Snow Much Fun at New Hampshire’s Eagle Mountain House
By Jeff and Stephanie Sylva
As we turned off Route 16 to enter Jackson Village, we immediately knew we had come to a special place. Our first indication was the quintessential red covered bridge that we drove through that announced our arrival in Jackson Village. As we drove up to our lodging accommodations – the Eagle Mountain House – and took in the idyllic view from the front porch, we were convinced that we had chosen a perfect place for a winter escape.
Over the next couple of days we would learn that the area around Jackson, NH is perfect for a family winter vacation and has much to offer families looking for opportunities to enjoy the beauty and quaintness of New England in the winter. Whether it is Alpine or Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowmobiling, snow tubing, sleigh riding or simply mountain gazing, Jackson and the Eagle Mountain House, with their authentic New England charm, are in the center of it all.
New Hampshire’s “Baby Grand”
The Eagle Mountain House exemplifies New England – more than a century of history, idyllic scenes of the quaint countryside, and panoramic views of the stately White Mountains. Because this hotel is the smallest of New Hampshire’s remaining grand hotels, it has earned the nickname of the “Baby Grand.” We found the hotel to have just the right mix of grace and casualness, making it perfect for families looking for an upscale yet unpretentious inn. The hotel is a shining example of New England Victorian farmhouse architecture, replete with creaky stairs and an authentic birdcage elevator. Yet guests will find the hotel, even with its wonderful antiquated features, is entirely modern. The Eagle Mountain House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of Historic Hotels of America.
Families will find the Eagle Mountain House a welcoming place for children with plenty of activities just outside the doors of the inn or only minutes away. During the winter the resort’s 9-hole golf course becomes part of Jackson’s world-renowned cross-country ski trails, as well as a perfect place for sledding or snow tubing. (The hotel does not provide sleds or tubes, so you will have to bring your own.) A large game room has plenty of activities for the kids, and the library off the main lobby is a perfect spot for families to play some of the many board games available to guests. Suites with a pullout couch are available and would be perfect for a small family, as are an on-site self-service laundry, cable TV, and free Wi-Fi. Dining at the hotel is family-friendly in the casual dining room or in the tavern. More formal dining is also available in the main dining room. Menus feature classic New England cuisine or a lighter fare of snacks, appetizers and signature sandwiches. A children’s menu is also available. Kids may find the cheese fondue appetizer a fun way to start dinner. And they definitely will love the Chocolate “Fun-Duo” to end the meal. Kids will love dipping pieces of pound cake, seasonal fruit, marshmallows or pretzels into the warm molten chocolate.
Eagle Mt. House offers a variety of packages, and families may find the “Snow Much Fun” package very attractive. Starting at $449 per family, a family of four can stay two nights in a superior room, enjoy a full breakfast and casual dinner each day, and lift tickets to Jackson’s nearby family-friendly ski area, Black Mountain, and then top each day of skiing off with après steaming hot chocolate back in the Eagle Landing Tavern.
For more information on Eagle Mountain House call 800-966-5779 or visit www.eaglemt.com.
Cross Country Skiing at Its Best
Families looking to get outdoors in the snow, but who are not interested in downhill skiing, will find cross-country skiing a great family activity that is both healthy and affordable. More and more families are turning to X-country skiing, also called Nordic skiing, because of these positive aspects. And not too far behind Nordic skiing is snowshoeing, as more and more people are finding economical ways to enjoy the beauty and healthfulness of the great outdoors in the wintertime.
And there is no better place in the East for Nordic skiing than the Jackson XC Trail System, considered “the #1 cross-country ski trail system in the East.” The Jackson Ski Touring Foundation is a community based non-profit organization chartered to maintain trails in and around the village of Jackson. In addition to maintaining the 137 km of trails, the foundation also offers a wide variety of educational programs, technique workshops, after-school programs, and training for disabled skiers. Every Tuesday and Friday during the winter season “Easy Sliders”, a gentle introduction to cross-country skiing and winter fitness, is offered. Designed for absolute beginners, this one-hour session is a perfect way for families to find out if Nordic skiing is for them. The rate is just $10 and includes rental equipment for the session. Every Saturday the touring center offers its “Snowshoe Instructional Nature Tour.” This guided group outing includes technique tips as well as the guide’s interesting information about the winter woods. The fee for this 2-hour tour is $10 and rental snowshoes are available.
We enjoyed a couple of treks on the center’s dedicated snowshoe trails, taking in some wonderful views and relaxing in the serenity of the winter woods. We are finding snowshoeing a great way to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors while getting some healthy exercise. To learn more about Jackson XC Touring Center and Trail System call 603-383-9355 or visit www.jacksonxc.org.
More Winter Family Fun
Another great area for families to enjoy winter fun is Great Glen Trails located in Pinkham Notch, just a short drive from Jackson. Great Glen has X-Country skiing, snowshoeing, snow tubing, animal tracking with a naturalist, and the unique experience of the Snow Coach – a specially constructed all-wheel drive, 4-track van that takes riders up the snow-covered Mt. Washington Auto Road. Tours last approximately 1¼ hours and take riders to tree line offering spectacular, up-close views of the White Mountains. We had the misfortune of encountering some heavy snow flurries during our trip on the Snow Coach and, therefore, had only intermittent views of the majestic mountains in the Presidential Range. Yet we still thought the tour was a unique and enjoyable experience.
Great Glen offers Family Snow Days once a month, when all activities including ski lessons if you need them, are offered for one price. Family lesson packages and the Trails Total Ticket, which includes all activities for the day as well as a Snow Coach tour, are also available daily. Other family activities include Full Moon Snowshoe Tours, Ski with a Naturalist, and Penguins & Polar Bears (vacation week ski camps for kids). For more information on Great Glen Trails and the Snow coach call 603-466-2333 or visit www.GreatGlenTrails.com.
Another spot that is great for snowshoeing is located just down Rt. 16 from Great Glen. The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center has a wealth of information about the area and offers a list of some great snowshoe trails of varying difficulty. A couple of trails that are fairly short and very easy and yet offer some great views of waterfalls, mountain streams, and winter forests are the Thompson Falls, Lost Pond, and Crystal Cascade trails. More about AMC and the Pinkham Notch Center can be found at www.outdoors.org.
Skating in a Winter Wonderland
Many people’s ideal winter activity might be skating on a frozen pond and enjoying a hot chocolate by a warming fire. Or possibly it is a ride through the snowy woods on a horse-drawn sleigh. Well, you can experience both of these winter dreams in the idyllic winter wonderland of Nestlenook Estate located in Jackson. We visited Nestlenook late in the afternoon and marveled at the magical setting as the multitude of lights, twinkling music, and warming fires created a picture straight out of Currier & Ives. Nestlenook’s three-acre skating pond is kept smooth with a Zamboni machine, so skaters glide around the pond and under two bridges while the music plays and the lights glisten. This fantasy scene is fully enhanced when the horses draw a sleigh across one of the bridges creating a scene that is truly magical. Hot chocolate is provided free, and you can warm up by one of the many fires such as the one roaring in the fireplace in the fully enlcosed warming center or one of the outdoor fire pits.
Sleigh rides are given in one of Nestlenook’s heated Austrian sleighs that hold up to 15 people, or for a more romantic experience (with a bigger price tag), riders can choose a one-horse open sleigh. Fur blankets are provided on all rides. In addition to the sleigh rides and ice skating, Nestlenook has its own snowshoe trails. Both snowshoe and skate rentals are available. Check out the package rates where a sleigh ride, 1 hour of ice time and 1 hour of snowshoeing, plus snowshoe and skate rentals are all included for $25.50 for an adult and $19.50 for a child ages 3-12. Other packages are also available. Nestlenook is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only and during school vacation weeks. All activities are weather dependent. For more information on Nestlenook Estate call 603-383-0845 or visit www.nestlenookfarm.com.
Location, Location, Location
What makes the Eagle Mountain House an ideal spot for a great family destination – apart from its charming New England atmosphere – is its perfect location to so many winter activities. The quaint and picturesque village of Jackson, NH has as many as six downhill ski resorts within a short drive. The family-friendly ski area of Black Mountain is just up the road from the Eagle Mt. House. Wildcat, Attitash, Bretton Woods, Cranmore, and King Pine ski resorts are all just a short drive from Jackson. Other winter activities in the area include snowmobiling, dogsledding, an exciting zip-line at Wildcat Mt. and, of course, shopping at the numerous fashion outlets in nearby Conway.
Two web sites with plenty of information on the village of Jackson and the entire Mt. Washington Valley are www.JacksonNH.com and www.mtwashingtonvalley.org.
Jeff and Stephanie are retired English and Social Studies high school teachers who have been professional travel writers for over 21 years.
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