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The Balsams Wilderness, New Hampshire

The Balsams Wilderness, Dixville Notch, NH
(603) 255-3400; 800-255-0800 within NH; 800-255-0600 outside NH
4 lifts; 87 acres; 1,000 vertical feet; 1 terrain park

When you need to be pampered, owe your loved one a romantic weekend or want a family vacation without hassle, The Balsams Wilderness delivers. This remote resort, situated on a private, 15,000-acre estate in far northern New Hampshire, easily earns its four-star rating. This is not, however, a ski resort. Rather, it’s a resort where skiing is just one of many amenities.

The mountain is small, but crowds here are rare. The Balsams Wilderness is one of New Hampshire’s surviving Grand Resort Hotels and the first to be winterized. It resembles a Disney Castle, with turrets and towers, porches and balconies, and huge public rooms rambling from one to another. It’s also the site of the first-in-the-nation primary, and the Ballot Room is a history lesson in itself. Guestrooms are mostly understated with an old-fashioned charm complemented with some amenities. Only a few rooms have televisions, but there is a big screen in the TV room.

In a break with the original Balsams tradition, rooms are available with only breakfast and with limited activities for those who do not want to participate in skiing and snowboarding.

Award-winning chefs prepare a full breakfast buffet (or you can order from the menu) and five-course dinner daily. You can put your car keys away once you check in and you don’t even need to carry your wallet. Children’s programs include meals as well as skiing The hotel offers movies in a full-size theater, dancing and entertainment nightly in two lounges and often in the ballroom.

The Wilderness Alpine trails are varied, the people are very friendly and the area gets lots—and we mean lots—of snow. A triple chair accesses the summit. The terrain is primarily intermediate, but these long winding trails—up to 2 miles in length—just invite leisurely cruising. Expert skiers will not be tested at the Balsams but will enjoy the narrow twisting Notch and mountain’s five gladed areas. Another triple serves the sunbathed beginner slope that is completely separate from the main mountain and has a perfect learning grade with a continuous slope. There’s also a terrain park.

The Balsams has 95 km. of cross-country trails. One circuit has a vertical drop of 1,000 feet on trails 20 and 19. There are less daunting loops on the golf course. Trails are 12 feet wide and have two diagonal lanes and one skate lane. The resort also has a topographical trail map so you can avoid that big drop if you want. An ice-skating rink, 30 km. of designated snowshoeing trails, horse-drawn sleigh rides and a natural-history program with guided tours round out the outdoor experience. If you still have energy to burn, there’s a small fitness center, and the hotel usually offers a morning exercise program and limited spa treatments.

Lift tickets (07/08): $38 for adults (older than 14) weekends/holidays, $33 midweek; $28 for ages 5–14 weekends/holidays, $23 midweek; seniors 70+ pay youth rates. (Skiing is complimentary for hotel guests.)

Distance from Boston: About 220 miles north via I-93 (to Exit 35) then Rte. 3 to Colebrook and Rte. 26 to Dixville Notch.

Lodging information: (800) 255-0800 within NH; (800) 255-0600, U.S. and Canada.