Imagine floating through mounds of sugary snow, across frosty rivers, through mystical forests of pine and over covered bridges, toward the twinkling porch lights of your cozy Victorian abode where a crackling fire awaits your presence on its stone hearth. If this sounds like the winter wonderland of your dreams, then the tiny town of Jackson, NH, is the place to make your visions a reality.
Centered around an idyllic New England “village” that is so charming it looks like it belongs inside of a snow globe, The Jackson Ski Touring Foundation is a community-based non-profit that seeks to “enrich lives and promote healthy lifestyles for all” by providing the “finest possible variety of cross-country ski and snowshoe experiences.” In collaboration with private land owners and the town of Jackson, the foundation maintains an impressive 150 kilometer trail system that meanders through 60 square miles of the White Mountain National Forest and across three river valleys. This expanse of varied and lovely terrain features breathtaking vistas of lakes, mountains, forests, meadows and even waterfalls.
Originally designed for cross-country skiing, the foundation began welcoming snowshoers in 2007 and now offers 45 kilometers of snowshoe-specific trails. From the village you can head across the road towards Mirror Lake and Eagle Mountain for challenging, hilly hikes. Easier routes can be found along the winding Ellis River behind the center, along with trailside amenities like the CoCo Café, a warming hut offering hot and cold beverages, local baked goods and a fire pit for roasting marshmallows. The center also provides guided tours with local naturalist and storyteller, Peter Minnich, who entertains guests with jokes, anecdotes and wisdom about the history and landscape of the area.
Taking notice of the rise of snowshoeing activity the foundation added snowshoe trails in 2012 to its international cross-country racing center, called “The Wave,” so that snowshoe spectators could become a part of the action during race events. Last season the foundation hosted its first snowshoe event on the premises, a 3k “fun run” relay race to benefit a local cancer charity. Although the inaugural event consisted of mostly local participants, Breanne Torrey, Executive Director, hopes to see more of a regional or tourist turnout for this years’ race on March 15.
Although the center itself doesn’t provide lodging, the foundation has partnerships with a wide variety of small hotels, inns, resorts, and bed & breakfasts throughout the town of Jackson, many of which are located within the system offering guests ski in/ski out access to the trail system. Many of these cozy, historic spots also have their own restaurants or taverns on site, and offer discounts on trail passes and equipment rentals. Torrey says it’s a great experience to trek from site to site, ducking in to warm up with a snack and a drink, while you’re out on the trails.
Basic snacks and supplies can be purchased at the center, which also offers lessons and rental services, but most people prefer to bring their own provisions or pop into one of the many delis, taverns and inns along the trail to thaw out and fuel up. Local spots such as the Shovel Handle Pub, one of Torrey’s personal favorites, serves up “Yankee style cuisine” such as fried haddock sandwiches and blackberry glazed ribs alongside frosty pints of local brews and live music.
With the combined efforts of local businesses and foundation members who work together to honor the 38,000+ acre system, the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation cultivates a unique sense of community and companionship that makes this center truly one of a kind.
- Pass Rates: $10 per day for snowshoers.
- Rental Equipment: $12; MSR snowshoes available. Backpacks available for $2 per day.
- Pet Policy: Pets allowed on designated trails at no additional charge.
- Lodging: None available on site.
- Dining: Snack bars and warming huts only.
- Tours/Events: “Tuesday Trekkers” social snowshoe group 1-3 p.m. Tuesdays starting Dec. 23. Snowshoe Nature Tours with an expert guide Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1-3 p.m. Full Moon dinner tours by reservation only, dates and times vary.