The Omni Mount Washington Hotel at sunset under a full moon on Christmas Eve

The Omni Mount Washington Hotel at sunset under a full moon on Christmas Eve

BRETTON WOODS, NH (Day 3 of 4) — For some families, it is a new tradition; for others it is one they have cherished for years.—they are celebrating the season and the holidays away from home

One mom from Boston said she and her extended family have been gathering here at the last of the New Hampshire grand hotels—the Omni Mount Washington Resort (there once were 22 big hotels here at the base of Mount Washington) for the last five years.  “It’s great you spend the time with the kids instead of running around shopping.”

“It totally de-stresses the holiday. I don’t have to cook or clean!”  It couldn’t be prettier either—mountains, snow, the big white hotel and not a mall in site.

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For Billy Preti and his family, the trip to the Mount Washington Resort was a way to celebrate the holiday without being sad that his father in law had died.  “No one wanted to be home this year,” he said.  Instead, today he and his nephew were zip lining while his son and brother in law were skiing and the women were at the spa.  “It’s a different Christmas,” he said smiling.

And for Lorel Troy, who is from Southern California, it was a way to spend the holidays with her Boston-based son who didn’t have enough time off from work to join the rest of the family in California.  “This is much better than sitting around the house while they watch football,” she said of her first visit to this area.  “Everyone is having a good time.”

Certainly there is plenty to do at this historic resort—from NH largest ski area, plenty of groomed cross country and snow shoe trails, dog sledding, sleigh rides and indoor and outdoor pool and gargantuan spa where my daughter and I indulged in blissful massages yesterday. (Loved the spa’s outdoor hot tub too.)

There are plenty of activities for the kids (candy bar bingo anyone?, music scavenger hunts movies and for the adults (wine tasting anyone? Or afternoon tea).

There is even the opportunity to go dog sledding, thanks to the teams  from   “It is really something when you see that this experience made someone’s day,” said Larry Perry, who took us on a 20-minute ride with a team that included brothers Gonzo and Poncho, Hara, Jill, Dixie, Lefty Miller and Corona. (It’s also possible to take a longer ride too).

Poncho and Gonzo the sled dog brothers

Poncho and Gonzo the sled dog brothers

The dogs were so enthusiastic—and happy to be running in the snow—that we couldn’t help but be enthusiastic too.  We learned they are all rescue dogs who have come from as far away as Canada.  The brothers Gonzo and Poncho are special – Gonzo is totally blind but runs beside his brother who acts as his “seeing-eye dog.”

It does feel like a kinder, gentler time here but the reality is, the hotel wasn’t open in the winter until 2000.  It is the last of the 22 great hotels that flourished here in the early years of the 20th Century when wealthy New Yorkers and Bostonians would come up for the entire summer.

Today on Christmas Eve, the lobby is decorated to the hilt and families are relaxing in front of the fire and posing for pictures in front of the trees—there are several.  Luggage carts are piled with gifts.

There’s an indoor climbing pool, indoor and outdoor pools, even a historic hotel tour, the chance to make your own snowflakes or pet rocks.  There’s even the opportunity to have elves tuck in the kids (for a fee of $30 and read The Night Before Christmas.  There’s holiday movies and holiday music and the chance to dress up for dinner in the main dining room or enjoy a steak in the more casual Stickney’s, named for the original owner (we especially loved the lobster mac and cheese.)

At the ski area, families are congratulating themselves on escaping the holiday craziness at home. .  “Being here is our gift,” said Miriam Fein-Cole, who is from Lexington MA.  “It’s nice family time.”

Lori and Keith Jameson and their 11 year old son Justin said they just wanted to escape the chaos that is the holidays for a few days.  “It’s the first time we did this,” said Lori Keith.  “I’m so glad not to rush.

Next year we’re going to do it again—and stay longer.”

We end our day with the oh-so-fancy three-course Christmas Eve dinner in the main dining room.  It reminds me of a Bar Mitzvah, actually—everyone dressed their best, little girls dancing with their dads and grandfathers, moms dancing with their sons.

Everyone is smiling and laughing.   Whether it is a family’s first visit or an annual tradition, it’s certainly one for the memory books.

And even away from home, Santa hasn’t forgotten us.  When we wake up in the morning, there is a stocking outside our room filled with treats.

Thanks, Santa.