The Bretton Arms Country Inn Bretton Woods, N.H.
(Near Bretton Woods, Cannon Mountain, Attitash)
The monstrous and formal Mt. Washington Hotel can be intimidating. It's nice to wander through its showy and historic public rooms and admire its beauty and the natural beauty that surrounds it, but nearby on the same grounds is a more intimate, less-expensive alternative. The 34-room Bretton Arms, a National Historic Landmark, was built in 1896 and first opened to guests in 1907, a few years after the 200-room Mt. Washington was constructed.
Today's guests find rooms spacious enough to hold a family's worth of ski gear without tripping over it and a welcome emphasis on comfort over formal elegance. The Arms is also home to the resort's best-kept secret: its restaurant, where hearty breakfasts (included in the rates; $109-$249 per night) and elegant four-course dinners are served. And in keeping with the resort's family emphasis, children are welcomed-with a menu of their own and a staff that appreciates rather than disdains them. Free shuttles provide transportation to the ski area, health club and other restaurants at the 2,600-acre resort. Best of all, guests of the Bretton Arms have full use of all these facilities, which means you can experience the Mt. Washington Hotel without paying the price. -Hilary Nangle
Information: 800-258-0330, 603-278-1000; www.brettonarms.com.
The Black Bear Inn
Bolton Valley, Vt.
(Slopeside at Bolton Valley Resort)
Here in the East, there just aren't enough places like the Black Bear Inn. Or virtually none at all, if you credit innkeeper Ken Richardson's claim that his is the only ski-in/ski-out B&B in New England. But no matter how you qualify it, the Black Bear is special. Perched atop the winding access road to Bolton Valley Resort (see Little Gem, page 24E), the lodge has the cavernous comfort that the name implies, and the teddy bear warmth that Richardson and his basset hound, Oscar, provide. Nurse a drink by the fireplace in the Bear's central lounge, or hibernate peacefully under a patchwork quilt beside your own wood-burning stove in one of 24 cozy rooms ($105-$180 with breakfast; $155-$230 with dinner; best room: The Superior). A number of rooms can be connected to create dens perfect for families. But the Black Bear is best for couples who are gun-shy of resort nightlife, or those ready to attack a tasty tenderloin with the same relish they reserve for chewing the powder at their doorstep. Even if you don't book a room for the night, the Bear's worthy dining room is open to the public. -David Healy
Information: The Black Bear Inn, Bolton Valley, Vt.; 800-395-6335; www.blkbearinn.com.
The Forest Inn
(Near Attitash Bear Peak, Black Mountain, Mt. Cranmore, Wildcat)
This cozy B&B was New Hampshire's original Holiday Inn. Built in the early 1800s, it began welcoming guests in 1890 as The Forest Inn, but changed its name in 1946 to Holiday Inn, reflecting the popularity of the Bing Crosby movie White Christmas. It was changed back in the Eighties after a David-vs.-Goliath battle with the national hotel chain of the same name.
In any event, its current name more accurately reflects the inn's edge-of-the-woods setting, where you can cross-country ski or snowshoe right out the back door. Inside, soft floral wallpapers, lace curtains and a mix of antiques, ranging from brass beds to sleigh beds, lend Victorian charm without stuffiness. Rooms range from $80 to $140 per night. Relax with a mug of cocoa and a piece of homemade banana bread by the wood stove on the winterized porch or in one of two parlors. If you must watch TV, there's a tiny one in a room that doubles as library. The adjacent Stone Cottage, built at the turn of the (last) century of small stones from nearby streams, once served as the law office of one of the first female attorneys in New Hampshire. It now contains two guestroomss: Ask for the one with the working fireplace. -H.N.
Information: 603-356-9772; www.forest-inn.com.
Quebec City, Que.
(Near Mt. Ste. Anne, Le Massif)
What a find: Quaint yet edgy, convenient yet private. This small inn in Quebec's Old Port section is across from the St. Lawrence and adjacent to the Musée de la Civilization. It's a five-minute walk from the Quartier de Champlain and the funicular that takes passengers to the upper section of the old city. No two rooms are alike, but all are spacious-at least two to three times the size of similarly priced rooms we've had at the nearby Frontenac. Many have whirlpool tubs for two, private terraces and river views. The lobby, located in an 1892 warehouse with three-foot-thick stone walls, invites lingering by the fire or sinking into one of the oversized chairs or Victorian couches and indulging in a cappuccino, sipping wine or savoring a snack-all available 24 hours a day. Breakfast is an elaborate Continental affair with fresh breads, croissants and muffins, as well as an assortment of cheeses and creton, a meat spread, and locally made jams. For a real kick, try the ultra-modern James Bond Suite, with separate living room and kitchenette, a complete set of Bond flicks on video and a bathroom befitting the super agent. It's decorated in black and gold with a large whirlpool tub and a massage shower with all sorts of alternative water sprays. Ski packages are available, ranging from $150 to $425 (U.S.) for one- to four nights' lodging with breakfast, parking and one- to three-day lift tickets at Mt. Ste. Anne, Stoneham or Le Massif. -H.N.
Information: 418-692-2211; www.saint-antoine.com.