Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Family Holiday at Bretton Woods

Lately those of us who love snow have felt we're at the mercy of Mother Nature's very fickle whim, but luckily Old Man Winter got in the game just in time for Christmas.  After a unusually warm December, we woke up on the 23rd to flakes falling gracefully from the sky, covering up the dingy browns with a bright white. With family coming for the holiday from Cape Cod and upstate New York, I was relieved to be able to showcase our favorite scenery. We had big plans for skiing, sledding, and a sleigh ride for Matt's parents, and our dreams of a white Christmas came true.

Inspired by last year's trip to Bretton Woods, Matt's brother and his family were eager to ski again, and had bought new ski boots to go with the downhill skis we had given them last year.  Their eight year-old daughter, Anya, was happy to get out on the slopes as well, and our first stop was at the rental shop where they quickly got her set up with boots and skis.  (Beginners usually forgo the poles until they've got the hang of moving around in ski boots and on skis before adding poles to the mix.)  

As Matt's brother, Brian, and his wife, Eva, struggled to get their new boots on, I was reminded of how awkward all this ski equipment might seem at first, even for adults.  Shoes in general often need breaking in, and that is especially the case for ski boots.  They are made to hold your feet and ankles in place so that your skis move as part of your legs, but all that stiff plastic takes some getting used to.  It takes a few days on the snow to get them worn in - and if something REALLY hurts, it's a good idea to take them back to your boot fitter and have them take a look.

Getting three kids and three adults geared up always takes longer than I think it should, but we eventually made our way out to the Learning Center.  Four year-old Bridget is now able (and sometimes willing) to put her own skis on, and I helped two year-old Timmy while Matt got Anya headed in the right direction.  We talked about how to get on and off the lift, and at the top the kids loved to push up the safety bar just before it was time to stand up and ski off.

Matt took Anya for a few runs, and she picked up sliding on snow quickly.  At first she seemed a bit tentative, but she practiced keeping her weight forward by putting her hands on her knees and making big arcing turns along the slope.  On the third run, I started off skiing with Anya, but had to stop for a moment to untangle Bridget from her skis, and Anya asked, "Is it okay of I keep going?"  I said sure, and off she went, all on her own!  I was so happy for her, and could see how proud she was.  Her father also picked it up quickly after not having skied in many years, and her mother declared she was ready for a trip up the "big" lift.

The kids took several runs before we needed to all take a hot chocolate break.  I took Timothy home for a much-needed midday nap while the girls took a few more turns down the bunny hill.

Meanwhile, Matt's parent's, who had stayed at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel for the weekend, were finishing off their holiday with a sleigh ride around the hotel grounds.

After the excitement of Christmas and a full morning of skiing, the girls were exhausted, but were revived with a stop at Fabyans Station for a late lunch.  The wait for their tried-and-true favorites, hot dogs and spaghetti, passed quickly as they watched the model train fly around the track near the ceiling in the dining room.

The skiing the next morning didn't go as smoothly for the kids as I would have liked, but despite the fact that we all really wanted the kids to spend as much time skiing together as they could on their last day, it just wasn't happening.  Timmy wanted to go to the Kinderwoods Playground instead, Anya complained of a hurt leg, and Bridget just wanted to follow her older cousin's lead.  So while the girls had a snack in the lodge, the adults took turns skiing and sharing kid duty.  I had to remind myself once again that it isn't worth it to force the kids to ski - it just isn't fun for any of us. Not only do we get frustrated, but I fear the kids will see skiing as a chore, something I really want to avoid.

Apres ski time, however, was a success for everyone.  Anya and Bridget went to the Kids' Apres Ski program, a party for the 4-12 year-old set that Bretton Woods hosts for free on vacation weeks.  Simplicity the Clown greeted the girls, and soon each had a balloon creation in hand. Meanwhile, the adult party downstairs featured acoustic guitar and drum beats from local band Los Huevos.

Downstairs from the girls, we sipped cocktails as Timmy exclaimed, “SNOW TRACTORS!” and we watched from the picture windows of the Slopeside Restaurant as the groomers cruised across the base area and up the mountain to smooth out some fresh corduroy for night skiing.

Happy New Year and happy family skiing to everyone!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Elf Tuck-In

The magic of Christmastime is epitomized at the Omni MountWashington Hotel.  Thanks to last week’s long-awaited snowstorm, the evergreens are now frosted with a treat that looks good enough to eat and it’s feeling like old man winter has finally decided to grace us with his presence, filling our lungs with a sharp reminder of cold air and of how good it is to be alive here at the base of the Presidentials.

Given our close proximity to Bretton Woods, I love to take advantage of a trip to the Mount Washington Hotel to take part in their special Christmas activities.  The Hotel is dressed up for the occasion, kissing balls lined up along the 903-foot long veranda and twinkling lights and greenery draped over grand entryways and banisters.  The Great Hall is flanked with towering Christmas trees on both ends, and the smell of gingerbread wafts out from the life-size gingerbread house. 

Bridget and Timmy are now entering that magical age when Santa is as real as Mom and Dad and the enchantment of Christmas is palpable with anticipation.  So their eyes lit up when I told them that we were going to stay at “the big hotel” for the night and that one of Santa’s very own elves was coming to read them a bedtime story and tuck them in.  I reminded them that Santa’s helper would be returning to the North Pole after her visit, and she could report back with any special requests as well as a determination of naughty or nice behavior.

Even though I know that the Mount Washington Resort relishes the opportunity to entertain and delight young ones, I still gave the requisite speech to my pre-schoolers about the importantance of the magic words please and thank you.  But it’s hard to squelch the unadulterated joy at the prospect of spending the night in a castle with pools and treats and elves, and I too was infected with that spirit of celebration that sometimes gets lost in the seemingly endless holiday tasks of making lists and checking them twice.

After a quick stop at TreeTop Sports at Bretton Woods to pick up some Skida hats for family in Colorado, we headed up the long driveway to the Mount Washington Hotel, its red roof in stark contrast to the white hotel and mountains. We were greeted kindly by everyone we saw and the kids marveled over the Christmas tree in the Great Hall while I checked in. 

Our room, the Luxury Family Suite, was both luxurious and sweet!  Although all the four of us have very happily shared the close quarters of a tent for many nights in the summertime, it is wonderful to find accommodations that allow us to put the kids to bed at the early hour of 7:00pm and still allow my husband and I to stay up after the kids have drifted off to dreamland.  This room was perfect for that.  Two kid’s rooms, with a twin bed in each, flanked the entryway, which then opened up to a spacious and comfortable sitting room, with a gas fireplace and windows facing Mt. Washington and its presidential partners.  A half-bath to the right and a full bath to the left of the sitting room meant no one was waiting for the potty.  Adjacent to the sitting room, our bedroom offered an inviting king-sized bed with more views of the outdoor pool, cross-country ski trails, and White Mountain National Forest.  I especially loved the motif in each child’s bedroom – one, with fun 1950’s retro drawings of a map of the world, and in the more feminine room, wallpaper and shadowboxes of butterflies and grasshoppers. 

Once settled in, we took the grand staircase back down to the Rosebrook Bar, with promises of hot chocolate and adult beverages on our minds.  We found a seat along the panoramic windows, the alpenglow just beginning to color the faces of the mountains with pinks and oranges. The kids relished their chocolatey drinks while Matt and I indulged in creative concoctions of gin and champagne for me and bourbon for him.  To take the edge off before dinner, we nibbled on the fruit and cheese plate that offered fresh berries and some lovely blue, parmesan, and provolone cheeses with crusty baguette slices.

Although Matt and I could have lingered there all afternoon, the toddler attention spans demanded we wisk off to our next endeavor: the indoor pool.  I would have loved to take in the contrast of cold winter air and warm bathing in the heated outdoor pool, but I’m afraid the little ones may have been in and out of the water too much for their comfort outside.  The indoor pool, just renovated along with the spa and conference center addition a few years ago, was perfect for us, with a shallow entry for the little ones and plenty of space to splash around.  What kid doesn’t love a pool, especially in the wintertime, when memories of the summer seem so far away?

Dinner was at Stickneys, in the lower level of the Hotel.  Also recently renovated, we chose a high-backed booth with a window view.  The kids stuck to tried-and true favorites of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese, but Matt indulged in rack of lamb while I savored seared scallops with a spinach pesto and creamy wild mushroom rice.  With our date with the Elf drawing near, we skipped lingering over dessert in lieu of a stop at Morsels, the Hotel’s sweet shop, for a skewer of gummy dinosaurs.

Santa’s elf, adorned in green and red velvet and the prerequisite pointy hat and jingle-bell slippers, was waiting at our doorstep on return to our suite, with a gift of a stuffed reindeer for each of them.  The kids sat pie-eyed in wonder next to her on the couch as she read The Night Before Christmas.  Bridget was eager to remind our elf of her Christmas wishes for a doll stroller and bed, and Timmy listed a yellow truck and Thomas trains as his favorites.  Without the usual delay tactics and complaint, the kids quickly got into pajamas so that the elf could tuck them in.  She left us with the book and a promise to relay to Santa their wish list.  Exhausted from a full day of enchantment, I’m sure visions of sugar plums danced in their heads that night.

Following the kids’ bedtime, Matt and I enjoyed a glass of champagne in front of the fireplace.  The flicker of the fire and some quiet conversation were all we needed for some true relaxation, away from the distraction of phones and televisions and computers.

Before the workaday world returned to us the next morning, we lingered over fresh fruit, eggs, and malted Belgian waffles in the elegant and bright Dining Room.  None of us were eager to leave, but I know that we’ll be back for more resort fun soon.

Guests of the Hotel can arrange an Elf Tuck-In through the Activities Concierge Desk by calling 603-278-8989.  Other Omni Kids programs this time of year include Tea with Mrs. Claus and Breakfast with Santa.