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Chocolate fundraiser is sweet success

INTERVALE - Seasonable weather and light snowfall made for relaxed touring on the trails of the Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring & Snowshoe Center for the 24th annual Chocolate Festival on Sunday.

According to Ragged Mountain Equipment co-owner Rob Nadler, online ticket reservations were up from last year's 925. "It's been unbelievable," Nadler said. "People are really happy and everybody's raving about trail conditions."

"Oh my gosh, it's phenomenal," Ragged employee Patti Lord said. "I don't think the snow deterred anybody."

The event is a fundraiser for the MWV Ski Touring and Snowshoe Foundation, a 27-year-old nonprofit that established and now maintains a network of over 45 kilometers of trails. Nadler's business partner, Cort Hansen, is president of the foundation.

The network, which include trails in the town-owned Whitaker Woods and scenic runs along the Saco River floodplain, link several inns and ski-related services. It's those establishments that hosted the trailside stops at which chocolate goodies - from the more-traditional brownies and hot fudge sundaes to pretzel rods dipped in chocolate - were there for the tasting.

And that tasting was good.

"This is a favorite stop," Kristen Waddell of Gorham said at the Riverside Inn Bed & Breakfast on Route 16A in Intervale. Accompanying Waddell was Ellie Ferguson of Haverhill, who agreed with her friend's assessment.

"We skied and now we're driving," Waddell added. The duo had glided through Whitaker Woods, and also had skied down to the Saco floodplain on the 1785 Trail.

Andy and Lisa Mykyta of Reading, Mass., have been coming up for the festival for 10 years, but it was the first year for the passenger in the carrier on Andy's back. Inside at Ragged, 4-month-old Zorian was wide-eyed after taking a lunch break, though his mother predicted he would be asleep before too long.

Asked when his son would be on skis, Andy Mykyta replied, "As soon as he can walk."

"We keep coming back every year," Lisa Mykyta said. "It's fun."

The cost of a chocolate passport was $35 and included a trail pass. There were 10 trailside stops offering chocolate, with four businesses not on the network offering chocolate, too. The foundation provided shuttle service through NorthEast Charter & Tour.

"This is something that benefits the whole valley. We do appreciate the businesses that cooperate with us," Lord said.


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