Silence in winter is not like silence the rest of the year. In winter, silence is rounder and heavier, pregnant. Snow-laden, it wraps around the body like raw cotton. You can almost hear it. Of course, that makes no sense, but there’s no denying its remarkably physical presence, especially when a winter wind picks it up and shoos it along in micro-squalls.
Since 1902, a massive Spanish Renaissance lodge has towered on the snowy, windblown heights of the Northeast’s tallest peak and perhaps most iconic ski area, bought and sold again and again. Now in the last stage of an $80 million renovation, the Omni Mount Washington Resort retains its sense of quiet charm and the sort of behind-the-scenes bustle associated with grand houses of yesteryear. Accommodations range from traditional guest rooms to large suites with mountain views. A main dining room plus assorted bars offer guests the opportunity to decompress after days on the slopes and trails. The Cave, a speakeasy-style bar nestled in the resort’s lower level, offers pub fare and craft beer flights that were particularly rejuvenating after battling the elements.
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While the alpine and Nordic skiing might be what Bretton Woods is best known for, the resort offers a long list of wintery diversions. Guests can explore the area on snowshoe, dog sled, inner tube, snowmobile, or sleigh, all under the watchful eye of the mountain. Guided backcountry ski tours can be arranged for groups up to six. Really, though, it doesn’t matter how you explore the stark natural beauty of the White Mountains. What’s important is that you do, and do so bundled up.
Now, the silence is cut by the gentle swoosh of skis on tracked snow and by my slightly labored breathing. Ahead and behind, the trail is crowded with firs but devoid of people. The wind has picked up again and I’m too frozen to even contemplate the sounds of silence any longer, especially knowing a couch and fireplace await me at the ski center. Even better is knowing that once thawed I can hop a quick shuttle back up to the warm embrace of the resort, where a series of craft beers will chase away the mere memory of the quiet cold.
Details: Rooms range from $229/night to $639/night; luxury suite, from $739/night. Contact: www.omnihotels.com/mountwashington