When the air becomes crisp and the snow starts to fall, New Englanders know it is time to zip up the down jacket and head outside for some cold-weather cavorting. And the North Shore is full of places to skate, glide, slide, and romp. So when the winter wonderland arrives but you want to do more than walk, check out these adventurous options.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing
Snowfall transforms winter forests into enchanted landscapes. And what better way to explore than strapping on a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis for a wintry wander? In Gloucester’s Ravenswood Park, several paths meander the 600-acre coastal forest; Lynn Woods Reservation offers 30 miles of trails. At Danvers’ Endicott Park, visitors can enjoy trails that wind through meadows, around active barns (and their adorable occupants), and historical buildings. Looking for additional options in your town? Visit the website of the Essex County Trail Association for a list of trails in Essex, Hamilton, Ipswich, Newbury, Topsfield, and Wenham.
Downhill skiing and snowboarding
There’s no need to make the long haul to New Hampshire or Vermont when you want to hit the slopes. At Bradford Ski Area in Haverhill, 15 trails cater to skiers from the novice to the seasoned veteran. Lessons are available and a terrain park allows freestyle skiers and riders to practice their moves. A little bit to the west, Westford’s Nashoba Valley offers 17 trails and 240 feet of vertical drop, along with a challenging terrain park. The ski area’s lesson program includes special packages for school vacations. After your last run of the day, pop into the Outlook Restaurant for scenic views and warming comfort food.
Whether you are perfecting your triple lutz, practicing your puck-handling skills, or just trying to stay upright, ice skating is perhaps the most traditional winter activity. If you are interested in old-fashioned outdoor skating, first remember to be safe: Ice should be frozen at least six inches thick, and you should always skate with a buddy. Then check out local favorites like Niles Pond in Gloucester, Clark Pond in Ipswich, or Pine Island Pond in Newbury.
To guarantee ice—as well as skate rentals and hot chocolate—look for public skate times at an indoor rink. “Lahey Health is proud to be sponsoring the rink at MarketStreet,” says Paul Joyal, director of marketing for Lahey Health. “This is a great family destination, and we are excited to be a part of bringing it to the residents of the North Shore.”
“This is the RINK’s fourth season at MarketStreet Lynnfield,” says general manager of MarketStreet Nanci Horn. “We’re open daily through February.”
For sheer exhilaration, you can’t beat careening down a snow-covered hill atop a plastic sled. For high-speed thrills, try Ward Reservation in Andover and North Andover, where sledders can plunge from the top of 420-foot Holt Hill, the highest point in Essex County. For long glides, head to Wheatland Hill in Topsfield, but be prepared for crowds at the popular spot. Sledding with smaller kids? Visit the gentler slopes at the Crane Estate in Ipswich or Mack Park in Salem.
Think of tubing as super-charged sledding, complete with lifts to eliminate that pesky trudging uphill and groomed snow for maximum speed—and fun.
The Nashoba Valley Ski Area offers 18 tubing lanes in addition to its ski facilities. In Amesbury, New England Sports Park is dedicated to tubing, with admission sold in all-you-can-tube three-hour blocks. Theme nights add fun to evening sliding. The sports park claims its hills are the steepest and fastest in New England—and there’s only one way to find out if they’re right.
Nashoba Valley Ski
New England Sports Park