Waterville Valley, NH: A Quilter’s Paradise

“Some groups are more social,” says Sarah Salivonchik, the general manager of Waterville Valley’s Valley Inn. “Others bring an instructor and run classes to teach technique.”

She’s not talking about a ski clinic, a mountain biking class, or any other outdoor pursuit for which Waterville Valley is known. She’s explaining the Valley’s 20-year history of hosting quilters from across New England.

Turns out, Waterville Valley is a quilter’s paradise.

Of all the things quintessential about New England, quilts make the list somewhere near the top. They lend insight into history and for those creating them now, quilts give future generations stories to ponder, patterns to savor.

Take a stroll upstairs in the Valley Inn’s conference rooms on any off-season weekend and you’re bound to see one room filled with sewing machines, WISPs (quilt-speak for “works in slow progress”) and bolts of rainbow-hued cloth laid out with cryptic numbers and letters. Across the hall you’ll find sterilite tubs filled with fabrics arranged by size and color, threads in every imaginable size and length, needles, rulers, and nearly any other quilting supply you can think of.

It started, Salivonchik says, with a group of quilters that came up one weekend from Massachusetts. They booked a block of heavily discounted rooms in the off-season and asked the hotel if there was a way to accommodate about 15 quilters. All the Valley Inn had to do was provide the space--the guild brought all their materials and sold the trip as a getaway for a group of friends who’d been quilting together for awhile. Then they did it the following year. And the year after that. The rest is history.

The idea spread by word of mouth took hold among New England quilting guilds and groups of friends. Salivonchik says she began to build 3-4 day packages for quilters including lodging, food, a place to work, and some discounts in the Valley.

Claremont, NH-based Joy Worcester of Quilting of New England has run retreats in New England for 15 years. She’s come back to the Valley Inn for the past 11.  Why? “The people,” Worcester says. “I pick a venue that works well and understands the needs of quilters. I don’t pick big venues.”

Salivonchik, who has worked at other hotels in the Valley, agrees that venue is important. “It needs to feel homey and comfortable, warm and friendly. Feeling welcome is important,” she says.

It’s so important that Worcester has followed her to the Valley Inn. “I follow Sarah,” she says with a laugh. “She makes sure everyone feels welcome.”

Venue is so critical, explains Salivonchik, that if the space is wrong, quilters won’t come back. She currently hosts multiple groups of quilters who return year after year, booking the next year’s retreat at the end of the previous year’s.

While venue is important, timing is less so. In fact, most quilting groups and guilds that retreat to Waterville Valley take advantage of off-season rates--their work doesn’t depend on the weather. Salivonchik explains that “We can give them a discounted rate because they come in the off-season.”

For most groups, that’s a plus, as their rate covers lodging, food, workspace, and additional workshop costs from the host, if any. Some groups take a more structured, workshop and class-based approach to their retreats while others see the retreat as a casual opportunity to bond with others while doing something they love.

Salivonchik says that while some groups and guilds have been quilting and traveling to Waterville Valley together for years, other groups are virtual strangers who signed up for a quilting weekend.

Worcester, who hosted a retreat recently, had a small group of about 15 quilters. Some knew each other and some didn’t. She decided to run that retreat more as a series of classes. On other retreats she’s organized, groups of quilters with pre-existing friendships get together for four days of quilting fun, no classes or workshops.

Others, like internationally-known quilter David Taylor of Henniker, NH, focus on technique. He hosts a few retreats per year and usually does one in Waterville Valley. This year, it’s at the Silver Fox Inn, just across the street from the Valley Inn, where he’ll focus on pattern drawing, among other quilting skills. It’s worth noting that the Silver Fox also specializes in quilting groups, hosting over 30 groups per year.

The Silver Fox Inn also hosts myriad other artisan retreats, including those for scrapbooking and knitting. Those groups have similar needs as quilters and Salivonchik explains that the Silver Fox has positioned itself as an off-season destination for quilters, crafters, and other artists.

If you organize or are part of a quilting group or guild of 15-45 quilters and looking for a classic New England mountain retreat with all the comforts of home--and stunning views, a quaint Town Square, and plenty of opportunities to sip coffee or tea pondside surrounded by mountain peaks--contact Sarah Salivonchik at the Valley Inn or Conrad Oldenburg at the Silver Fox Inn.

What’s the best thing about quilting in Waterville Valley?

“All the great friendships that develop,” says Salivonchik. “They just keep coming back.”

Alyssa Walker writes, lives, works, and plays in Waterville Valley with her husband and two adorable children. Check out her website!

Of all the things quintessential about New England, quilts make the list somewhere near the top. They lend insight into history and for those creating them now, quilts give future generations stories to ponder, patterns to savor.