NORTH CONWAY — Fondly known as the sweetest day on the trails, the 25th annual Chocolate Festival will be hosted by Mount Washington Valley Ski Touring & Snowshoe Foundation on Sunday, Feb. 23.
Spectacular scenery and warm hospitality await chocolate lovers who cross country ski or snowshoe from the trail to inns to indulge in gourmet chocolate along a 45-kilometer trail network. People who prefer to drive to the stops can participate, and a shuttle bus is available. The inns and trailside businesses are open for the festival 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The chocolate treats are culinary works of art. In past years they have included such handmade delicacies as chocolate mocha mousse on bittersweet chocolate shells topped with raspberry sauce, chocolate-dipped pretzels with a variety of toppings and the ever-popular chocolate bark sprinkled with nuts and peanut butter chunks. Or how about chocolate fountains, brownie sundaes, chocolate cookies and fondue?
"I loved the tour. There were delicious chocolate treats at every stop. My favorite was the chocolate-covered pretzels," said Lynn Freedman of Reading, Mass.
Freedman and her boyfriend, Chuck Peabody, snowshoed from inn to inn with friends on skis.
"Chocolate and an excuse to be outside in the winter — what could be better," Peabody said.
The pair plan to repeat the festival this winter.
"This year we have recruited a few more friends to join us," Freedman said.
Barbara Sisson, marketing director for the Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring & Snowshoe Foundation, said conditions are perfect for the festival.
"We are approaching the event with much better trail conditions than we've had for the last few years, with more snow expected before the event," she said.
The 10 trailside stops are the 1785 Inn, Adventure Suites, Eastern Inns, The Local Grocer, Old Field House, Riverside Inn B&B, New England Inn, Stonehurst Manor, The Touring Center at Ragged Mountain Equipment and the Whitaker Woods Meeting House, offering chocolate treats provided by McKaella's Sweet Shop. Additional stops off the trails are Buttonwood Inn on Mt. Surprise, Briarcliff Motel and the Sugar Shack at 100 Acre Woods.
Tickets are $30 in advance online or at the Touring Center at Ragged Mountain Equipment or $35 the day of the event. That includes a trail pass, chocolate treats, festival map and use of the shuttle, plus a chance to win a $200 gift certificate.
The fundraiser helps provide free skiing to local students and grooming of trails with free access for North Conway residents. The Eastern Slope Ski Club and Kennett High School Nordic Team train and race at the facility.
For more information visit www.mwvskitouring.org/Chocolate-Festival.html