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Magic Mountains
Multisport by day, B&B by night—welcome to New Hampshire's white wonderland
By Michael Benoist

DAY 1: As the name of New Hampshire's largest range implies, snow falls hard and fast on the White Mountains—centerpiece Mount Washington alone averages 256 inches (650 centimeters) a year. Drive 140 miles (225 kilometers) north from Boston and avail yourself of every fluffy foot of Cannon Mountain; its 2,146 vertical feet (654 meters) serve up more steeps than most of the area's pricier hills. When the sun dips, backtrack on I-93 to exit 32, snag a table at The Common Man, and savor the lobster corn chowder and hearty meatloaf that make this regional chain a local fave. Later, cozy up with a cup of mulled cider at North Woodstock's Wilderness Inn, in the white pines of White Mountain National Forest.

DAY 2: After making good on the breakfast portion of your B&B contract, get a soup-to-nuts primer on the rise of Nordic skiing in the U.S. at the New England Ski Museum, nine miles north of the Wilderness Inn. Next, put the history lesson to practice. Avoid the hordes at storied Bretton Woods and opt instead for the 43 miles (69 kilometers) of less-crowded, equally groomed and wooded trails at Bear Notch Ski Touring Center. Cruise the trail systems along the Saco River (read: flat) with views of 200-plus-foot (over 61 meters) Arethusa Falls and the high peaks of the Presidentials. Splurge on a cottage with a fireplace at the Bartlett Inn, which is less than a mile from the ski center.

DAY 3: Register in advance for a daylong ice climbing clinic at Cathedral Ledge, Crawford Notch, or any of the area's reliably spectacular sites. Or, better yet, if you're in town February 10-13, take part in the granddaddy of ice climbing jamborees—the Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival. Test cutting-edge gear while you dig into a two-story ice tower at Cranmore Mountain Resort, or reserve a climbing legend like Barry Blanchard for a day of one-on-one instruction ($225). The third of three B&Bs, the Jackson House, is eight miles (13 kilometers) north in Jackson—where, unlike other area towns, covered bridges outnumber strip malls.

DAY 4: Feast on a breakfast of baked walnut French toast, then hook up with guides at EMS in North Conway and, conditions permitting, defy the laws of both gravity and friction, courtesy of the blustery air at Lake Winnipesaukee—one of the country's premier snowkiting venues. After zipping along on arctic gusts, the drive home will be a breeze.

VITALS:
The Wilderness Inn ($55; www.thewildernessinn.com)
New England Ski Museum (www.skimuseum.org)
Bear Notch Ski Touring Center ($8 a day; www.bearnotchski.com)
The Bartlett Inn ($144 for a private cottage; www.bartlettinn.com)
Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival (www.ime-usa.com)
Jackson House ($59; www.jacksonhousenh.com)
EMS Guides ($50 for a daylong lesson; +1 603 356 5433)


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February 2005



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