Photo: ourtesy of Omni Mount Washington Resort

The Mount Washington Resort Isn’t Just a Ski Hotel, It’s a Cozy Alternate Universe

New Hampshire Epic Stays
by Eben Diskin Apr 6, 2023

Drive around New England for a bit and you’ll inevitably see cars sporting a “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker. Maybe you give the driver a silent round of applause. Maybe you wonder why climbing Mt. Washington in a car is a brag-worthy feat at all. Sure, successfully navigating the mountain’s winding roads can be both tough and rewarding, but I’ve always thought a more appropriate bumper sticker would be, “This Guy Climbed Mount Washington,” slapped right on the back of an intrepid hiker’s head. Indeed, I’d be far more likely (and even proud) to display a “This Car Took Me to the Mount Washington Resort” bumper sticker.

Let me explain.

A step back in time

Sitting at the base of Mt. Washington in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, the Omni Mount Washington Resort dates back to 1900, and seems to exist in a world more closely tied to turn-of-the-century America than the modern day. The stately property feels imposing when you first pull up. It’s perched on a hill at the end of a seemingly endless driveway, lording over a quiet landscape, making everything around it – the people, the mighty horses in their stables, and even the mountains – look small.


Beautiful views and cozy turn-of-the-century comfort at the Mount Washington Resort

♬ Beautiful – Soft boy

The grandeur of the place is a bit intimidating, but that I-don’t-belong-here feeling doesn’t last long. Whether you roll up in a sports car, beat-up 1982 Buick, or a rented Tesla like me, you’ll immediately feel at home when you step through the doors. The massive lobby is Downton Abbey meets classic New Hampshire hunting lodge, with regal columns and ornate chandeliers softened by warm fireplaces and a giant moose head mounted above a stone hearth. Arriving here feels more like showing up at your friend’s mountain house, which goes back several generations, than checking into a fancy hotel.

“This is the place from Ghost Hunters, right?” I asked when I checked in. When they heard I was going there, some friends enthusiastically informed me that the Mount Washington Resort is one of the most haunted hotels in the country.

“Yep,” said the woman behind the desk, a little shyly, as though unsure if ghosts were a positive or a negative for me. “They say Room 314, mostly.” I later learned that the man who built the hotel, Joseph Stickeny, had died shortly after its completion, and left the property to his wife Carolyn. Carolyn ended up marrying a French prince, becoming a princess herself, and it’s believed that she now haunts her first husband’s hotel, specifically her old suite: Room 314.

There have been several reports, from both guests and employees, of paranormal activity in Room 314: lights flickering on and off, items disappearing, and the smell of floral perfume. Elsewhere in the hotel, the sound of music has been heard coming from an inexplicable source. A ghostly woman has been spotted looking down from the lobby mezzanine. Tea cups and saucers have crashed in The Cave hotel bar, though the bar was completely empty.

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) my room wasn’t 314. It was in the Presidential Wing, a recently-built wing of the hotel with 69 rooms and suites, many of which have balconies facing the mountains. The new wing is conveniently close to the spa, pool, and outdoor fire pit, and adds a more modern, polished layer of luxury to the historic hotel. If you’re ghost-averse, this is probably where you want to stay, though I’ll admit I was a little envious of the spectral happenings potentially going on in the rest of the hotel.

You can leave the hotel…but why would you?

The Mount Washington Resort could easily be confused for a ski resort, given its proximity to Bretton Woods Ski Area, but there’s one important difference: You could spend your entire stay on the hotel property and not miss anything. I found myself walking through the lobby in my comfy robe, watching all the skiers lugging their unwieldy gear onto the shuttle bus, and thinking, “Too bad for them…spending a whole afternoon away from the hotel.”

At a Holiday Inn, spending your whole vacation lounging around the hotel pool is a bit…well, sad. At the Mount Washington Resort, spending the whole trip in your robe bouncing between the various on-property amenities is the whole point. The well-equipped fitness center is available to all guests, and the outdoor pool has a view of the mountains. For the kids (or young-at-heart-adults) an arcade on the lower level offers up all the classics at a reasonable price. Air hockey for just $1? Yes, please.

While the hotel itself is its own little universe, descending the spiral staircase to the spa is like entering a new subterranean world. More than just a reception area with a few massage rooms, this spa could hold its own with any in New York or LA. With separate male and female lounge areas – furnished with comfy leather chairs, TVs, books, and snacks – a luxe co-ed lounge, outdoor hot tub facing the mountains, and a variety of treatment rooms, the spa is a labyrinth you’ll never want to find your way out of. I treated myself to my first ever facial, and now I’m a convert. You can also get a massage, body wrap, pedicure, or manicure.

If you do feel the urge (or peer pressure) to actually step outside the hotel, there’s plenty to do without even leaving the property. Cross-country ski and snowshoe trails encircle the resort, leading through the surrounding woods. You can also take a leisurely horse-drawn carriage or sleigh through the picturesque resort grounds. Especially in the falling winter snow, there’s nothing more romantic for an anniversary or honeymoon than a sleigh ride.

Believe it or not, there is a world beyond the hotel property. If you can tear yourself away from all the onsite amenities, the Bretton Woods Ski Area is just a 5-minute drive away. Even if you’re not a skier or snowboarder, take the gondola up to the top of the mountain, grab a drink at the bar, have some good old ski lodge chicken fingers, and enjoy the panoramic White Mountain views.

Home is where the food is

No self-contained universe would be complete without the most important ingredient: food. The hotel’s premier restaurant is the Main Dining Room, which looks straight out of Prohibition-era New York City. Fortunately, though, the place not only serves alcohol, but panoramic mountain views from nearly every window in the restaurant. Leather couches and chairs also punctuate the room, where you can sip a digestif after your meal. The hotel’s sumptuous breakfast buffet is also served in the Main Dining Room – so yeah, you’ll be as familiar with this restaurant as your hotel bed.

For a change of culinary scenery, head downstairs to Stickney’s, the hotel’s resident steakhouse. This cozy eatery serves up everything from mussels to meatloaf, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t try the filet mignon or New York Strip. It is a steakhouse, after all.

However you choose to spend your days, there’s really only one way to spend your nights at the Mount Washington Resort: A trip to the Cave. This after-hours bar is quite literally a Cave, located in what looks like an old wine cellar, with stone walls and dim lighting. The speakeasy-esque atmosphere is livened up by televised sports, shuffleboard, a dance floor, and occasional live music. Open until midnight or 1am, it’s easily the latest party in Bretton Woods.

So go ahead – climb Mt. Washington. Drive the winding road to the summit, or ski down the precipitous slopes. But it’s not the views out your car window that’ll stay with you. It’s the smell of roasted duck in the hotel’s Main Dining Room, and the feel of a masseuse’s hands working out your knots; it’s the vague fear of being haunted by a princess, the clapping of a horse’s hooves in fresh snow, and the roaring fireplace welcoming you home.

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