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Omni Mount Washington

Laurie Kahle
From the Print Edition:
Saturday Night Live: How it Shapes Our Politics & Culture, September/October 2011

Sliding high above the treetops at 35 miles an hour on a 550-foot-long zip line, I take in the panoramic vista of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods. At the bottom of the valley sprawls the Omni Mount Washington Resort, a circa-1902 grand-dame hotel recently restored to her former luster with a $60-million investment.

Upon landing on a platform 70 feet off the ground in the upper branches of a 350-year-old hemlock, I wonder how the gnarled old tree managed to escape the heavy logging that decimated 90 percent of its brethren. No matter, the century-old Weeks Act that established a National Forest here created a spectacular opportunity to take in New England’s phenomenal fall foliage with 84 percent of the area now forested.

The faint of heart needn’t worry. A 1,100-foot zip line descent is just one of the ways to experience the autumnal colors at the Omni Mount Washington Resort. If careening isn’t on your bucket list, perhaps you’d prefer a round of golf on the restored Donald Ross-designed Mount Washington course followed by a Padrón on the rear veranda that’s overlooks the Presidential mountain range. Sited on 1,900 acres surrounded by nearly 800,000 acres of national forest, the hotel invites you to engage with the great outdoors either actively or passively.

The renovation extends to the rooms, common areas and culinary venues, in addition to a modern wing that houses a spa and conference center. While the hotel’s structure is imposing, the décor keeps it down-to-earth with classic New England country touches, such as a moose head mounted above a stone fireplace and custom carpets depicting local flora and fauna in the Grand Hall. Throughout the building, historical photographs pay tribute to the past, while flat-screen televisions, marble baths and service meet the expectations of a modern traveler.

Menus at the two AAA Four Diamond restaurants take advantage of artisanal cheeses from Vermont, organic heirloom tomatoes and other produce from nearby Walker Hill Farm as well as maple syrup. At The Bretton Arms Inn Dining Room, Chef Matt Larose leans on regional sources for his “new American” cuisine. One example is an appetizer of house-made agnolotti pasta filled with Vermont goat cheese and Maine blueberries and topped with caramelized cipollini onions. “We’ll take a classic dish and redo it creatively,” he explains. This fall, his transitional menu highlights pumpkin, apples and other seasonal ingredients.

Sommelier Don Davis makes pairing suggestions from an extensive wine list featuring smaller American wineries, such as Beaux Frères. After dinner, you can head down to The Cave, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy that once served drinks in tea cups to fool the authorities. Happily, raids remain a thing of the past.

Visit omnimountwashingtonresort.com or call 800-843-6664.

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