By Everett Potter
1. The Omni Mount Washington Resort
The sprawling grand dame from 1902 is surrounded by trees and meadows, with the bulk of its namesake mountain rising behind it. This massive wooden structure with wide porches has a vast welcoming hallway festooned with antlers and comfortable chairs surrounding a roaring fire. There’s an elegant dining room as well as a great bar, the Cave, a Prohibition-era speakeasy. The Spa is a 25,000 square foot space with a great range of treatments. Surrounding the hotel are 100 kilometers of cross country trails. But my favorite amenity is the Dining Room at Bretton Arms, a separate building that’s a short stroll (even in winter) from the main hotel. It’s hands down the best fine dining in the Valley.Visit the Omni Mount Washington Resort.
Mount Washington, which looks like a series of icy domes glittering in the sun, lies directly across the road from Bretton Woods. The largest peak in the Northeast at 6,289 feet, its significance is two-fold. It is in large part responsible for the intense micro climate of the valley – it held the record for the worlds highest wind speed, 232 miles per hour,until 2010. It may not be tall by Western standards, but it grabs every bit of moisture blown out of nearby Canada and deposits it here.. But Mt Washington is more than the driver of a weather system. It’s totemic, and unqiue. It’s too rounded to be Alpine, and it’s not like the Rockies or the Tetons. I prefer to think of it as the wild New England of Thoreau personified. By the way, you don’t actually ski Mount Washington unless you’re bold enough to attempt Tuckerman Ravine in the spring. Instead, you gaze at it all day long from Bretton Woods. That’s enough for most of us.
See above. Mount Washington not only snags passing clouds but seems to generate snowfall aplenty. Many’s the time I’ve skied here in a swirling snowstorm and left to find it bone dry 10 or 15 miles away. At a time when winters seem less reliable than ever, there’s a good bet that there will be snow on the trails at Bretton Woods this winter and for winters to come.
4. The Mountain
Bretton Woods is New Hampshire’s largest ski mountain and I’ve always been impressed by the grooming, vast carpets of corduroy that are great for an early morning run. While these boulevards are fine, I like the almost hidden narrow trails that snake down the mountain, trails that only the locals really seek out, especially during busy holiday periods. Kids ski school is also a winner, well organized even on a busy weekend. The mountain is expanding this season, part of a $70 million dollar expansion plan. The new Mount Stickney area, which will have 30 acres of gladed skiing, is a throwback to New England skiing as it was decades ago. The new T bar that serves it will also be a throwback, though anyone who skis Europe will recognize the efficiency of these retro lifts. To sweeten the deal, they’ve built a new log cabin at the top of the lift, giving you a fine place to warm up and an outdoor fireplace to huddle around when those winds blow off Mount Washington.
Bretton Woods is one of the most family-focused ski resorts I’ve ever visited. I’ve experienced it firsthand, since visiting Bretton Woods has always been about staying with my brother and his family, who have spent every winter weekend here for more than a decade. There’s no nightlife here to speak of, unless you count cocktails at the Mount Washington Hotel followed by dinner. Instead, there’s a lot of condo and townshouse hopping between families. Everyone meets up throughout the day at the base lodge, which seems to function as an extension of their living rooms. The hotel is a bit different, and yes, there are plenty of vacationing couples. But even here, its families with kids who make up a large share of the guests. The emphasis on family gives Bretton Woods a laid back vibe – this is not a place for scenemakers — and it gets my vote for the best family ski experience in the Northeast.