GREAT ESCAPES

Rooms with a view – of beauty and history


THE MOUNT WASHINGTON HOTEL.

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 12:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 12:14 p.m.

Even before you turn up the long, winding driveway, a sense of awe sets in. There it sits, majestically nestled into the mountains, its white towers topped with red Ė the grand Mount Washington Hotel, sentinel of the Presidential Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

To visit this historic hotel is special any time of the year. But to behold its beauty in the winter months when a sugary coating of snow adds to the ambience is truly a treat. You donít have to be a skier to enjoy a night or two here. Thereís something for everyone, indoors and out.

The Edwardian atmosphere is courtesy of some 250 Italian craftsmen who toiled over the masonry and woodwork when the hotel was built in 1900. (It actually wasnít completed until 1902.) Hardwood floors, Tiffany stained glass and plaster friezes add to the opulence of the hotel. Notables such as Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth and Alfred Hitchcock have all slept here.

Inside the hotel, built in the Spanish Renaissance style, you canít help but marvel at the enormity of it all. A large fireplace in the elegant lobby welcomes guests upon their arrival. Directly off the lobby is the conservatory where you can sit, enjoy the view, read a book, drink mulled cider or sip a cocktail. The Rosebrook Lounge, behind the grand staircase in the lobby, also offers a spectacular view of the mountains. Two other rooms of note here: One is the Gold Room, where in 1944 the first World Monetary Conference was held, setting the gold standard at $35 an ounce and establishing the World Bank. The other is a ballroom that still plays host to lavish, formal balls reminiscent of yesteryear.

On the lower level youíll find the Cave, a Prohibition-era speakeasy built with stone walls, along with a world-class spa and the indoor-outdoor swimming pool.

And speaking of outdoors, thereís plenty to do. Guests can ski (both downhill and cross country), ice skate, snowshoe, ride snowmobiles or take a sleigh ride without even leaving the premises.

Also on the property is the Bretton Arms Country Inn, which offers a smaller and more intimate experience. The inn, built in 1896, is a National Historic Landmark, and has its own fireside dining room and lounge. It has 34 rooms and suites. Across the street is yet another choice, the Lodge at Bretton Woods. It has 50 guest rooms, each with a private patio or balcony overlooking the mountain range.

The Mount Washington Hotel has 200 rooms and suites and accommodates up to 500 people. It offers the modified American plan, so breakfast and dinner are included in the price of the room. Meals are served in the formal dining room, and men are required to wear jackets in the evening.

One of the hotelís most notable changes came in 1991, when a group of New Hampshire businessmen bought it and the surrounding properties. The resort now includes two golf courses and Bretton Woods, the stateís largest ski area. Bode Miller, former Olympian, serves as the director of skiing at Bretton Woods.

The hotel actually didnít open for the winter until 1999, and the recent expansion of Bretton Woods, with its 101 trails and glades, has been a big draw for skiers.

Last year, the ski area broke a new record for the longest ski season in the state. It was open from Nov. 9 to May 4, or 177 days. Also last year, skiers, snowboarders and just plain snow fans had the opportunity to chug up Mount Washington in a 135-year-old steam-powered railway for the first time during the winter months. Those who wanted to snowboard or ski down made their descent along the western slope of Mount Washington. Those who didnít made the return trip down on the cog railway.

Each season the hotel plans a variety of events, appealing to singles, couples and families. Highlights this winter include a Victorian holiday weekend, the New Yearís gala celebration and a Future Chefs festival. For a complete list, go to the event calendar at the resortís Web page, www.mtwashingtonhotel.com.

Leah Lamson is editor of Worcester Quarterly magazine, in which this story first appeared.

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