by Dick Butler
Editor of
Photos by: Waterville Valley and the author
February 4, 2010
Waterville Valley NH,
an education in proper planning

Early season skiing has its risks in New England. Every first weekend in December for many years, I have spent skiing somewhere in the Eastern US. Snow can be abundant and snow can be scarce. One makes a reservation with this in mind, never knowing the outcome. I have skied in a blizzard and I have had no slope on which to ski, but always, I bring home a stash of memories.

The '09-'10 season started late in ski country throughout the East Coast, and my best memories of this year's first trip are of the "off mountain" kind.

This trip was all about Waterville Valley New Hampshire, two hours north of Boston, just 11 miles off Interstate I-93 at Exit 28. It was an early season weekend in the beautiful Town of Waterville Valley.

The architect in me whispers curious thoughts as I visit places with eyes and ears open. Sometimes I can't turn them off. Buildings, exterior spaces, landscaping, organized signs, textures and colors, make me both critical and complementary of my surroundings. In Waterville's case, the whispers are especially complementary, for good reason.

The lack of snow made me notice the well kept landscaping, immaculate planting beds, and the pathways and pavement treatments that I would not have noticed in a white covered world. Impressed by the natural orderliness of this place, I wondered what makes Waterville so clean, so uncluttered, so ordered and pedestrian friendly, with no strip malls nor garish signs. Places like this don't just happen without some extraordinary circumstances. Being always curious of what makes great things possible, I searched for clues and did some homework.

Debbie Moore, Director of Marketing for Waterville Valley Ski Resort, told me that if I wished to know more about the success and planning of the Town of Waterville Valley, I must speak with Bill Cantlin, current President of the Waterville Company.

I did.

Corcoran's Pond Credit: Waterville Valley

The Waterville Company is, for the most part, solely responsible for establishing the perpetual controls that have made such a functional, visual and environmental success of the Valley.

Corcoran's Pond Credit: Waterville Valley

Bill shared with me his knowledge of the Valley's development history and most important, its philosophy. He gave me a copy of the Town's Master Plan. Usually these documents are dry, boring and uninspiring [I have forced myself to read a few in my career].

Not this one.

With phrases such as " in the quest to develop a great Town to live in, work in and visit" [taken from the vision statement], and "Waterville Valley seeks to be a self-contained residential, four season resort community with extensive recreational, educational and leisure-oriented amenities and activities; a community that protects and enhances the great natural beauty of the valley while providing a high level of services and facilities for residents, property owners and visitors." [from its general goal statement], the message is inspiring and the result profound.

"Waterville Valley is not a typical rural New Hampshire Town. It is a completely self-contained year round resort community designed with vision and developed with a strong planning process. Aspects of Waterville Valley that make it unique are its geologic features, the housing mix and quality of development of the approximately 529 acres on the valley floor of the village, its high seasonal population and the stunning beauty of the Town surrounded by National Forest." [taken from the Master Plan's introduction statement]

Bill also informed me that two time Olympian and member of the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame, Tom Corcoran, founded the Waterville Company. His vision, enthusiasm, passion for skiing and his education are the reasons the Valley exists in its present form today, according to Bill. Vision and control were and are key components, according to him.

Bill Also mentioned that Waterville Valley is the first Master Planned Town in New England and the rules for its continued development have changed very little in forty years. The key, once again stated, has been consistency and continuity. Every piece of property ever sold within its boundaries has had consistent control, by a single party, i.e. The Waterville Company. And the most valuable land, 18-20 acres, is yet to be developed.

Waterville Valley
Dam at Corcoran's Pond, RRB

The Waterville Company, Inc. was formed in 1965. The company purchased all the private land in the Valley with the exception of 20 private cottages. When first organized, the Company did not inherit much baggage.
Dam at Corcoran's Pond, RRB
Waterville is located entirely within the 42,300 acre White Mountain National Forest. Prior to 1966, the Valley was primarily a summer resort community comprised of summer cottages and the Waterville Inn. 465 privately held acres on the valley floor comprise the town's resort community.

... The key has been consistency and continuity. Every piece of property ever sold within its boundaries has had consistent control, by a single party, i.e. The Waterville Company.

Today, the Town is approximately 75% built-out with 1050 condominium units, 82 private homes, 18 time-share units, 14 quarter-share units, 120 hotel rooms and a commercial complex containing shops and restaurants.

As necessary in snow country, there needs to be other things to do besides slide down a mountain, especially when a resort community must have attractions for the other four seasons in order to be sustainable.

Waterville Valley has established itself as a premier winter vacation resort with the development of the ski area at Mt Tecumseh. However, it has also become known for its spring, summer and fall offerings. They include a 9-hole golf course, 18 clay tennis courts, Corcoran's Pond and its related water activities, mountain biking, a roller blade sport park, numerous hiking trails, and several good fishing holes. An athletic club with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, indoor tennis and handball courts, and weight rooms complete the abundant year round opportunities in the Valley.

In order to support the 260-year round residents and the much larger weekend population of 4,000 to 6,000, the range of municipal services the Town provides is quite sophisticated. A waste water treatment facility, a water system, 24 hour police support, an elementary school, a recreation department, a volunteer fire department, an Ice Arena, and solid waste pick-up are but a few of the lesser known, but just as vital, amenities necessary in a self sufficient community.

All can be found and enjoyed in the unique Town of Waterville Valley.




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