2001 Number 5 Resort in the East: Waterville Valley, N.H.

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Waterville Valley is building its future one family at a time. Management knows its market: It's wooing families aggressively with programs that emphasize value and fun, while also recognizing the different interests of age groups, both on-slope and off. The mountain addresses everyone: moderate terrain for cruisers, enough steeps and moguls to keep experts breathless and the Exhibition terrain park-with a halfpipe, timed boardercross course and its own lift. Although the base lodge is cramped, two on-mountain restaurants help spread out lunchtime crowds. What sets Waterville apart, however, is Town Center, its off-slope village. There's plenty to keep everyone occupied: a health club with a pool, tennis and weight rooms; an indoor ice-skating rink, cross-country skiing, showshoeing trails, sleigh rides and a handful of shops, bars and restaurants. Best of all, it's all within walking distance or a short shuttle ride of the resort's lodging, which means you can turn the kids loose in what one employee calls "the world's largest cul-de-sac," due to the resort's box-canyon location. Heeding skiers' requests for better value, Waterville is striving to offer guests more for their money. There are now interchangeable lift tickets and midweek passes with sister Booth Creek resorts Loon and Cranmore, including the tri-resort "Threedom" season pass, which one reader calls "the best value in the Northeast." Another reader applauds the resort's "aggressive management aimed at guest enjoyment," which may explain the new free one-hour clinics. "There's something for everyone," a reader says.

WHAT'S NEW An expanded Exhibition Park will offer a variety of on-snow activities, including tubing, snowblades and snowbikes. Activities are included with child's lift ticket, 9 am to noon.

A GOOD DEAL $15 valet parking is a blessing for families and others who don't want to deal with parking lot shuttles and crowds.

MEDALS GOLD Family Programs; SILVER Value, Lifts, Service, Accessibility, On-Mountain Food, Lodging, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities.

HIGH/LOW RANK Family Programs (9), Lodging (10), Accessibility (17); Snow (67), Terrain (73), Challenge (73).

DON'T MISS Take a snowcat up to a romantic, elegant five-course dinner at Schwendi Hutte.

READER REMARKS (+) "Excellent cruisers, some great fall lines." (-) "Overcrowded." "Not an abundance of challenging terrain."