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Home » PEOPLE AND PLACES in NH » NEW HAMPSHIRE (all topics) » Year-Round Adventure in the White Mountains
Horsefeathers anchors North Conway Village's Center
Year-Round Adventure in the White Mountains

North Conway, New Hampshire

By Rhiannon L. D’Angelo | May 13, 2011

New Englanders have been making the winding trek up Route 16 to enjoy the charms of Mount Washington Valley since the early twentieth century.

What started as a quiet ski town of winter sport enthusiasts, North Conway, New Hampshire has evolved into a year-round vacation destination for families, skiers, leaf peepers, and outlet shoppers. With mountains to ski and climb, lakes to swim and boat, and plenty of local watering holes and restaurants to keep your stomach busy—North Conway is unassuming, relatively affordable, and quintessential New England.

Epicenter of the Eastern Slope

The Eastern Slope Inn

In the summer of 1937, Conway native Harvey Dow Gibson purchased the Eastern Slope Inn and a large part of Mount Cranmore with the determination to make North Conway the epicenter of skiing in the Northeast. Gibson, a former financier in New York, soon saw his dream come to fruition. With the installation of a modern ski lift, the opening of the Eastern Slope Ski School and the hiring of renowned Austrian skier Hannes Schneider, North Conway was soon the booming ski center of Mount Washington Valley.

Today, the Eastern Slope Inn sits just as it always has—anchoring North Conway village. Even though the town’s main thoroughfare looks a little different than it did in the ’30s, you’ll still find dozens of shops, restaurants, and post-slope watering holes along the main drag.

Cranmore Mountain Resort remains a major ski destination in New England with access to over fifty trails. Though still a favorite place for fresh powder, Cranmore has evolved to offer more than your typical downhill skiing destination. Young children can develop confidence on the slopes at the new Arlberg Children’s Center and each summer, the resort boasts a new mountain coaster and giant tubing fun in the adventure park as well as a ropes course, zip lines, and air-bridges in the Aerial Adventure Park.

Tax Free Shop till you Drop

In the early nineties, tourists had one more reason to head to town—shopping. In the area formerly inhabited by White Mountain Airport, Settler’s Green Outlet Village took the town by storm. With the state’s tax-free status and more than thirty big name outlets, the complex became a tourist attraction in its own right.

Mighty Mount Washington

Long-time North Conway resident Mary Jane Hopkins says, “People had always come to town for the winter skiing, the fall leaf peeping, and to spend summers on our lakes and rivers, but the outlets filled the lull that would hit town from April to May and November to December.” Many hotels, specialty stores, and other factory outlets quickly followed Settler’s success opening in town shortly after.

Despite the arrival of big name chains like Starbucks, Home Depot, REI, and Applebee’s in town, a number of North Conway’s mainstays have managed to retain both their charm and customers. Horsefeathers is one of these, offering classic New England cuisine since 1976 at the base of Cranmore, across the street from North Conway’s scenic railroad. What keeps the customers coming back year after year and weekend after weekend? Public relations manager Aaron Kesmetis tells ONE, “We have some waitstaff that have been at Horsefeathers for over twenty years, along with customers that have been dining with us for that long. They appreciate seeing familiar faces.”

NoCo Nostalgia

You’d be hard pressed to find a home or business without a vintage poster hanging on the wall honoring North Conway’s ski history. Residents and true fans are proud to honor the town’s past in their activities. To benefit the New England Ski Museum, each year, Cranmore hosts the Hannes Schneider Meister Cup.   The weekend of ski racing and socializing encapsulates just what Gibson had in mind back in the thirties, when North Conway first became the epicenter of skiing in the Northeast. Seven decades later, it’s safe to say Gibson’s dream is a reality.

Check back soon for An Overnight in... North Conway, NH and get the inside scoop on where to sleep, nosh, imbibe, and shop.


North Conway lies on route 16 in east-central New Hampshire.


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