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As serious skiers gain years and experience, many become interested in the history of their sport. And a lot of us are also better positioned economically to savor that heritage by checking into some of the country’s more historic ski settings. A budget bunker motel beside the access road might be OK, but it’s surprisingly easy and affordable to set your sights higher.

No article can list all the options, but the choices are many and range from historically significant ski lodging at specific resorts (think the 1936 Sun Valley Lodge) to atmospheric hotels and lodges that represent the enduring appeal of many ski country locations.

Since 1989, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has rounded up a classic lodging collection called the Historic Hotels of America (HHA), many of which are located in ski country. Ski destinations in New England and the South make perfect examples of places where these distinguished accommodations raise the bar on a ski vacation, especially with available senior discounts.

New England


The Presidentials are awesome from Bretton Woods Ski Area.                           Photo courtesy Omni Hotels and Resorts


A one-time Appalachian Mountain Club backcountry researcher, I enjoy New Hampshire’s Presidential Range. Last time, I overdosed on Nordic and downhill on both sides of the range, with stays in Jackson, south of Pinkham Notch, and Bretton Woods, north of Crawford Notch.

I remember the area’s rambling grande dame Crawford House Hotel before it burned in 1977, so I’ve occasionally chosen the Omni Mount Washington Resort as a substitute. The original 1902 hotel is massive and immaculately restored, with spectacular views of the Presidential Range. There are even better views from Bretton Woods ski area, New Hampshire’s largest. I took my first Nordic ski instructor’s training here in the ‘80s so I lean Nordic. Bretton Woods has 100 km of great valley touring that also includes a lift-served cross country trail network near the slopes.

The historic Mount Washington Hotel makes a riveting backdrop from the resort’s cross country ski trails.            Photo courtesy Omni Hotels and Resorts

If the big historic hotel experience is a no go, nearby Bretton Arms Inn is part of the same HHA Omni resort as the Mount Washington Resort, but it’s an 1896 former private residence on a more intimate scale.

While in Bretton Woods, don’t miss the New England Ski Museum, a short drive away in nearby Franconia.

The Historic Hotel of America option in Jackson is the Eagle Mountain House, literally on the village’s intensively groomed, 150 km Jackson Ski Touring Foundation trail system. The 1879 hotel’s Eagle Landing Tavern is a cozy setting, but skiers also have Highfields at the hotel, literally steps off the track.

Randy Johnson (right) and friends pose in the early 1980s at Hall’s Ledge on the way to Jackson after skiing down from the summit of Wildcat Mountain. Mount Washington towers above.                               Photo: Randy Johnson

Many nearby options are available, and I never seem to miss a stay or meal or two at the trailside Wildcat Inn and Tavern, not far from the foundation’s center. What a relaxed, quirky, full-of-character place. No wonder my best ski buds and I still talk about the times we’d base at Wildcat Inn and telemark the Wildcat Valley Trail down to town from the summit of Wildcat Mountain. Speaking of higher up, Pinkham Notch’s Joe Dodge Lodge accommodations still appeal to me long after I used to weigh my alpine hut-bound pack on the porch. This is old-school ski lodging but I’m not too special to call this rarefied throwback experience something I still savor.

Next Week, Part 2 / The Rest of the Country

One Comment

  1. David Brennan says:

    nice read Randy…some of my favorite’s memories of the Mt Washington Valley include the spectacular views from Bretton Woods. The old “Ski Mobile” lift at Mt Cranmore is another. I was a kid and that little roller coaster of a lift always impressed me

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