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Chills and thrills

Embrace the cold and head north this winter
By NINA MACLAUGHLIN  |  March 1, 2006

GRAB A PAIR and head north Heading north in winter is counter-instinctual. The mere thought of it elicits a warning from the dark parts of your lizard brain. It’s cold. It’s icy. There’s no food. Head south instead. Puerto Vallarta. The Florida Keys. Buenos Aires. Where there’s sun and warmth and fruit to eat.

What your lizard brain doesn’t know is that cars have heat, that one stop at a roadside BK will keep you alive for weeks, and that heading north in New England in winter doesn’t mean inevitable arctic death. In fact, for those who seek adventures in the snow (be it skiing or snow-tubing or snow-angel making) or those seeking a quick recess from life in Boston, there are many options points north. And truth be told, you can’t get far enough south in a weekend for it to make much difference weather-wise; you’d have to wear a coat in DC, too. So embrace the chill and consider these options for getaways in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Canada.

Surf and suds
We’ll start with the closest to Boston and move up. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, only 50 miles from Boston -- less than an hour’s drive -- is a small-scale combination of Brookline and Cambridge. A smaller, lower-key combination that happens to have three breweries. The Smuttynose Brewery (2225 Heritage Avenue, 603.436.4026) is the state’s largest craft brewer, maker of Shoals Pale Ale and Portsmouth Lager, and offers tours by appointment. Redhook (35 Corporate Drive, 603.430.8600) established its third brewery in Portsmouth back in 1996 (the other two are in Seattle and Woodinville, Washington), and offers tours seven days a week for a buck. The Portsmouth Brewery (56 Market Street, 603.431.1115), sister company to Smuttynose and New Hampshire’s first brewpub, offers a huge menu and views of the brewing equipment from the restaurant.

Portsmouth boasts a classic port-town mix of beer and maritime history. You can check out a bit of the latter (without strolling outside along the water) at the Albacore Museum (600 Market Street, 603.430.3680), where you can tour the most advanced US Navy submarines made before subs went atomic. A good general directory of places to eat and things to do in Portsmouth can be found at

Dashing through the snow
Outdoorsy types who want to avoid the crowds or the velocity of downhill skiing should drive up to the Great Glen Trails Center at Pinkham’s Notch in Gorham, New Hampshire (603.466.2333). The facility offers a complete suite of snow sports: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snow-tubing. As the saying goes, if you can walk, you can snowshoe, and Great Glen offers miles and miles of groomed trails and backcountry routes. But walking’s a lot less fun than jumping on a snow tube and zooming down the hill. No fancy equipment required, and you’ve got views of the mountains all around you. An all-day tubing pass is $10.

The coolest feature of all is the SnowCoach tours up Mt. Washington. Half-tank, half-van, the vehicles climb the Mt. Washington Auto Road to an above-tree-line elevation with a sweeping view of the 5500-acre Great Gulf Wilderness and the Northern Presidential Mountains. You can travel back down in the warmth of the SnowCoach or descend the four miles via snowshoes or skis. Tours are $40 for adults; $25 for kids ages five through 12. The cost includes an all-day trail pass for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow-tubing. For a comprehensive look at outdoor action in New Hampshire, check out

All downhill from here
From New Hampshire, we move left to Vermont and from XC-skiing to straight-up downhill at Killington (4763 Killington Road, 800.734.9435, With seven mountains, 200 trails, five terrain parks, five base lodges, and 33 lifts, which, collectively, can haul 52,000 riders per hour up the slopes, Killington is one of the biggest, busiest ski resorts in the East. It’s got a rep for steep terrain (nearly half of the trails are rated “most difficult”), but downhill skiers of every ability level will find the right slope. You’ve got everything from stomach-in-your-throat trails like double-black-diamonds Vertigo and Escapade, to a 6.6-miler called Juggernaut that weaves, winds, and dips its way down the mountainside.

And Killington has a whole season’s worth of events left, including the 10th Annual Mardi Gras Party at the Wobbly Barn (February 28); the Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge (March 4); the Boarding for Breast Cancer Night Rail Jam (March 10); and way off in April, the annual Sunshine Daydream Festival, a tribute to the Grateful Dead and a celebration of spring skiing (April 15). For the après-ski scene, head to the Wobbly Barn (Killington Road, 802.422.6171), a steak house with “high altitude entertainment,” or the Pickle Barrel Nightclub (1741 Killington Rd, 802.422.3035), which pulls the biggest bands in the area.

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Sports , Winter Sports , Skiing ,  More more >
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