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.
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.
... 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.
Yup ... it's hot air, cold air, any air the mountain can get.
This season, the Massachusetts snowsports area officially entered the new era of wind power with two windmills, courtesy of a project by the Princeton Municipal Light Department. The utility has erected two towers, each with a 1.5 mega-watt wind turbine and 135-foot-long blades. The foundations for the two new windmills were installed this summer and construction of the two towers was completed prior to the start of the 2009-2010 ski season.
Wind power is no stranger to Wachusett. Eight smaller windmills have dotted the mountain landscape and supplemented town energy costs for nearly 25 years, and make up one of the oldest wind farms in the country. Wachusett Marketing Director Tom Meyers says the two new turbines will help further reduce energy costs for town residents. Located adjacent to the ski area summit on the back side of the mountain, the new windmills are expected to generate up to 40 percent of the power for the town's energy needs.
"We are very excited about the Wind Farm project," said Wachusett Mountain General Manager David Crowley. "We are pleased to see the Princeton Municipal Light Department able to bring this to fruition at the summit of the mountain."
As part of the mountain's commitment to green energy, Wachusett has also partnered with Suez Energy utilizing Renewable Energy Credits to help offset energy costs.
Wachusett has posted a complete list of its energy-savings and environmental programs on its Web site
For details on PMLD's windfarm, visit
Wachusett already has a reputation for stellar snowmaking and grooming, and it is bringing both to new heights for the 2009-2010 season. In its ongoing initiative to create practically "instant" snow, Wachusett's Mountain Operations Department has made two major new steps this year with improved snowmaking and the addition of a "winch" cat to its grooming fleet.
Wachusett has added 42 new HKD tower-mounted snow guns to its already large arsenal. The new guns have replaced the ones on the Conifer Connection trail from the summit. Conifer is traditionally the first trail to open at Wachusett each season and the new guns permit more snow to be made early in the season by utilizing less energy and allowing for improved productivity at higher temperatures. For this winter, Wachusett has also replaced the snowmaking pipeline on the Upper Smith Walton trail. The new pipe will provide for improved snow output on the steep pitch of the popular advanced trail.
The snowmaking advances have been coupled with Wachusett's acquisition of a new PIsten Bully winch cat. Meyers says it will "significantly" improve the mountain's grooming capability in three critical areas. Best known for enhancing grooming on steep pitches, winch cats also provide more efficient grooming by better utilizing natural or machine-made snow already in place on the trail. The winch cat cable, which can extend up to 1,000 meters, connects to winch hooks (known as "pick points") placed at pivotal locations on the mountain. This season, Wachusett added 2 hooks on Upper Smith Walton, one hook on Upper 10th Mountain,and two hooks on Upper Conifer Connection.
"Those will allow for the grooming machine operator to better utilize snow from our snowmaking guns to strategically move to the most effective areas on those popular trails," said Scott Goodnow, Wachusett's vehicle maintenance manager. "The 'winch' allows one pass of the grooming machine to push greater quantities of snow with less wear and tear on the vehicle and the snow surface! We take great pride in our top-notch grooming and this machine will bring it to an even higher level!"
Wachusett is so confident of its snowmaking and grooming capabilities that it offers one of New England's original snow conditions guarantees. The ski area's "Unconditional Conditions Guarantee" provides skiers or riders with a return visit on another day if they are unhappy with conditions for any reason within their first hour.
For details, visit