We always thought that slope-side condos, where we could ski out the door and onto a ski trail on the side of the mountain, were the pinnacle of ski lodging convenience. That was before we skied for a weekend at Loon Mountain, and were spoiled by the luxury of having our room, a good restaurant, parking and the swimming pool all under one roof and within a few yards of the gondola loading point.
Loon Mountain Club gave ski-in-ski-out new meaning. Right in the middle of New England’s snow zone, in the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, we had all the comforts and convenience of the west’s mega ski resorts, without the crowds (or the cost).
We literally stepped out the hotel door onto the snow and snapped on our skis. We didn’t even need to use the ski locker that was assigned our suite, even though it was right next to the door where the hotel opened onto the snow-covered base area. The indoor parking was so close that we could have left our skis in the car when they weren’t on our feet. A gentle push-off was all we needed to ski straight into the short line for the gondola that took us to the top of the mountain.
But it’s not all about the skiing. There is a lot to please non-skiers, as well. Unlike a slope-side condo, the Loon Mountain Club didn’t require leaving “home” to play in the pool with 10-year-old Mary or go out to dinner in the evening. The large pool overlooks the base of the mountain, and from its steamy warmth we could watch the groomers at work in the evening after the lefts closed. The outdoor hot tub is right beside the lower trail. If we’d had enough energy after a day’s skiing, we could have worked out in the multi-room fitness area, but a massage in the full-service spa (in the same building) was more my après-ski style.
Our suite had two bedrooms (and could have slept more children that we even want to think about bringing on a ski trip), two baths (one with a double whirlpool tub) and a well-furnished kitchen. A handy deli in the lobby carried bacon, eggs, cereal, milk, juice, bread and other breakfast makings, so we could get a fast start in the morning.
After a $9 million restoration, everything in the hotel gleamed, so we were not surprised to find our suite in top condition and without the dings and scrapes that family ski lodgings are bound to accumulate. But Loon Mountain Club was so well staffed and responsive that I wouldn’t be surprised to find it looking this new a couple of years from now.
Because, as they say, the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree, Mary takes too much interest in the dinner menu for us to suggest that she join other children in the Kids’ Club, a thoughtful program that allows parents to dine at leisure while kids watch movies, play games and do crafts. She was not the only child in the dining room, nor the youngest, but the aura is not that of the typical “family dining” restaurant. Subdued lighting and a surprisingly creative and sophisticated (but not pretentious) menu set the tone for a very grown-up dining experience, but in an easy casual atmosphere.
The chef clearly loves to play with his food, because we saw dishes on his menu that mark it as one of the most innovative in the White Mountains, one firmly based in local seasonal ingredients. Our only criticism was that the servings were enormous, but luckily our server warned us, so I ordered only a half serving of Bouchot mussels steamed with sausage. Even then, I had trouble finishing them after my appetizer of delectable parmesan-ricotta dumplings with arugula, chanterelles and roasted cippolini onions. We shared samples of each other’s entrees, smoked pulled pork sandwich of dry-rubbed pasture-raised pork, and the lobster Bolognese with garlic, chiles, in a marinara finished with heavy cream and fresh sage. Mary ordered a side of mashed potatoes that was so generous and so good that she asked for a take-home box so she could re-heat them for breakfast. (She was the only kid in her ski class the next morning that smelled vaguely of garlic.)
There were so many other thoughtful extras that I’m sure I have forgotten some: the chef’s sampler table in front of the fireplace in the lobby where guests get a taste of the evening’s menu, use of the pool and fitness area all day after check-out, a desk staff that has all the answers and gave us most of them before we had to ask. Amid all the efficiency and convenience, Loon Mountain Club never seems to lose sight of the fact that we are all there on vacation and just want to have fun.
Learn more about the Loon Mountain Club at www.mtnclub.com.