Bretton Woods: birches, beautiful snow, and bargains

In this new year, I’m taking some time away from longer projects to write about New England ski areas. I’ve been skiing since junior high (back in the days when kids went to junior high) and over the years have visited most ski areas in New England, including quite a few that no longer exist (Mount Hogback anyone? Or Maple Valley?).

Bretton Woods, a ski area I once found hospitable but somewhat boring, has become one of my favorites in recent years, thanks to the development there of many intermediate-level glades around the mountain, along with its beautiful snow, and the great deals it offers throughout the winter and spring.  The view of Mount Washington is an added bonus.

First, the glades.  

Heading down the gentle and wide open glades of the Aggassiz Trail. Denser but still do-able glades await off many of the mountain's main trails.

Heading down the gentle and wide open glades of the Aggassiz Trail. Denser but still do-able glades await off many of the mountain’s main trails.

I’m terrified of plunging down a steep slope into groves of birch and spruce trees. For a long time, I didn’t understand why anyone would risk their life doing such a thing, or why ski areas would create such opportunities for head-on collisions and impalings, even given the “death waiver” you sign when purchasing the ticket.

But then I discovered the joy of hopping around in the forest in the sweet glades at Bretton Woods — forested areas of “green” or “blue” slopes that have been thinned out to create glades that almost anyone can ski.  The trees are beautiful, my pace is slow, and I enjoy the opportunity to tune up my turning skills.  I’ll even give some of the “black diamond” glades a go, but I’ll leave the double-blacks to the experts.

Onto the snow

Bretton Woods pays attention to snowmaking and grooming in a big way. Its snow guns and groomers work magic each night to create, from New England hardpack, wide carpets of smooth corduroy. On days when other areas are suffering from the effects of snow followed by rain followed by a deep freeze (i.e. concrete disguised by a fresh thin layer of man-made snow), the trails at Bretton Woods are soft and friendly.

Bretton Woods is known for its green and blue “cruiser” trails that offer less-confident skiers plenty of room to enjoy easygoing zigzags down the mountain.  On my first visit to BW about ten years ago, I enjoyed these runs, but got bored after a while.  Since that time, the mountain has expanded to three peaks, and exploring all the possibilities makes for a full day of skiing or riding.

On this visit in mid-December, we were treated to a layer of fresh powder, but the skiing would have been good even if it hadn't snowed, thanks to the great snowmaking and grooming at BW.

On this visit in mid-December,  (with my $19 tickets!) we were treated to a layer of fresh powder, but the skiing would have been good even if it hadn’t snowed, thanks to the great snowmaking and grooming at BW.

Finally, the deals

Lift tickets at Bretton Woods are a pricey $85 (full day weekend), but unlike Maine’s Sunday River, Bretton Woods offers plenty of deals, which makes me feel good about returning again and again.  I don’t mind paying full price once in a while when I know that I can buy $19 advance early season tickets, or use the $65 “anytime” tickets that I bought in November during the “full price” New England school vacation week.  I’ve already marked my calendar for Super Bowl Sunday ($49), St. Patrick’s Day ($17), and Beach Party Saturday ($25).  But I’ll miss the Patriot’s Day deal ($17.76 plus a voucher for the following season) because I’ll be at Vermont’s Jay Peak.  Bretton Woods also offers free lessons to beginners on certain pre-holiday December weekends.

Bretton Woods offers many other enticements, including a cozy and spacious lodge spread out over three floors, a summit restaurant AND a candy store–Chutters on the Mountain—and also has a reputation for great children’s programs (including an all-weather playground next the lodge and a climbing wall in the lodge).

Visitors can stay at the historic Mount Washington Hotel (great Sunday-Thursday deals), or at the more motel-ish Bretton Woods Lodge.  One small drawback is that all the hospitality is owned by the same corporation, Omni.  The restaurants can be packed and feel short on staff. A local restaurant or two would be nice, but you can’t always have it all, and North Conway, with many choices, is only a half-hour away.

However, the lodge cafeteria is way above average — in fact, I’ll so far as to call it great for a ski lodge cafeteria.  How many ski areas in the East offer a stir-fry bar with the opportunity to purchase a reasonably price big bowl of veggies, rice and tofu (or other protein)? I dispensed with my brown bag on visits last winter.

When I skied at Bretton Woods in early December, a hot dog/chili stand had replaced the stir-fry bar, but I haven’t given up hope that the stir-fry bar will return (the staff was uncertain).  If not, my despair will force me to flee up the mountain to Latitude 44, because a peppermint schnapps hot cocoa will surely take the edge off my disappointment, especially if the temperature is hovering around 10 degrees.

That’s Bretton Woods, where snow is sweet and the living is easy.  It almost sounds like a song.


Okay, the fox wasn't at Bretton Woods, but I did see him on Route 302, just a few miles away, on my way to the mountain.

Okay, the fox wasn’t at Bretton Woods, but I did see him on Route 302, just a few miles away, on my way to the mountain last year on a below-zero St. Patrick’s Day.  The temps did warm up to 15 degrees, with no wind (BW is also well-sheltered from heavy winds), so the living was still easy.

Bretton Woods, including links to lodging in condos and at the Mount Washington Hotel, Bretton Arms Inn, and Bretton Woods Lodge.  The resort also offers cross-country skiing, and has amenities like swimming pools and spa services.

If you are curious about Mount Hogback and Maple Valley Ski Area, see the New England Lost Ski Areas Project (NELSAP).

#BrettonWoods #Skiing #NewEnglandskiing #mountains #WhiteMountains #skitheeast

About Dianne Fallon

Maniacal Traveler Dianne Fallon writes from a house in the woods in southern Maine. Her interests include travel, hiking and the outdoors, and history, and she is quickly becoming an Instagram-aholic, @themaniacialtraveler.
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2 Responses to Bretton Woods: birches, beautiful snow, and bargains

  1. Mary says:

    Your beautiful snowscape photo at the top of the blog absolutely lured me into your article! I’ve only been to the area once long ago in summer, so am enchanted by the winter scenery. Great info in this post about the trails, lift tickets, family & kids activities, places to stay and eat. They got rid of the stir-fry bar and replaced it with a hot dog/chili stand? What were they thinking? Surely they’ll come to their senses and perhaps offer both. I laughed when I read your alternative plan: peppermint schnapps cocoa!

    Wonderful reading with practical tips & all the links to find things. Really enjoyed this, Dianne.

  2. Pingback: King Pine, the Little Mountain That Could | Dianne Fallon, The Maniacal Traveler

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