Winter Fun at the Balsams
by Candyce H. Stapen
When you book a grande dame ski resort, instead of sleeping in a basic but boring condominium or a ho-hum base lodge, you stay at a property with first-class service, a stately presence and history. At a year-round resort such as The Balsams, New Hampshire, the downhill runs, admittedly, tend more toward mild than wild. But what the resort may lack in slopeside thrills, it makes up for in style and fabulous food.
Forget about having to suffer microwave meals, hot dogs, and endless pizzas. Conde Nast Traveler has put the Balsams signature restaurant the Dining Room on the magazine’s coveted Gold List. After all, one of the après-ski pleasures is fine dining. Enjoy such signature dishes as swordfish, venison, steak or duck, each paired with a from the resort’s extensive cellars.
The 202-room Balsams, about a three-hour drive from either Concord, NH, or Manchester, NH sprawls on 15,000-acres in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The resort dates to 1866 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel is the kind of place where dinner is a five-course meal in a 450-seat dining room. Boys over 13 (and men too) must wear jackets, but the kitchen always serves a kid-friendly entrée.
The hotel’s Wilderness Ski Area, a short ride by shuttle from the hotel, has a 1000-foot vertical drop plus a snowboarding half-pipe. For those who prefer a slow slide through glistening woods, there are 77 km of groomed cross-country trails as well as snowshoe only paths. You can also glide through the woods on a sleigh ride or be pulled along by sled dogs on a two-hour adventure.
For tots three and four year-olds Tiny Turns offers private one-hour ski lessons. At the Wee Whistle Snow Farm, kids four to six years-old, learn the basics during 90-minute group lessons. The Wind Whistle Ski and Snowboard Camp holds three hour group lessons for ages seven to 13.
Through March 31, the resort is offering a Grand Adventure Ski Package. Rates include lodging, breakfast and dinner plus unlimited skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating plus discounts on rental equipment. Rates start at $184 per person.
In summer, the Balsams morphs into a resort known for its hiking, golf and tennis. www.thebalsams.com