New England

Cures for Cabin Fever | The Great Outdoors

Yankee editors round up some favorite ways to have winter fun in every New England state.

By Yankee Editors

Dec 03 2020


Make like Hans Brinker and give Nordic skating a try at Lake Morey in Fairlee, Vermont.

Photo Credit : Mark Fleming
TRAVEL NOTE:Since many businesses and venues are adjusting their operations in response to COVID-19 health concerns, please contact them directly or check their websites before making travel plans.
The pull of being outside has never been stronger, it seems. But where New England’s other seasons may invite us to sit in contemplation of nature’s beauty, winter demands a more vigorous communion with the outdoors: namely, fuel up, bundle up, and get that blood pumping. And whether this winter finds us still staying close to home or venturing out into the wider world, we want to share some of our favorite ways to spend a snowy day, from ice skating on a serene frozen lake to zipping downhill in a snow tube. Representing every New England state, these are the kinds of places that help get us through a long, cold season with a smile on our face, even as we look forward to brighter days ahead.
Make like Hans Brinker and give Nordic skating a try at Lake Morey in Fairlee, Vermont.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming


CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Craftsbury. Little surprise that the rugged Northeast Kingdom is home to this adventure Mecca. While specializing in all things outdoor sports year-round, the Nordic center offers some of the best cross-country skiing in New England. Its northern locale, dedication to snowmaking, and consistent grooming keeps the 100-plus km of skate and classic trails in top condition. Need gear for the day? The center has more than 100 sets of Rossignol and Fischer no-wax and high-performance waxable skis for rent.

DOG SLEDDING:Peace Pups Dog Sledding, Elmore. Ken Haggett adopted his first Siberian husky from a shelter in 2001, and within five years he had traded a career in woodworking to launch his dogsled tour business, Peace Pups. With his team of about 20 Siberians, he offers day trips on a trail in Morrisville that features beautiful views of the Worcester Range as well as woodland vistas, with streams to cross and hills to climb.

FAMILY SKIING:Smugglers’ Notch, Jeffersonville. In 2020, Smuggs was rated the No. 1 family-friendly resort in the eastern U.S. by the readers of Ski magazine. It wasn’t the first time for the resort, nor likely the last, given its hold on New England families’ hearts that goes back nearly half a century. Included among the 78 trails across three big mountains are miles of easy terrain for newbies to find their ski legs. Those in need of a more black-diamond experience can face off against the gnarly runs on Smuggs’s signature peak, Madonna Mountain. There are also six terrain parks, a Nordic ski and snowshoe center, and award-winning instruction programs for all ages.

ICE SKATING: Lake Morey, Fairlee. Lake Morey is home to the longest natural ice-skating trail in the country, a breathtaking 4.5-mile track protected from harsh winds by the deeply forested hillsides around it. Lake Morey Resort maintains the trail and also rents equipment including Nordic-style skates, which glide on top of the ice instead of digging into it and are ideal for this kind of surface. With a skating season that generally runs from late December to mid-March, Lake Morey is perfect for a quiet day with family or friends amid panoramic views of Vermont’s snow-covered mountainsides and cliffs.

SNOW TUBING: Mount Snow Ski Area, West Dover. At one of the largest snow tubing hills in the state, visitors can choose from 10 different lanes to whisk them downhill at thrilling speeds. Save your legs and let the covered surface lift—aka the Magic Carpet—return you to the top. And if that isn’t enough to fill your day, this southern Vermont ski resort’s 600 acres of skiable terrain, 20 lifts, four mountain faces, and a 3,600-foot summit ensure that you won’t be short on options.

SNOWSHOEING: Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center, Goshen. The first Nordic center to receive a U.S. Forest Service special-use permit in Vermont, this Green Mountain National Forest gem has developed a network of nearly 60 km of trails in the 15,857-acre Moosalamoo National Recreation Area. Blueberry Hill actively chooses to keep the trails quiet and ungroomed for a more authentic backcountry experience, so if you’re looking for a more natural, less manicured experience, this is a great place to try. Plus, you can rent snowshoes (or if preferred, cross-country skis) if you don’t have your own.


DOG SLEDDING:Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel, Jefferson. Hurtle through a New England winter wonderland behind a team of sled dogs at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel, which counts many rescued and second-chance pups in its canine force. During the sledding season, which typically runs from December to March, there’s a variety of tour options ranging from introductory experiences to interactive clinics. Guests are given the opportunity to harness and hitch the team—and maybe even help drive the sled.

FAMILY SKIING:Gunstock Mountain Resort, Gilford. This mountain is a favorite among New England families for a number of reasons: It’s easily accessible (just 90 miles from Boston), it has terrific views of Lake Winnipesaukee, it has well-groomed trails for all ability levels (nearly 70 percent are rated beginner or moderate), and it offers a large selection of activities and programming. The six-lane snow tubing setup boasts the longest run in the state, while the Mountain Coaster provides a unique thrill ride of up to 25 mph. Plus, its signature 12-acre Blundersmoke terrain park is the biggest night park in New England.

FAT BIKING:Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring & Snowshoe Foundation, Intervale. Combine the beauty of a snowy Mount Washington Valley with a bike with supersize tires, and you’ve got yourself a terrific way to do some wintertime exploration. This nonprofit maintains 45 km of trails in the Intervale and North Conway area, including groomed trails in Whitaker Woods specifically for biking, making it a perfect place to try out this relatively new winter sport. Don’t have your own bike? Stan and Dan Sports in nearby North Conway offers rentals.

ICE SKATING:Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond, Portsmouth. While there’s plenty of great food, culture, and shopping in this charming Seacoast city to keep visitors occupied, a must-do in winter is putting on skates and gliding out onto Puddle Dock Pond at Strawbery Banke Museum, the living history complex that preserves the structures and stories of New Hampshire’s oldest neighborhood. The ice rink is typically open daily from December through February, and Northeast Passage, a nonprofit affiliated with the University of New Hampshire, has traditionally been on-site once a week with adaptive equipment that allows individuals with disabilities to experience the thrill of gliding on ice.

SLEIGH RIDES: Nestlenook Farm, Jackson. This 65-acre Victorian estate provides a scenic backdrop for a number of classic winter activities, from ice skating on a frozen pond to snowshoeing through the woods, but it’s hard to top the thrill of riding in a comfy, upholstered horse-drawn sleigh. When you’re done, you can sip hot chocolate in the warming center or roast marshmallows at one of multiple outdoor fire pits.

SNOWMOBILING: Northern Extremes Snowmobiling, Bartlett and Bretton Woods. Covering both the Whites and the Great North Woods with its two locations, Northern Extremes—which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2020—makes the most of the longest snowmobile season in the state. Rent a machine for a self-guided trek or opt for one of the guided tours, ranging from an hour to a full day of riding.


CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: New England Outdoor Center, Millinocket. Founded in 1982 and located just down the road from Baxter State Park, NEOC bills itself as Maine’s ultimate adventure resort. And while it’s true you can pump up the adrenaline with a snowmobile tour here, it’s the winter views that really get hearts racing: the Penobscot River, Black Cat Mountain, and of course, mighty Mount Katahdin. Slow down and drink it all in with a cross-country ski trek on 16 miles of groomed trails (most of which are rated beginner or intermediate). Stay at NEOC and use of their equipment is included, or rent or bring your own. Cross-country and skate ski instructors are available for lessons too.

FAMILY SKIING:Sunday River, Newry. The Yeti, a magical furry white creature said to live in the forest and roam the mountains, has found a home at Sunday River. To the delight of youngsters, Eddy the Yeti is a frequent visitor to the resort’s base area, and skiers and boarders can even visit Eddy’s home on the Enchanted Forest Trail on North Peak. For older kids and grownups, eight different peaks and 135 trails ensure there’s skiable terrain for all levels; the base-to-peak Chondola promises warmer lift rides. Plus, the SnowSports School can help skiers of all ages and abilities improve their skills.

SKI BIKING: Sugarloaf, Carrabassett Valley. Set in the stunning terrain of western Maine’s Carrabassett Valley, the largest ski area east of the Rockies has long been a magnet for winter fun-seekers, who come here to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, fat bike—and more recently, go for a spin on a ski bike. Last winter Sugarloaf debuted a small rental fleet of Sno-Go ski bikes, which are designed to travel on lifts and deliver riders to the summit. There’s no seat, wheels, brakes, or gears: You just strap in, grab the handlebars, and go. (Don’t worry, everyone takes a one-time intro lesson before hitting the slopes!)

SNOW TUBING:Seacoast Adventure, Windham. With a sound system that pumps out upbeat tunes and light towers that extend hours until 9 p.m. most Fridays and Saturdays, the atmosphere is electric at Maine’s largest snow tubing facility. As many as a dozen lanes are groomed to ensure peak conditions (bonus: Seacoast Adventure makes its own snow when nature conks out), and the carpet lift makes getting to the top as effortless as stepping on an escalator. Two-hour sessions sometimes sell out, so buy timed tickets online in advance.

SNOWMOBILING: Moosehead Lake. With 160 miles of scenic groomed trails (thanks in large part to the efforts of loyal local snowmobile clubs), you can’t beat the Moosehead Trail for snowmobiling adventure. In addition to wrapping around Maine’s largest lake, it joins with the Maine Interconnected Trail System, letting riders explore more of the Pine Tree State plus New Hampshire and Canada as well. Greenville and many of the other towns along the way are snowmobile-friendly, with rental shops, guide services, and plenty of resorts, as well as easily accessible trail condition reports.

TOBOGGANING: Camden Snow Bowl, Camden. The Camden toboggan chute—formally named the Jack R. Williams Toboggan Chute—is one of North America’s biggest, and the only one of its kind left in New England. The 440-foot-long chute has a vertical drop of more than 70 feet, propelling toboggans at speeds of up to 40 mph; little wonder that it is home to the hugely popular U.S. National Toboggan Championships each February. It’s open to the public on many winter weekends, holidays, and school vacation days, weather permitting. Cost is $5 per person per hour, toboggans provided.


CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: Notchview, Windsor. Overseen by the Trustees of Reservations, Notchview is 3,000-plus acres of scenic forest and open meadow in the heart of the Berkshires. Much of the reservation is above 2,000 feet in elevation, where beautiful skiable snow can typically be found more than 80 days out of the year. It has 17 km of classical track-set cross-country trails, and 10 km of groomed skate-skiing trails—and with seven beginner trails, 11 intermediate trails, and seven expert trails, there’s a good range of skiing for everybody. Plus, there’s an entirely separate trail system groomed for skiing with dogs, aka skijoring. Rentals available (of skis and snowshoes, not canine companions!).

FAMILY SKIING: Jiminy Peak, Hancock. First opened in 1948, Jiminy Peak today is southern New England’s largest ski resort, at 167 acres—which means families have lots of room to spread out. There are 45 trails and nine lifts, including the Berkshire Express, a six-passenger high-speed ride to the summit. A host of beginner and intermediate trails cater to first-timers as well as those looking to knock a little rust off. Full-day kids’ lessons, a mountain coaster, and night skiing round out the appeal.

ICE SKATING: Boston Common Frog Pond, Boston (Currently Closed). In the heart of America’s oldest park, the Frog Pond is transformed each winter into an ice rink that is unparalleled for nostalgia and seasonal sparkle (especially after twilight, when the city’s lights make the professionally polished ice gleam). In typical years the skating rink opens in mid- to late November and runs to early March, with daily operations including skate rental.

SNOW TUBING: Nashoba Valley Ski Area, Littleton. As New England’s largest snow tubing complex, Nashoba Valley’s 15-acre park can definitely stake its claim as the tubing go-to for Massachusetts. Separate from the ski area with its own entrance, parking, and lodge, this winter wonderland has four lifts to maximize playtime on up to 18 lanes. Off-limits to kids under 6, and offering late-night hours under the lights, it’s ideal for heart-racing date nights as well as family-and-friends outings.

SNOWSHOEING: Hilltop Orchards, Richmond. There may be no better winter playground in the Bay State than the rolling hill country of the Berkshires, which is where this unexpected Nordic center makes its home. Hilltop Orchards is known for its apples and its Furnace Brook Winery, but when the snow flies it also draws visitors with miles of groomed moderate and challenging terrain with separate trails specifically designed for snowshoeing. Among past highlights: guided full-moon snowshoe treks with a bonfire warm-up. Equipment rentals available on-site.


CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: Winding Trails Cross-Country Ski Center, Farmington. A worthy destination for cross-country skiers that rivals some of the Nordic centers of northern New England, Winding Trails is set among 350 acres of woodlands, lakes, ponds, nature, and wildlife. Its 20 km of groomed trails are double-tracked, mapped out for easy navigating, and great for newbies and pros alike. The center uses grooming equipment to pack the snow on the trails and comb them out, providing optimal ski conditions with sometimes less-than-optimal snowfall.

FAMILY SKIING:Mohawk Mountain Ski Area, Cornwall. It was 1947 when legendary skier Walter Schoenknecht, a future U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame inductee and pioneering ski resort developer, opened Mohawk in northwest Connecticut. Today this family-run business caters to skiers and riders of all levels with 26 trails, including the Deer Run, a 1.25-mile green that’s guaranteed to produce smiles, and other diversions such as its newly debuted snow tubing runs. Rounding out the appeal: night skiing, on-mountain dining, and instruction for both kids and adults at the Snowsports Discovery Center. And keep your eyes peeled for mountain mascot Goggles the Yeti.

SNOW TUBING: Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort, Middlefield. This small but spunky year-round destination within easy reach of Hartford and New Haven recently added a second tubing surface lift, increasing the capacity at its multiple chutes. Powder Ridge’s popular “Interstellar Nights” amp up the fun with neon lighting and lively music. No snow? No problem: This place can make its own.

WINTER WILDLIFE CRUISES: RiverQuest, Haddam. In winter, the highest concentration of eagles in the Northeast can be found on the shores of the lower Connecticut River, already a prime locale for wildlife-watching. In February and March, birdwatchers and wildlife fans can join RiverQuest captain Mark Yuknat for two-hour cruises during which a naturalist will help them spot the majestic birds, as well as hawks, swans, seals, coyotes, deer, and more.


ICE SKATING: The Providence Rink, Providence. A perennial favorite with Rhode Island families, the rink at the BankNewport City Center boasts a total surface of 14,000 square feet, or twice that of the Rockefeller Center rink in New York City. Open daily, weather permitting, this well-lit, beautifully situated facility offers skate lessons throughout the season for individuals as well as groups, and skate rentals are also available. Past years have seen the additional attraction of New England’s first ice bumper cars. Check the website for the latest info on this season.

SLEDDING: Roger Williams Park, Providence. When Mother Nature comes through with a blanket of slidable snow, youngsters and the young at heart can often be found hitting the hills in this venerable 435-acre city park. The landscape includes slopes of varying steepness; a favorite spot is near the Greek-columned Temple to Music. In past years the Roger Williams Park Conservancy has even rented sleds and provided free hot chocolate on select winter days. And when you’re done, warm up those frozen fingers with a visit to the Roger Williams Park Zoo and its “Faces of the Rainforest” exhibit.

SNOW TUBING:Yawgoo Valley Ski Area and Water Park, Exeter. Rhode Island’s sole ski area, the longtime family-owned Yawgoo Valley, is also home to its sole snow tubing park, which has been a hit ever since it made its debut back in 1995. Set off to the side of the ski area, the park features up to seven tubing runs that stretch an estimated 600 feet from top to bottom, with two tow ropes to keep things moving along. Tickets for each 50-minute session go on sale in advance, and buying early is a must.