By Roger Lohr – Bretton Woods is part of the Omni Mount Washington Resort at the southern base of the mighty Mt. Washington in New Hampshire on Route 302. The resort includes three significant snow resort assets: hotels/inns (the historic Omni Mount Washington Hotel, the Bretton Arms Inn), the Bretton Woods alpine ski area and the Nordic Center. Spectacular scenery and many photo opportunities abound!
The alpine ski area has 464 acres of skiing and snowboarding on 62 trails and 35 glades and three terrain parks. There are 10 lifts including four high-speed quads, food outlets at the main lodge and, up on the slopes, there is a restaurant at the top of the Bethlehem Express lift. There’s also a cabin destination for snacks and libations accessible by T-bar near the top of Mt. Stickney, and a unique candy store (!) at the top of the Zephyr Express lift.
Bretton Woods is known for consistent snow conditions, and it’s rarely ever windy. They’ve got snowmaking on 92 percent of the trails. Over the years, Bretton Woods was known as an easy mountain with few steep slopes and that, in fact, is one of the best reasons for older or more cautious skiers to become aficionados of the area. The runs are short and the lifts are fast, and this allows older skiers and riders to turn on the jets and avoid getting tired from runs that are too long.
The ski area has now become recognized for its grooming by earning first place mention in a skier’s poll. It also has excellent accessible glade skiing that can be enjoyed by intermediate skiers and boarders and has the longest lasting powder. Bretton Woods has an excellent layout with the four high speed chairlifts helping to spread skiers out on the mountain, which keep lift lines reasonable and often nonexistent. The West Mountain and Rosebrook areas on the mountain are separated from the main mountain, and they provide plenty to explore both on the slopes and in the glades.
Bretton Woods is host to many multigenerational families, and you rarely see out-of-control skiers who are skiing or riding too fast. I’ve always enjoyed the slope edges at Bretton because they provide terrain that is accessible and ungroomed and most Bretton skiers avoid these parts of the slopes. Untracked powder can remain on the slope edges and in glades for days following storms.
My recommendation for Bretton Woods is to take the Bethlehem lift and then ski to the Rosebrook lift. Take a few runs in the Rosebrook area in some easy glades, but don’t go too far to the east, or you’ll end up back down at the base. From the top of the Rosebrook lift, go west and keep your speed up to reach the West Mountain for runs in the glades on that side of the mountain. Enjoy plenty of narrow runs in the West Mountain trees. There’s a restroom at the base of the West Mountain quad, if you need it.
The lodge has plenty of free storage bins and services in the basement, a cafeteria on the first floor, a bar, restaurant, and a climbing wall on the third floor. The food at Bretton Woods is standard ski area fare.
Special offers for seniors include a $25 midweek/non-holiday lift ticket for ages 65+, and those 80+ ski free everyday. The popular Wiser Woods weekly program (offered Tuesdays January 5-March 15, cost $125 for the season plus lift ticket) lets skiers and riders age 50+ with similar interests and ability ski with one of Bretton Woods’ instructors and enjoy the camaraderie of others during morning coffee socials and end of season get together.
The Nordic Center is adjacent to the grand hotel, and it has 100 km of XC ski and snowshoe trails. Take trails to the yurt for a popular destination about 5 km from the Nordic Center, and you’ll enjoy some thrilling downhill on the return trip. There are various locations to stop and rest along the way including a river bridge, which is a great place to take photos.
The lift-served Mountain Road trail may be the most fun to be had on XC skis in New England. I’ve taken many friends on the Mountain Road because it is much easier to take the lift up and then ski downhill on the trail, and it has incredible scenery and views. This 7 km trail is accessible from the top of the Bethlehem Express quad at the Bretton Woods alpine ski area (five minutes from the Nordic Center via complimentary resort shuttle). Along the way, take a side trip on a T-bar lift to the Stickney Cabin for snacks and libations and to ski additional trails on the way back to the Mountain Road. For senior or novice XC skiers, the Mountain Road is sure to be a lifetime highlight!
While you’re at the area take the free shuttle and go check out the historic Omni Mt. Washington Hotel for some drinks or dinner. It harkens back to the time of the grand hotels (bell boys, ski concierge, etc.) and it has been renovated with a new spa, wonderful restaurants and bars, and even a dance club in the basement for late night action.
A full day of alpine skiing for skiers older than 64 on weekends or holidays is $73; midweek is $63, and skiers older than 79 are complimentary for alpine or Nordic skiing. The Nordic Center is $14 for skiers aged 65-79 and only $7 if you are a lodge guest at the resort. The Nordic High Country pass is $31 (or a $10 add on to a ski ticket) for one ride on the Bethlehem Express lift with unlimited use of the T-bar at Mt. Stickney.