The nature of small town life

On May 29, 2010, in Uncategorized, by admin

I will admit to a sentimental fondness for the Michael J. Fox movie “Doc Hollywood”, which portrays small-town life in a quirky, slanted, but entirely loving and romantic light.   I will also admit that, before moving to Waterville Valley full-time, I – like Doc Hollywood upon his arrival in the Big City — routinely called the snow-phone line on my commute just to listen to conditions on days when I couldn’t possibly ski, and I would hit reload on the webcam picture overlooking the courtyard during the day, just to watch the light change and catch a glimpse of instructor line-up or a grooming cat rumbling by.  I’m obsessed, so sue me.

When we pulled up stakes four years ago from Boston’s South Shore and moved to Waterville, we did so on a veritable wing-and-a-prayer.  We literally knew no one in town, only a few smile-and-nod relationships in the lift line or at the Coffee Emporium on an early Sunday morning.  I said to my wife Nancy before we moved, “Look, no one is born there, I can’t imagine that it’s not populated by people just like us.”   I was right, in ways that I could never have foreseen but which I appreciate anew just about every day.

The truth of Waterville Valley is, very few people end up here by accident.  We’re the town at the end of the road, and if you drive here more than once, you meant to.  You’re driven by a love of the mountains, of skiing on powder days and days when your breath freezes as it leaves your mouth and even days when your knees ache from the vibration of edging over corrugated frozen granular.  You can’t wait to break out above treeline on Welch Mountain or Osceola or the Scaur, to soak in the panorama and the majesty of the wilderness around you.  You’re fascinated by walking the dog on a clear night and seeing stars you simply couldn’t imagine back home in the western suburbs of Boston.  You’re willing to accept a few itching, bleeding welts from black fly bites as an acceptable trade-off for an afternoon playing with your friends.  For whatever reason, whether destiny or magnetic fields or happenstance, you love the place, surrounded by wildness and rugged beauty, but welcoming, too.

Today, we had a quarterly Waterville Valley board of directors meeting.  I looked around the table at a circle of people who, like me, have chosen to make Waterville Valley their home (some full time, and some on weekends, but it is home none the less), and I was simply awed by their passion, concern, and caring for the place, and for the responsibility invested in them each year by our donors and supporters.  I want to reassure you, our supporters, that your trust is well founded and in good hands – that the board of directors of the Waterville Valley Foundation truly does understand what makes the Valley unique, and seeks to foster that with every decision we make.


A modest proposal for the summer…

On May 26, 2010, in Uncategorized, by admin

For my family, Sunday afternoons were always the hardest part of weekending in Waterville Valley.  Before we moved to the Valley full-time four years ago, we found ourselves dreading the Sunday night drive home – the combination of leaving the place we really wanted to be, and the long drive home to unpack in the dark was just too much to bear. We found ourselves stretching the limits just about every week, staying through dinner, eventually testing the boundaries by leaving early on Monday mornings for the long commute back to Boston (where my wife dropped me at the office) and the South Shore (where she dropped the kids at school).  So would begin another week, a little harried but a little better, too, for having spent another night in the calm and quiet of the White Mountains.   Sunday nights were the gift we gave ourselves, and these “stretch” stays afforded us a little more time to be with the kids, to be together as a family.  Both our kids’ first no-training-wheels rides occurred late on Sunday afternoons, and we have great memories of just sitting around the small table in our Black Bear condo, music on, a simple dinner of pasta and salad, having a chance to talk without feeling any pressure to hurry.

In the last few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a flexible work schedule that allowed me to work from home on occasion.  This has taught me that there really is a better way – working remotely on Friday or Monday has a lot of advantages – to you, your family and your employer – assuming you have some flexibility, plan ahead carefully, and are certain to fulfill your obligations (so you get to do it again!).  By shifting your north-bound or home-bound commute a day, you buy back an extra evening in a place you love, and you also avoid the worst of the travel rat-race with a reverse-commute at least one direction.

With that thought, here’s my modest proposal for this summer:  test the waters by working remotely from the Valley a few Mondays – you might be pleasantly surprised that getting out of the office actually frees you up to do some thinking and concentrate on tasks that require you to focus. You will also get your Sunday nights back to enjoy in the mountains, you’ll delay the shock of re-entry by a day, and, if you’re lucky enough to be coming back to the mountains for the coming weekend – you will be that much closer to getting away again.

Many office-based professionals can very effectively do their jobs remotely, given a laptop computer, an internet connection, and a reliable telephone line (sorry – this doesn’t necessarily work as well for medical professionals or people whose jobs absolutely require face-time.  Yet anyway.)  Here are a few tips to ensure the success of your plan:

Get your technology ducks in a row…

  • Many employers provide web-based access to corporate email; ask your IT department and request directions or support in setting up your access.
  • Check to see if you have available and qualify for a higher-level of remote network access (often it’s available with a security token or digital certification) – with advanced access, you can connect to your office network just as if you were at your desk.
  • Explore remote meeting software options at your firm – you may be able to dial in, share screens, and more during meetings.
  • Check to see if it’s possible to forward your desk phone to your cell phone.  Many enterprise phone systems have sophisticated call-forwarding support.
  • Many of the lodges and hotels in Waterville Valley offer free wireless access, and SkiSat and Fairpoint both have reliable high-speed access options for condos and private homes.
  • Work out the kinks of your access to all the things you need to do your job before you try to work remotely for a full day.

Plan your work

  • Be sure to pack any paperwork you need and to copy all computer files you’ll need for your remote work before you leave the office.
  • Try to set aside “thinking tasks” – writing reports, reviewing employees, creating long-term plans – for remote work days.  You’ll probably find that you benefit greatly from the quiet and periods without interruption.
  • If you can, minimize meetings for your remote work day.
  • If you do need to dial into meetings, be sure you’re in a quiet place free from interruptions from kids and pets (or mowers and the sound of swinging golf-clubs – all bad for credibility).

Don’t underestimate the importance of “visibility”…

  • Make sure you’re truly available during your scheduled working hours
  • Answer your phone, respond to voicemail and email messages promptly, keep a presence on instant messaging if your firm uses it – you should try to be more available when you’re working remotely than you would be in your office.
  • Depending on your corporate culture, some people are going to assume “working remotely” means “not working”.  Prove them wrong.

Make the most of your extra time

  • Pack the ingredients for a simple meal or picnic before you leave home – or enjoy dinner at the Coyote Grill or Diamond’s Edge without having to worry about a wait.
  • Plan a late-afternoon activity for Sunday…  a hike to Goodrich Rock, or a mountain bike ride out the Livermore Road, nine holes at the Waterville Valley Golf Club, or a few sets at the Tennis Center.  Relax into it, knowing you have a whole night to enjoy.
  • Get up early on Monday morning and take a walk.  Grab a cup of coffee in Town Square and watch the swallows skimming over the still water of Corcoran’s Pond.  Read the newspaper.  Remember that right about now, you’d be rushing for the door and a ride on the commuter train or an hour in bumper-to-bumper Monday morning traffic.
  • If you’re feeling ambitious, go for an early road or mountain bike ride before the heat of the day sets in.
  • Do your best work, taking advantage of the lack of interruptions, then pack up and head south at the end of the day, knowing that you’ve put Monday behind you.

If your family is like mine, Waterville Valley is a very special place, and you treasure your time here.  Why not explore your options for extending your visits?


While we’re on the subject of summer fun…

Consider saving the date for The Waterville Valley Foundation’s “Memories in the Mountains” community gathering on Saturday, July 24th at 6pm.  Held under the tent at the Waterville Valley Conference Center, it promises to be a great evening out with old friends and new — a barbeque buffet dinner and dancing to the Wicked Smart Horn Band.  Tickets are $50 per person, and proceeds will benefit a planned memorial to local soldier Marc Paul Decoteau to be placed at the Waterville Valley Elementary School.

Tickets are available by mail (make your check payable to the Waterville Valley Foundation, PO Box 464, Waterville Valley, NH 03215), during select hours from the Waterville Valley Resort Concierge Desk in Town Square, and, starting in June, through the Waterville Valley Recreation Department at their summer home at the Waterville Valley Academy.

For more information, drop us a note at


An afternoon walk to Goodrich Rock

On May 18, 2010, in Uncategorized, by admin

I was lucky enough to have a couple hours free on Saturday afternoon, but sadly, all the Usual Suspects I’d call to go play weren’t around.   I pulled out my Waterville Valley Athletic Improvement Association (WVAIA) hiking map and pored over it, looking for a short hike I hadn’t done before;  Goodrich Rock Trail looked like a good candidate — short, easily accessible, and moderately challenging.  I threw my hiking kit into my backpack and drove out to Livermore trailhead, enjoying a chance encounter with a handsome red fox on West Branch Road on my way.  I rolled down my window and talked quietly to him as he sat calmly on the side of the road.  He seemed to listen politely and consider my words, then he stood up and sauntered away across the bridge.

Friendly fox on West Branch Road

From the Livermore trailhead, I walked out the Livermore Road to the Greeley Ponds trail and along the stony track for a little over a mile to where the Goodrich Rock trail diverges left and up the ridge.  As usual, the Road and trail were both well maintained and clear of blowdowns — in spite of the rough winter we had — thanks to the Forest Service and WVAIA crews.  I am a regular visitor to the Greeley Ponds Trail, on foot and on my bike, and there is much to say for the charms of this lovely woods-walk.

The Goodrich Rock Trail, though, adds a new dimension.  The trail, as local guide and hiker Dan Newton (now the president of the WVAIA) so eloquently puts it in the description on the WVAIA map, “…winds creatively through a field of large boulders.”  Creatively indeed… the early hikers who laid out this track had both a sense of humor and a sense of delight, steering through the narrow cleft of a huge fractured glacial erratic, then under and over a dozen other obstacles.  After a brief, steep climb, the trail rises and falls along the ridgeline until it reaches the base of the impressively large Goodrich Rock.  You wind around the back of this huge boulder and clamber up a log ladder to find stunning 180 degree views of the valley, including a unique view of the ski area itself.

Image of mountaintop view

View from the top of Goodrich Rock, looking toward Waterville Valley Ski Area

If you love Waterville Valley, this is a perspective not to be missed.  Take the kids or some friends for a walk some weekend soon, and check on the Goodrich Rock Trail.  Hike from Livermore trailhead is just over four miles round-trip, and took me just about two hours to complete.  The trail itself is not too strenuous, and rewards with both a interesting journey and a great view from the top. Thanks again to the WVAIA for all their hard work, maintaining the treasure of our ancient and excellent trail network!