Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Free Learn to Ski & Snowboard Weekend!

With all that snow falling outside this week, I hope it is inspiring people to get out side and enjoy winter. Skiing and snowboarding are great ways to get outside, get fresh air and exercise, and have fun with family and friends. Why complain about winter when you can embrace it?

Do you know someone who you know would just love skiing or riding if they just gave it a chance? All too often I hear people say that they love to play outside, but cold weather keeps them indoors. Yet as a skier, I know that the fun and freedom of sliding on snow trumps any discomfort the temperature may present. Maybe they feel that they have no idea how to get started. With all the gear and technique involved, it may seem complicated and difficult.

But, there are ways to make the learning process easy and fun. And affordable.

Bretton Woods is hosting a FREE Learn to Ski and Snowboard Weekend, December 13 and 14, 2014.   The package for first-time alpine skiers & snowboarders (13+) includes a Learn to Ski or Snowboard lesson, equipment rentals and beginner terrain lift ticket valid for the day of the lesson.  Participants must make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance with the Bretton Woods Ski & Snowboard School at 603-278-3303.

Steve Debenedictis, Bretton Woods' Ski School Director, told me, "We want to give people an opportunity to get an early season start and take advantage of all the benefits of a full season of skiing and riding."Steve added, "This is what we do best: we get people ready to ski and ride confidently."

Each new skier/rider who completes their lesson will receive a special Explore the Woods Discount Card. The cardholder will receive a 10% discount at Resort Retail and a 20% discount on rentals, lift tickets, and ski school lessons for the remainder of the 2015 ski season. In addition, the cardholder will have the opportunity to purchase a 2015-2016 Bretton Woods season pass for 20% off the early season price.

Another bonus: Explore the Woods cardholders will be invited to the Season Passholder BBQ in March 22, 2015.

I can personally attest to the power of a good lesson snowsports lesson. Don't know how or where to start? Let the professionals guide you and make it fun.

Anyone who can relate to the pure joy, the thrill and the fun of sledding down a backyard hill on a sled can understand why taking it one step further and learning how to ski or ride can be an addictive pastime; one that makes you forget about the temperature and instead makes you want to play outside until your legs just won't carry you up (or down) the hill one more time. Let your friends know - this is a great opportunity to try skiing or riding.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Holiday Tea Time with Mrs. Claus

With a pre-Thanksgiving snowfall blanketing the slopes of Bretton Woods, we were ready this weekend to embrace the holiday season. Following some spectacular fresh snow runs down the mountain, the kids and I visited one of the most magically decorated holiday venues: The Omni Mount Washington Hotel.

Set at the base of the stunning 6,288-foot Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, the Omni Mount Washington Hotel is a picture-perfect backdrop for families looking to celebrate the holidays in an intimate yet fun-filled setting. Bedecked with boughs and bows and twinkling lights, the elegance and grandeur of the historic landmark invokes sugarplum dreams from a gilded age childhood. 

Kids from one to ninety-two are sure to get into the spirit of the season with a twist on the gilded age tradition of afternoon tea: Tea with Mrs. Claus.

The entire hotel and the grounds surrounding it are festooned to resemble a magical North Pole palace, with boughs of holiday greenery strung with twinkling lights, gorgeously decorated Christmas trees and dutiful wooden soldiers. I believe Timmy was trying to imitate this nutcracker's strong jaw in this photo.

Although you probably won't find us spending a Saturday afternoon at the mall waiting in line to sit on Santa's lap, Tea with Mrs. Claus was the perfect opportunity for my kids to recall the magic of the holiday season. An elf greeted us at the door of the Gifford Room, adjacent to a Christmas tree as grand as the hall that housed it.

A display of gingerbread cookies, cupcakes and sugarplums promised we wouldn't leave without a sweet treat along with our afternoon "tea."

Mrs. Claus welcomed all the children with the warmth and hospitality of a friendly grandmother who certainly has tabs on whether you've been naughty or nice.

She handed out candy canes to each child with a question for each and invited each child to share a little bit about themselves. Timmy talked about his best friend from school, Bridget declared her wish for an American Girl doll to be delivered by sleigh on Christmas night, and a handful of other children had to decide if they were on Santa's naughty or nice list.

Perhaps inspired by the elegant setting of the Hotel and the fine teacups and cloth napkins before them, the room full of children were on their best behavior as they waited for turn to take a plate of goodies and devote them with red, green, and white frosting.  Bridget added a creative flourish to her cupcake with a gumdrop on top. Mrs. Claus and her elf offered rich hot cocoa or hot mulled cider to each guest.

Following our treats, Mrs. Claus invited the children to join her by the fire for some songs and a reading of Olive, the Other Reindeer. Instead of the lyric, "all of the other reindeer,"  Olive the dog hears mistakenly that she is a reindeer ad decides she must head to the north pole to help Santa. 

Mrs. Claus took time to say farewell to each child and pose for photos.  You can bring the little ones to enjoy special holiday music, a child-friendly tea menu and holiday stories with Mrs. Claus Saturdays at 3:30 pm until December 20th. Reservations are required and can be made by contacting the Activities Concierge Desk at (603) 278-8989.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kick Off the Ski Season at the Boston Ski & Snowboard Expo!

The ski and ride season has begun! Bretton Woods started turning lifts for the 2014-2015 season Sunday, November 9. “Free Ski Sunday” was a great day to get our ski legs back and everyone who donated a canned good for the local food pantry got to ski Rangeview for free. It looks like BW is planning to reopen on Friday, now that we getting some more snowmaking weather.

Happy to have had a bit of a homecoming on Sunday, I’m really looking forward to the fall event that kicks off the season for many of us: the Boston.com Ski and Snowboard Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center November 13-16. Northeastern skiers and riders may consider the Expo to be the biggest homecoming party of the season.

Admission is $15 for adults and free for kids 12 and under. Tickets are available online or at the door and $3 coupons are available online.

Many people come to the show for the great deals on lift tickets and lodging. Snow sports fans line up for the deals of the season and find out what’s new for the coming winter at their favorite resorts.

The Prinoth Bison (Prinoth)
I’ll be joining the Bretton Woods crew at their booth again this year, and I think my mighty-machine-loving boy will be really excited to see what we’ll have on display.  In honor of Bretton Woods’ number one ranking for grooming and snow in the East by readers of SKI magazine, we will have a Prinoth Bison groomer cab right in our booth for everyone to check out. Having had the opportunity to ride in one of the groomers last winter with my little guy, I can tell you these are very cool machines.

BW will be selling lift ticket specials at the show this year, and anyone who purchases at the show can draw a prize from the “Groomer Grabs” for a chance to win great prizes like lunch, Zip & Ski tickets, pedicures, or even an overnight stay at the Omni Mount Washington Resort. You’ll also be entered to win a two-night ski and stay for four people at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel.

Here are some of the great deals being offered at the show:

  • $19 Early “Bluebird” Ticket – good any day before December 19. This ticket can be purchased at the show or at shop.brettonwoods.com

  • $35 Midweek “Golden” Ticket  - valid Monday through Friday during non-holiday periods, in honor of the 70th anniversary of the Bretton Woods Monetary Conference. This ticket can be purchased at the show or at shop.brettonwoods.com.

  • $59 Any Day “No-Brainer” Ticket – good any day all season long. Save up to $26 off regular ticket prices. You can only purchase this ticket at the Boston.com Ski & Snowboard Expo.

  • $199 Detachable “Quad” Pack  - Four unrestricted tickets valid all season long. Save up to $141. You can only purchase these at the Boston.com Ski & Snowboard Expo.

  • Season Pass Price Roll-Back – Purchase the White Mountain Superpass or 4-NH College Pass by midnight November 17 and get early-purchase rates, plus get one free lift ticket for a friend, good any time during the 2014-2015 season. This is another deal that is exclusive to ski show attendees.

If you come to the show, stop by the Bretton Woods booth to say hi!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Case For Spring Skiing

Seems like we should have bought stock in hand and toe warmers this past winter. But now we're
ready to swap the neck gaiters and balaclavas for sunscreen and sunglasses.

Spring skiing is absolutely the best time of year on the slopes. I know this is a hard sell for many - we've lived through a cold and snowy winter and even I am ready for a change. People have bikes and hikes and golf on the mind. But why not go spring skiing or riding, while we have all this great snow on the ground?  Nearly 80 percent of Bretton Woods' terrain is still open.  

Sure, I start thinking about skiing in the fall, and by Thanksgiving I'm chomping at the bit to hit the one or two slopes that have some man-made snow. Even by Christmastime we often don't have every trail open and we're hoping and praying that the snow gods will bless us with some of that white gold.  Now here we are in April and there's more terrain open than we had in December.  Spring fever is here and we are all eager to get outside.  But why forsake skiing and riding when it is just getting so good?

We paid our dues in January, bundling up like the Michelin Man with layer after layer of fleece and down until we could barely recognize who we were skiing with.  We came inside and took frequent breaks to warm up, and we bought lots and lots of hand and toe warmers.  Now, we can unbundle and enjoy soaking in some vitamin D and working on our goggle tans.

Although it warms up considerably during the day this time of year, it's still cold at night, which means the snow hardens up.  We stick to the groomers in the morning, where the snow has been buffed up and the corduroy is soft and inviting.  This is the time of year when my strict preference for arriving for first tracks falls away.  The ungroomed stuff may take some time in the sun to soften up.  Once it does, anything that is open is fair game.

Think you don't like skiing moguls, those bumps that are created when skiers curve turns and the snow piles up into bumps? Try some soft spring bumps.  The forgiving snow allows you to practically float from side to side, and the rhythmic slide from bump to bump is one of the best feelings a skiers knows.

Mashed potatoes and corn are served up with a smile in the the spring.  No, not in the base lodge cafeteria, but out on the hill. The big pellets of snow that are formed after a warm up and then freeze make for fun sliding.  As the snow bakes the corn snow during the day, it often turns to the consistency of mashed potatoes.  We also call it hero snow, because you don't have to lay into the turn to make your ski grab like you do in firmer conditions - every turn makes you feel like a hero.  The kids had a few tumbles in the mashed potatoes - it does take some effort to push through the big piles,  but they are learning to instinctively read the snow conditions and adjust their ski pressure accordingly.

It's also a great time of year to ski if you are looking to save a few bucks.  Through the end of the season, every lift ticket, every day of the week, is $29.  And if you think the skiing bug has bit you for good, you can buy next year's season pass and ski the rest of this year for free

The Stickney Cabin hosted a barbecue for its end of season bash last weekend, and you can be sure we enjoyed some burgers and dogs before the marshmallow roasting commenced.

Our friend and trusted ski instructor Susan brought her three-year-old daughter out to the cabin for the first time, and she had a blast.  She cruised right up the T-bar without batting an eye, and after lunch followed Timmy fearlessly into the glades.  As I've said before, there's something about the kid posse that makes everything fun.

Don't worry, your bicycle and your golf clubs will still be waiting for you when the season ends, and unfortunately, it's going to end all too quickly.  We are going to savor every moment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fresh Air, Family and Fun

One of our favorite things to do is share all of the fun we have in the winter with family and friends. A few weeks ago we got to share some of our favorite winter activities, cross-country skiing and tubing, with the kids' grandparents. If you are looking for some truly affordable fun with little or no learning curve, here's your answer. Fresh air, exercise, and time with family was exactly what we needed to remind us just how lucky we are to have this winter playground. 
I loved to see their thrilled smiles as they plummeted down the tubing slope. 

For the grand finale, both kids slid down with Outdoor Dad. All that weight put together gave them a lot of momentum to fly down the hill!
Before tubing, we did a short loop around the perimeter trail with the kids' grandparents. 
Timmy was so excited to have real cross-country ski equipment for the first time.  We had bought skis, boots, bindings and poles for big sister Bridget last year, but now Timmy wanted more than just the plastic skis that strapped on to his boots. So we gave Him Bridget's gear from last year and rented her a setup for the day. 
Timmy was thrilled to have poles, too!
And sometimes, you just have to go slow, enjoy the fresh air, and let the little guy lead at his own pace. 
Sometimes I have to fight back that instinct to get somewhere quickly and just appreciate the fact that we are outside, together, getting some exercise, and enjoying each other's company. We watched for wildlife and saw rabbit tracks in the snow. Timmy started to get the feel for the different balance you need on Nordic skis compared to alpine. And when we did want to get somewhere, there was always the siren call of hot chocolate waiting for us in the lodge. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Little Ripper Dream Job: Alpine Groomer

"This is going to be a GREAT day!" 4-year-old Timmy was all smiles as he bounded into the car at 6:30 on a below-zero morning for what the preschool set might consider the trip of a lifetime: a ride in a little ripper's favorite Mighty Machine: THE GROOMER.

We were meeting our friend Keith Huntoon, Snow Miser and head of snowmaking at Bretton Woods to "help" with some very important jobs.

In addition to showing us how a groomer works and taking us for a ride, we got to help Keith with one of those very essential "behind the scenes" jobs that makes our skiing and riding experiences at BW so comfortable: we had to take a fresh port-a-potty up to the Stickney Cabin and take the old one back down.

Keith had the port-a-potty attached to the front blade of the groomer with a frame around the porto that had hooks to hold onto the blade.

As we lumbered up Two Miles Home trail towards the Cabin, Keith showed Timmy all of the different controls that make this multi-hundred-thousand dollar machine create that dreamy surface skiers and riders call corduroy.  Keith told us, "when corduroy freezes up and sets it creates that 'squeak-squeak' under your skis."

In addition to the very warm and comfortable cab that we were sitting in, Keith told us about the other main parts of the groomer. In the front, the blade plows down all of the bumps and moguls we create as ski down the mountain.  Underneath us, the giant comb provided traction for us as we climbed up the slope.  And the tiller dragging behind us churns up the snow and presses it into corduroy.

Since the porto was directly in front of us, Keith asked Timmy to "keep an eye out for trees" that he might not see on his right side.  We also watched for animal tracks.  Timmy was happy to find out that at night, when they are out all night grooming, they also have to watch out for animals like moose and deer that might be out on the trails.  Timmy chattered away as we approached the Cabin, explaining that since Waumbeck was Mommy's favorite trail, it was his, too.

Bretton Woods alpine has five groomers in their fleet, and they use at least three of them each night to groom their 341 acres of trails.  "We start around 5:00 each evening, and it takes all night to get every trail ready for the next day" he said.

After our important errand with the porto was complete, Keith treated us to a ride up Waumbeck, one of the steepest trails on the mountain.  The big Prinoth cruised smoothly all the way up without hesitation.  We stopped to see some big cat tracks along the side of Joseph's Run that we guessed we probably fisher cat.  On the way back down Range View, Keith let Timmy use the joystick to move the blade and its "ears" to see how he adjusts it to smooth the snow.

Although Keith and his crew are big strong guys who can work on all kinds of machinery, it's still apparent that this is a labor of love for them.  Keith spends most of his time managing the snowmaking systems at Bretton Woods, but he said,  "this used to be one of my favorite jobs."  And knowing that they are out all night long, all season long, means some sacrifices.  Jenn, Keith's wife, often refers to herself as a "snowmaking widow" in those peaks months of the year when there's snow to be made and groomed.

It's easy to see why SKI Magazine readers rated Bretton Woods as No. 1 in the East for Snow and Grooming.

Our early morning adventure surely made an impression on little Timmy.  On our way back to the base lodge to begin our ski day, Timmy reported: "I know what I want to be when I grow up, Mommy.  I want to work at Bretton Woods and I want to be a groomer."

Later, as we cruised down all our favorites, including Waumbeck, Timmy explained to his Dad and sister, "This is the corduroy that I groomed."

Friday, February 28, 2014

Bretton Woods Club Members For a Day

There are blissful moments when I go on vacation and say to myself, "I wish I could do this all the time!" A concierge with insider info into all the great things to do; healthy gourmet food at my fingertips; access to all the outdoor activities I love, like downhill and cross-country skiing, swimming, tennis and golf; kids' programs to keep them entertained when I need a break. Wouldn't it be great to be able to be a guest of the resort every weekend?

In fact, there is a way - the Bretton Woods Club.  We decided to see what the Bretton Woods Club's Alpine Club was all about.

Although we visited on a quiet weekday when parking close to the lodge was easy and lift lines nonexistent, it was still a treat to be able to pull up right in front of the Alpine Club, where a valet attendant quickly offered to carry our skis out onto the racks for us and then parked our car.

If we were regular members, our skis and boots would already be stored at the Club, where the attendants would see us coming, and like Norm at Cheers, "everybody knows your name" and our favorite things (skis in this case, not beer) would be out and waiting for us when we arrived. The idea of not having to schlep skis and poles and boot bags and distracted kids across the parking lot is very appealing!

After a tour of the Alpine Club, we enjoyed complimentary hot chocolate and muffins while we got booted up. It was so pleasant sitting in the overstuffed armchairs by the fire that we lingered a bit longer than usual getting ready to go out. Eileen Armstrong, Director of Membership at the Club, told us that there's always a group of members who take advantage of the first tracks benefit, and they are ready to hop on the lifts half an hour before the lifts open to the public. I'm guessing we'd definitely be part of that group that gets first tracks, whether it's for pristine corduroy or diving into untracked powpow. But this morning, we knew that once we got going, we'd be able to scoot right on to the lift from the BWC-only line.

At lunch, Bridget and Timmy eyed with interest the other kids sitting with their parents while we  enjoyed homemade mac and cheese and cooked to order sandwiches.  Eileen told us that many of the Alpine Club members are parents like us, with little rippers who are giving their parents a run for their money on the slopes. At first, she said, each family would sit by themselves at lunch, but a larger family atmosphere has grown here, and now she usually sees a posse of kids sitting together, with their parents enjoying some adult company nearby.

We focused on skiing for our vacation-week visit to the Club, but members can take advantage of all kinds of benefits and privileges, from use of the Omni Mount Washington Hotel's outdoor pool, to spa discounts, to complimentary time on the Slopeside Climbing Wall.  There are several different memberships to choose from that feature special benefits for ski, golf, and social memberships, or combinations of each.

They also offer members-only events like social mixers for adults and kid-specific programs like live animal visits or educational programs from the Mount Washington Observatory.

Skis need a tune? Just drop them off with one of the ski attendants and they'll be nice and sharp the following morning.

We love to bring family and friends with us to share our love of skiing and winter, and at the Club, members can bring along guests for just $25 a day.  Need a little more room for this guests?  Members get free two room-nights at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel (with some restrictions) and discounts on additional nights at Resort lodging properties.

Often connotations of a private club bring the notion of an exclusionary group of people that are more interested in seeing what kind of car you drive than in getting to know you.  That was hardly the case here. At the end of the day, our car was warmed up and waiting for us in front of the Alpine Club.  As we were leaving, we talked with one of the members who looked like she had kids about the same age as ours.  With a genuine smile she told us, "It really is like a big extended family here.  The kids have become fast friends, and love to ski together.  Everyone is so friendly and the staff really takes care of us here."  This unsolicited plug for the Club assured us that this is a place we really could call home.

The Club offers open houses throughout the season where you can learn more about what it's like to be a member, or you can schedule a "member for a day" visit like we did by contacting Eileen and her friendly staff to set up a personal tour.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Celebrating Our Own Olympics

Have you been glued to the games like we have? I realize that Olympians have rare talent and tenacity, yet it's fascinating for me when I think about the fact that these athletes are real people who grew up in little towns like the one we live in, and skied and trained at mountains that I've skied. The inspiration they spark in me every time I watch a skater glide across the ice or a snowboarder soar in inconceivable whirls and turns makes me wonder if we might be able to have our own Olympic moments on our next visit to Bretton Woods.

With Bridget's penchant for flying down the mountain, we'd obviously start our Olympic tour on Bode's Run. Bode Miller himself helped design this run from the top of Mount Rosebrook, and it's full of the variety you'd expect from the iconic skier, with a good little headwall at the top, and then some sweeping turns around clusters of maples for practicing those race turns.

Next, we may want to see how we'd fare against gold medal ski race winner Ted Ligety. Even 4-year-old Timmy can see how he would compare to Ted with a few runs down the NASTAR course.  Every time you race NASTAR you are racing against Ted and his Par Time. The handicap you earn is the percentage your time is behind Ted's time (e.g. 15 handicap = 15 percent behind Ted's time). NASTAR is the acronym for the NAtional STAndard Race and is the largest public grassroots ski race program in the world. Participants compete within their age and gender groups to win platinum, gold, silver and bronze medals. 

For some freestyle flair, we'll have to hit one of the kids' favorite runs, Coos Caper. My guys are too little to actually hit any of the features, but they love to ride up and over the big whales of snow carved out for the big kids to fly off. Safety note: we try to keep our forays into this playground to the times that the real freestylers aren't there, like early in the morning -we don't want a little ripper to be hidden behind one of the jumps and have someone land on them!

We've enjoyed the Bretton Woods Nordic Marathon in the past, and the 2014 event is coming up on March 8. It's a great place for even a casual cross-country skier to get the feel of participating in a big Nordic event. There have been some famous names in Nordic racing participate in this event in the past, like Olympians Justin Freeman and Dorcas Wonsavage, but hundreds of participants have enjoyed this race, entering the full, half, or untamed divisions. Participants get amazing goody bags, and the banquet at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel that follows is the kind you'd only expect from a grand hotel.

When sliding down a snowy run at thrilling speeds is our Olympic aspiration, we can imagine we're on a luge on the tubing hill near the Bretton Woods Nordic Center. From the base of the tubing hill, it's normal to hear uncontrollable giggles and shrieks of laughter as kids and adults alike careen down the slope.

Next, we might try some ice dancing in one of the most scenic spots you could think of: on the rooftop of the spa and convention center at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel.  With the Presidential Range in the background, I'm hoping the views will make up for the fact that we aren't the most graceful of skaters, and if we have to pick ourselves up a few times, well then there's always a warm mug of hot cocoa waiting for us inside at the Rosebrook Bar in the Hotel.

As history buffs know, the Gold Standard was set at Bretton Woods, and I know that going for the gold will be a ton for us too, even if it's only in our imaginations!