New trails at Bretton Woods mean only one thing to Boston skiers: Take Friday off. Stepping inside the Mount Washington Hotel's massive turn-of-the-century lobby, it's difficult to know where to look first: Tiffany-glass transoms, cast-plaster moldings, solid-brass fixtures, ornate Corinthian capitals. In front of the enormous fireplace, skiers relax after a day on the slopes of New Hampshire's Bretton Woods Mountain Resort, kicking back on timeworn antique furniture. A stately grandfather clock marks the time nearby.
There are precious few places in ski country that value historic beauty over modern convenience. Such is the Mount Washington, a stunning example of Renaissance Revival architecture sandwiched between Bretton Woods and the southeastern flanks of snow-smothered Mt. Washington. Though the mountain and hotel share the same owners, the hotel only began counting skiers among its guests in 1999, when it opened for its very first winter season. (The hotel was built in 1902 as a summer retreat for wealthy railroad magnates.) For the past five years, Bretton Woods has attracted skiers from Boston to as far south as Philadelphia to savor the hotel's classic ambience and the resort's genial terrain. But this season, the mountain shakes things up with five new trails off the recently installed Rosebrook Summit quad, including three black-diamonds that put some bite into a mountain traditionally lauded more for its immaculate grooming than its challenging terrain. One of the trails, Bode's Run, takes its name from New Hampshire native Bode Miller, who honed his GS skills in these parts and now holds the honorary title of director of skiing at Bretton Woods. Diving down a run inspired-and partly designed-by one of the world's best skiers? What a way to spend a weekend.
Isn't that what you came here to get out of? The anchor of the ski resort and a five-minute walk from Bretton's base, the Mount Washington Hotel is the town. Often likened to a cruise ship moored amid a stunning mountain landscape, this "town" has no streets to stroll or shops to pop into, unless you count those on the lower deck of the hotel. In truth, the Mount Washington is so immense it feels like a village, and a walk on the veranda will more than stretch your legs.
Where to Stay
>The Mount Washington Hotel One of the last grand hotels in the White Mountains, the Mount Washington is a throwback to the palatial summer retreats of the early 20th century. By design, most of the guest rooms aren't lavish, though you will not want for opulence. The common spaces are uncommonly beautiful, enriched by the labors of imported Old World artisans and builders. Guests can tour the Gold Room, where a 1944 conference of global dignitaries established the gold standard for the U.S. dollar, or take in a lecture in the formal Conservatory. The hotel boasts indoor and outdoor pools and jacuzzis, a massage center, two restaurants and five lounges-several with live music. $260-$1,400 per room, per night, including breakfast and dinner; 800-314-1752; mtwashington.com
>The Bretton Arms Country Inn This graceful manse of a gentleman's farm began life on the grounds of what would become the Mount Washington. When the gentleman quit his farm (angered by rampant hotel development, perhaps?), his home was converted to sleeping quarters for the chauffeurs of hotel guests. In 1907, it opened to the public. Now it's a 34-room B&B-style inn with spacious rooms that retain much of their historic character. A free shuttle runs up to the Mount Washington, where Bretton Arms guests have use of the facilities. $65-$99 per room, per night, including breakfast; 800-314-1752; mtwashington.com/resortlodging/brettonarms.cfm
>The Lodge at Bretton Woods Know that this used to be called a "motor lodge," and you get the picture: conventional 1950s motel architecture, great for families. And each room has either a balcony or patio with stunning views of the big hotel and Mt. Washington. $99-$199 per rooom, per night, including continental breakfast; 800-314-1752; mtwashington/resortlodging/motorinn.cfm
Where to Eat
>The Hotel Dining Room This may be the signature experience of a stay at the Mount Washington. The octagonal formal dining room is immense, with enormous windows facing the mountain. Guests are appropriately attired (jackets required for men), the wait staff is polished and proper, a 300-bottle Wine Spectator-award-winning wine list accompanies new takes on culinary classics (grilled lobster with gingered beets), and the in-house four-piece ensemble makes it all swing to jazz standards. Reservations: 603-278-1000
>The Bretton Arms Dining Room Elegant, though less grand and formal than the hotel dining room, the Bretton Arms is still a superior culinary endeavor. The chef, after all, has the advantage of not having to cook for 700 people. Expect gourmet entrees served by candlelight in front of a blazing fireplace. Reservations: 603-278-1000
>The Notchland Inn If you want to escape from campus, the highly touted Notchland Inn is 12 miles away. Chef Sandy Reinschmidt's culinary creations are worthy of their setting, an 1862 granite Tudor mansion with views across the valley to Crawford and Hope peaks. The five-course menu changes daily, focusing on seasonal ingredients and local preparations. One seating nightly, 7 p.m.; closed Mon-Tues; 800-866-6131; notchland.com
Where to Play
>Mount Washington Cog Railway Chug your way up Mt. Washington aboard the Cog Railway, a New Hampshire icon owned by the resort. Take a scenic ride, eat in the dining car or, for the first time in its 135-year history, ride the Little Engine That Could to a landing just below the summit for a 1,100-vertical-foot run on a groomed slope beside the tracks. $25-$59; 800-922-8825
>The Cave This dimly lit Prohibition-era speakeasy is inside the Mount Washington Hotel. There's live, cabaret-style music nightly.
>The Pub A popular après-ski joint at the base of the mountain, The Pub is part of Bretton Woods' newly renovated post-and-beam base lodge. Gather here for a brew after last run. 603-278-3320