life in the Kearsarge area

what's happening in the Kearsarge/Lake Sunapee area of NH

Archive for snow

See New Hampshire from skis

Cross country skiing is one of the benefits of living in the Granite State. If there’s not a groomed trail nearby, you can always take a few spins in a neighboring field. You can ski before work; sometimes you can even ski to work. According to Ski New Hampshire, 147,259 people visited a ski area to cross country ski in 2013-14, and many more skied in their yards, at local parks, and on rail trails. Here are a few places you can’t miss.

Eastman Cross Country sees up to 6,000 skier visits a season, depending on how much of the white stuff falls. There are some challenging trails, so the center offers private or group lessons on weekends, and weekly clinics for season pass holders. It also offers a restaurant, skating pond and sledding hill. “You can get whatever you are looking for,” says Leslie Moses, activities director. “You can stay close to the lodge with trails on the golf course, or ski further out for a feeling of being out in the woods. You can work out for 45 minutes, or pack a lunch and ski all day.”

The Fells is a popular site for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. “Cross country skiers who enjoy breaking their own trails through woodlands and meadows can ski at The Fells seven days a week from dawn to dusk,” says Darlene Marshall, The Fell’s education director. As part of the Fells’ Trail-Walk Series, a guided cross country skiing tour is held in February, participants ski around the main house, with a nice view of Mount Sunapee, then follow guides through the gardens and woodland trails. The trails are ungroomed, but there are existing tracks from people who have already skied on the grounds.

Pine Hill Ski Club, established in 2005, maintains 13 miles of cross country trails in New London, Wilmot and North Sutton. There’s parking, a porta-potty, a first aid/information shelter, and Robb’s Hut open on Saturdays, but “it’s not a full blown resort,” says member John Schlosser. “We are giving people groomed and skiable trails. Because skiers have used these trails since 1976, you don’t need much snow to get going early in the ski season.”

Dexter’s Inn in Sunapee offers 20 kilometers of groomed trails for cross country skiing and 10 additional kilometers of ungroomed backcountry trails for back country skiing and snowshoeing. Owner John Augustine describes it as “classic old fashioned skiing. You can meander through woods and fields. The trails are not on a golf course or lake, so there are no super highways to ski. Some are flat, some are hilly.” Although you feel like you’re out in the wild, don’t be fooled. Norsk pays quite a bit of attention to the Dexter’s Inn Trails; they are groomed daily to provide a variety of terrain for novices, intermediates and advanced skiers.

The Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway Coalition knows that hiking trails also make good cross country trails. “SKRG has 75 miles of trails,” says Andy Hager, a New London resident. “Not all of it is suitable for cross country skiing in the winter, but there are no restrictions and it’s free.”

Over the river and through the woods

A two-dog welcoming committee greets visitors to Ragged View Farm in Andover, N.H. Gwen and Scout wag their tails, run in wide loops and come close for a friendly pat to the head before they sprint off into the snow again. They know what’s coming up: a sleigh ride around the 18-acre farm.

As soon as there’s enough snow on the ground, Mark Cowdrey and Lea Ayers LaFave offer hay-filled sleigh rides on weekends to friends, families and visitors to the area. Two chestnut Suffolk horses are hooked up to a red, wooden sleigh filled with hay and woolen blankets. Eight people can pile into the sleigh for a 40-minute tour of the farm.

Cowdrey handles the sleigh — the original snow machine — and the horses, Misty and Woodrow, well. “Gee. Good girl. Behave. Good team,” he says to the horses. The snow is deep and crusty, and a few of the turns on the trail are tight, but Misty and Woodrow are doing everything Cowdrey asks of them. Without turning in his seat, he explains over his shoulder to the passengers that there are several interconnecting trails on the property, forming various loops around the farm. “I’m taking the horses on a different route. They think they know the trail better than I do.” Once out of the trees, there’s a broad expanse with sparkling, snowy views to the right and left.

Cowdrey and LaFave bought Ragged View Farm in 1999 and have fixed up the house, built a barn and added a garden. The farm has expanded from a small garden and one pig to a larger garden with garlic for sale, four horses, a sow with two litters of pigs a year, and sugaring taps for maple syrup. On a typical sleigh ride, folks can see every part of the farm, including a view of Ragged Mountain to the north.

“It’s a good way to get people out to a farm and see horses, pigs and chickens — animals they may not see in their everyday life,” says Cowdrey. “People are interested in agriculture. If I drive the horses down the road, everyone slows down, stops and waves. I like to promote the idea of local agriculture when I can.”

Cowdrey worked at a farm a couple summers when he was a teenager, and although he didn’t work directly with the horses he “got bit by the bug.” In the mid-1990s Cowdrey took a workshop at horse-powered, family-operated Fair Winds Farm in Brattleboro, Vt., and later, when he had the space at the farm, he bought his first horse. “It was a realization of something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” he says.

Cowdrey’s day job is an architectural draftsman in New London, but since 2005 he’s been giving sleigh rides to friends on the weekends. In 2006, it didn’t snow until March (not a good sleigh ride season), but in 2007 there was so much snow by March that it was too deep for Misty and Woodrow to pull a sleigh. “It is ironic when I have to say, ‘No, I have too much snow,’” Cowdrey says. “But if there’s a good amount of snow on the ground, I’ll probably be giving rides.”

Learn more at