Sun Rachel Sharples.
Meanwhile, among other events to get you in the Christmas spirit, Santa Holiday Express Valley of Conway Scenic Railroad train to Conway, 18 to 23 December and the holiday week, from 26 to 30 December with train departures to 11:30 and 1: 30h
What has more holiday spirit (and spirits) than “A Christmas Carol”?
Christmas week kicks off Cranapalooza from Cranmore Mountain to Schneider Square at the base of the mountain in North Conway.
Between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., when most visitors finish their day of skiing, the square comes alive with s’mores, music and games. On New Year’s Eve, the ski resort crowns the day’s entertainment with fireworks at 6.30 p.m.
Also on New Years Eve, North Conway will ring in the New Year at Schouler Park with fireworks at 9:30 p.m.
Fireworks are also scheduled for the Omni Mount Washington Resort (603-278-1000) in Bretton Woods on December 31 at 10 p.m., with other activities scheduled for resort guests throughout the day.
Christmas week is just the start of a season of winter fun for skiers, snowmobilers, hikers and climbers.
Here’s just a sample of what the season has to offer.
Art lovers will enjoy the ephemeral magic of the sculptures created in the snow at the Jackson Invitational Snow Sculpting Competition, January 28-30, at Great Glen Trails.
Previously held at the Black Mountain Ski Area, this Jackson Chamber of Commerce event will now rotate between the two venues.
Twelve teams of sculptors from across the northeastern United States should transform cylinders packed snow 8 feet high and 4 feet round snow compacted into an amazing art in three days. Go jacksonnh.com for details.
For backcountry skiers, the Granite Backcountry Alliance, headquartered in the Mount Washington Valley, is planning a handful of exciting events this winter.
To kick off the season today, the alliance will host a launch party of the season of the hinterland and a clothing drive from 15 am to 19 pm outside in Tuckerman Brewing Co . 64 Hobbs Street Hobbs Street in Conway.
For railroad enthusiasts, the Conway Scenic Railroad is planning special winter steam train tours for steam photographers on Saturday, January 2.
Cold air and steam engines are the perfect combination for large plumes of smoke rising from the stack of Conway Scenic’s 7470 locomotive as it traverses the snowy countryside. It creates an idyllic setting for photos, especially for those who like the 19th century vibe on their train journeys.
Among the events, a four to five hour round trip to the River Sawyers at Crawford Notch and a return behind the 7470 steam locomotive with special stops are scheduled for photographers to get off and take action shots on the train .
The Tourist Railway also provides special snow trains throughout the ski season to take skiers from North Conway to Attitash for a day’s skiing or overnight at the resort. Snow trains date back to the mid-20th century, when travelers regularly took trains from Boston to ski the White Mountains. Visit conwayscenic.com for more details.
Mt. Washington Cog Railway Santa Trains on weekends through December 19 and daily service to Waumbek station, at an altitude of 4000, all winter. On a clear day, the trip offers stunning views to the north and west.
Passengers leave the train for approximately 25 minutes in Waumek to enjoy free hot refreshments, heated huts, and a fire pit.
For ice climbers, the event of the year runs February 4-6, when the 29th Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival returns with a weekend of rock climbing, classes, internships and presentations that attracts climbers from all over the world.
North Conway is one of the top ice climbing destinations in North America and this event features demonstrations of the latest equipment, slideshows of great climbs, and a general celebration of the sport.
It’s not just for experts either.
For those new to the sport, the festival has excellent beginner clinics including Ice Climbing 101, Learn to Lead, steep waterfall ice climbing techniques, and crevasse rescue techniques. There are also veteran climbing clinics and a day-long ascent of Mount Washington. For more information, visit mwv-icefest.com.
Another event to look forward to in mid-winter as well: The Mount Washington Valley Ski Touring Association’s annual chocolate festival returns this year on Sunday, February 27, having taken on 2020 due to the pandemic.
Cross-country skiers travel the trails of North Conway and Bartlett to ski from inn to inn and sample chocolate creations at each stop. If you are not a skier, there’s a shuttle. You can not go wrong with chocolate.
There is no doubt that skiers wish a white Christmas, and the snowfall forecast today of a few inches will add to the snow cover deposited by the snowmakers of the valley in the alpine areas and on local tubes.
Cranmore Mountain Resort opened on the weekend of December 4-5 and reopened for daily operations on December 11 and now offers its hugely popular tube park as well as skiing, President and CEO Ben Wilcox noting that With the cold weather returning next week, they’re hoping to get four routes to expand on the two they currently have open.
King Pine in East Madison opened for the season Dec. 17 with plenty of coverage and more to come – opening day was also the day of the family-owned region’s traditional canning collection for local pantries (the Food drive continues through Dec. 19, notes Marketing Director Thomas Prindle, who adds that Military Appreciation Days continue through Dec. 24 with free lift tickets for service members who served).
Black Mountain plans to open on December 26, with good snow temperatures that should allow for long periods of snowfall.
Throughout the week, Black Mountain will have an après ski from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. featuring Greg Walsh, Swampdog, Candie Tremblay and Scott Baer at the LOSTBO pub every day during the holiday week.
“We are launching the Black Sheep Kids’ Program with an evaluation December 29-30 to kick off the skills program for the remainder of the season with our new Black Mountain Ski School Principal, Captain Ray Gilmore – see our website for details, ”Black Mountain spokesperson Jessie Victoria said this week.
Black Mountain is closed on Christmas Day, just as King Pine. Bretton Woods and Cranmore are open on Christmas Day, Cranmore offering skiing and riding from 10 am to 16 pm and tubes from 10 am to 16 pm and Cranmore, 10 am to 16 pm on Christmas Day.
Cranmore will also have extended hours during the holiday week and frequent après ski as well as throughout the season at Zip’s Pub & Grill.
Cranmore Tube and Mountain Adventure Park will be open December 26-31 from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm; and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on January 1 with skiing and horseback riding at the resort from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., from December 26 to 31 and from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on January 1. King Pine’s Trails End Tavern will also feature Apres Ski Saturdays throughout the season. King Pine will offer night skiing and tubing until 6 p.m. from December 26 to January 2.
Other activities take place throughout the winter:
• Cross-country skiing at Bear Notch Ski Touring and Snowshoe at Bartlett; Ski touring at Bretton Woods; Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center, Jackson Ski Touring in Jackson Village; Mount Washington Valley Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Center in Intervale-North Conway; the Purity Spring Resort reservation in King Pine in East Madison; and 100-Acre Wood in Intervale from the Believe in Books Literacy Foundation.
• Snowmobile, with three outfitters, Northeast Snowmobile and ATV Rentals of Fryeburg, Maine and Gorham, Northern Extremes of Bartlett and Bretton Woods, and Profile Powersports in Albany offering sales, rentals and tours.
• Sleigh rides. Local stables provide the classic experience of riding fields and wooded trails in a horse-drawn sleigh or cart. Some also offer horseback riding. Nestlenook Farm in Jackson and Bretton Woods Stables offer sleigh and horse-drawn carriage rides. Visit nestlenookfarmsleighrides.com or omnihotels.com/hotels/bretton-woods for more information.
• Ice skating. Indoors at Ham Arena in Conway Village (603-447-5886, hamarena.com). Masks are suggested. The public skating hours of the holiday week are: December 26, at noon; December 27, 1:30 p.m .; from 29 to 31 December, at noon and 16 pm; January 1 and 2, noon. Schouler Park in the center of North Conway (depending on cold weather). Skate rentals are available from Sun & Ski Sports (603-356-9411) in North Conway. and King Pine / Purity Spring Resort offers indoor outdoor ice rinks.
• Pipes: No special equipment or skill is needed here. Skiers, riders and non-skiers will feel the thrill of the descent into the tubes parks in the Mount Washington Valley in Cranmore, King Pine, Bretton Woods and Great Glen Trails.
Indoor music is back with COVID precautions in place at places like Theater in the Wood, Stone Mountain Arts Center and the Majestic Theater in Conway.
The music ranges from rock to swing, soul and blues. You can even find opera, thanks to The Met Opera Live series broadcast in high definition at Leura Hill Eastman Performing Arts Center in Fryeburg, Maine.
The many sights of the Mount Washington Valley offer an unparalleled range of entertainment.
The Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, Maine features nationally recognized artists such as Peter Wolf, Keb ‘Mo’ and Los Lobos on stage.
Carol Noonan and Jeff Flagg’s Stone Mountain Arts Center has adapted to the challenges of the pandemic by offering new ways to enjoy a meal and a wide range of music. This venue is loved by fans and musicians for its up-close and personal performances, hearty dinners, and owners Noonan and Flagg’s ability to make everyone feel right at home.
Among the pubs with live music in the restaurant include the Shannon Door Pub in Jackson; The Red Parka Pub Glen; Deacon Street in North Conway; Max’s at SnowVillage Inn in Eaton; Ledge Brewing Company interval; Hobbs Tavern in Ossipee, the Corner House Bar and Restaurant in Sandwich; Top of the 9th Bar and Grill in Fryeburg, Maine, and the Backburner in Brownfield, Maine.
The Theater in the Wood Winter Entertainment series kicks off on January 21 with Entrain and runs through March 11 on Friday evenings at 6:30 p.m.