Waterville Valley: 60 miles N of Concord; 95 miles NW of Portsmouth; 125 miles N of Boston
In the southwestern corner of the White Mountains is Waterville Valley, which occupies a lovely, remote valley at the head of a 12-mile dead-end road. Incorporated as a town in 1829, Waterville Valley became a popular destination for summer visitors during the heyday of mountain tourism that hit late in the 19th century. Skiers first started descending these slopes in the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps and local ski clubs carved a few trails out of the forest. But it wasn't until 1965, when a skier named Tom Corcoran bought up 425 acres in the valley, that Waterville Valley took up and began to assume its current air.
Few traces of the village's history remain today, and Waterville Valley has taken on a modern, somewhat manufactured character that delights some and gives others reason to pass it by. The "village" here is reasonably compact, though you need to drive or take a shuttle to the ski slopes; modern lodges, condos, and a handful of restaurants are all situated within a loop road. In the center is the "Town Square," a sort of small mall complex with a restaurant and a few shops.
You don't really feel that you've arrived in New England, here, but instead that you've been sucked back into a kind of '70s time warp. This is a reasonable choice for a weeklong family vacation -- the resort has planned activities for kids -- but those in search of the real New England wouldn't miss a thing by driving past and skipping it in favor of the other towns and resorts in this guide.