The best X-country skiing in New England

New Hampshire in winter

By Walter and Patricia Brooks

-11 degrees with 60 mph winds above the treeline on Mount Washington at 4,000 feet on Dec. 29, 2009.

Here's the "cat" that got us there.

The Lodge at Jackson overlooks the Ellis River Trail...

My all-time favorite x-country ski run, click for video.

Cathi & Dana Belcher are great hosts. See AMC video.

Come back for the Wildquack Rubber Duck Race in May.

We had a huge Pot Roast at the Shovel Handle Pub, and

A great twin petite black Angus filets at Ledges.

New Year's Eve and the days immediately before loomed lonely as most of our family was off Cape visiting other relatives, so we decided to revisit our past by returning to Jackson Village just south of Mount Washington in New Hampshire's Washington Valley.

This drop-dead quintessentially pretty Yankee village has the logistical advantage of being half way between majestic Mount Washington and the best outlet shopping in the the entire northeast in North Conway.

We stayed at The Lodge at Jackson which is on Route 16 perfectly located for waking, hiking, skiing or biking this beautiful village.

Jackson is a fifteen minute drive to either skiing or shopping, and the road crews in the White Mountain State know how to keep their roads clear no matter what the weather conditions.

The World's Worse Weather

Mount Washington has the lowest treeline of any mountain on earth because of its location where weather systems come together at its western slope.

The observatory on top brags about the bitter cold, dense fog, heavy snow and record wind and is proud to be the home of the world's worse weather.

So naturally we looked for a way to get up this 6,288 hunk of rock, and we made it to the treeline at 4,000 feet during -11 degree cold with snow blowing at us at 60 mph.

What better way to spend a morning in New England. Cars race up this road in summer, and runner race up it, see this video.

Of course we did in a "cat" operated by the Mount Washington Auto Road.

The privately owned auto road opened in 1861 as the Mount Washington Carriage Road and is the oldest man-made attraction in  America.

The road climbs 7.6 miles to the very top with an average grade of 12% most of the way and a 22% grade on the last 50 yards, but on this late December morning we only managed to get a little past the 4 mile mark at 4,000 feet to the treeline with its 2 foot high, 100 year old pine trees shown in the video on the right above.

Jackson Village

We visited this valley every winter during the years were were raising a family.

First it was for downhill skiing at Wildcat, Attatash, Black Mountain and Cranmore, but after I popped a knee on the slopes due to the old style binding, we segued over to X-country skiing here in Jackson Village, arguably the first if not also the best in the Northeast.

That's when we discovered the Ellis River Trail which runs from Jackson north to Dana Place and miles beyond, and the way  the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) base camp at Pinkham Notch. With its connections to other trails this offers up to 15 and a half miles of groomed and picturesque.

The owners of The Lodge, Cathi and Dana Belcher, have owned the inn since 2005, and they've home-schooled their four children there. Both very active in the community tourism events like the annual Duck Race, Mount Washington Road race and the Polar Express, Trip Advisor has rated The Lodge  "the #1 Hotel in Jackson."

If you aren't into winter sport, visit for the Wildquack Duck Race which Jackson hosts each Memorial Day weekend. It is always fun, and for the last 4 years Cathi Belcher has made the 4 foot x 8 foot cake that feeds the crowd it attracts.

See the ABC-News report about last year's race down the Wildcat River here.

The night we arrived there was hot cider and a big tray of pastries awaiting guest, and the inn offers a complimentary breakfast with 24-hour fresh coffee, tea and cocoa.

Where to eat

The first night we took short ride up Black Mountain to the Shovel Handle Pub at Whitney's Inn.

We shared a couple appies, and Pat had the Lobster Orzo $19.95, while I was really impressed with the New England Style Pot Roast of slowly braised Beef, sliced and served in gravy with roasted Vegetables over noodles, $15.95. I brought half of it home.

The second evening we visited Ledges restaurant at the White Mountain Hotel in North Conway.

They claim their Carmelized Onion Dip is the best onion dip you will ever have! Four types of onion caramelized with garlic, mixed with a special blend of cheeses and served with warm homemade potato chips, and for $8 they may be right.

The "Wedge" Salad of crisp iceberg lettuce with grape tomatoes, Bermuda onion and bacon lardons, topped with homemade creamy blue cheese dressing was as good as any I've had, $9.

I folowed with Twin Filet Mignons, two petite black Angus filets wrapped with smoked Applewood bacon, charbroiled to perfection finished with a bourbon mushroom demi-glace, served with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and fresh vegetable du jour, $28.

Read our previous Jackson travel tale The Christmas Farm Inn & Spa on Eagle Mountain, Jackson NH.

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