"Great scenery, pleasant runs. The Mount Washington Hotel is extraordinary!"
If you haven't been to Bretton Woods in a few years your next visit will come as a bit of a surprise.
Bretton Woods, as one reader puts it, is "close to being the "Deer Valley of the East."" In some respects, that's a ridiculous comparison. The absence of Park City's vibrant downtown, of 500 inches of sun-spangled Utah powder, of terrain like the Daley Chutes surely diminishes the Bretton Woods experience to a certain extent. Then again, Deer Valley wishes it had views like those at Bretton Woods. Or even a single hotel (sorry, Stein) as historically opulent and unselfconsciously magnificent as the century-old Mount Washington. Those views - partly because they include the hotel - are what truly distinguish the Bretton Woods ski experience. From every trail, skiers get a double eyeful: the broad southwest flanks of massive, snow-laden Mt. Washington, with the fairy-tale towers of the majestic, 200-room hotel crowning its own hilltop in the foreground. Grand and formal as it is, the hotel offers an experience unique in ski country. Not to mention uncommonly romantic - even if you have kids in tow. (They're welcomed and trusted to behave like young ladies and gentlemen - except outdoors, where everyone is expected to behave like children.) The gripes against Bretton Woods remain consistent. That it's remote and inaccessible, that it's pricey, that apr's action is limited to what you can find in the hotel and - most damning - that its slopes are simply too gentle to be exciting for an expert skier. These are all fair criticisms, though as for terrain, Bretton Woods has been expanding steadily and, as one reader maintains, "it's large enough to spread crowds, and there's expert terrain if you know where to look." (Furthermore, the white-knuckle plunges of austere Cannon Mountain are but 19 miles from the Mt. Washington's valet-staffed porte cochere.) Bretton Woods" strengths are undeniable. It puts up Top 5 rankings in no fewer than eight categories: Service (2), Weather (2), Grooming (3), Scenery (3), Snow (4), Lifts (4), Family Programs (5) and On-Mountain Food (5). It even boasts Top 10s nationally in Grooming, Scenery and Family Programs. And with this season's unveiling of a whole new hotel wing housing a state-of-the art spa, amenities may indeed be approaching the rarefied stratum of Deer Valley. In other words, if you can forgive Bretton Woods for not having Jackson Hole's terrain or Vail's nightlife - as can many Eastern families in search of wholesome, drive-to winter fun - it approaches perfection. - Joe Cutts
The 25,000-square-foot Spa at Mount Washington Resort, debuting this winter in the new Presidential Wing of the hotel. The hotel's indoor pool and fitness studio have also been renovated and incorporated into the spa, which features glorious views of Mount Washington.
Free skiing at Bretton Woods for guests of The Mount Washington Hotel (from $99ppdo), The Lodge (from $99/room) or The Townhomes (from $259/2-bedroom unit) during non-holiday periods. 800-314-1752; mountwashingtonresort.com
A hotel tour. Famous guests included Babe Ruth and FDR.
As good as the hotel dining room is, the food's even better - and the setting cozier - at the adjacent Bretton Arms.
Top to bottom on Enchanted Bear and Minehan's (moderate glades, both)