Crowds are part and parcel of the skiing experience. Let’s face it: They’re often unavoidable. There are crowds in the parking lots, crowds in the cafeteria, in the après-ski bars, in the lift lines, and sometimes on the slopes. While we all love the wide-open spaces that the great outdoors promise, the reality is that we often have to share the experience. That fact, in itself, isn’t a bad thing.
But there are times when we all crave a little “me time,” whether it’s a romantic getaway with that special someone or a family retreat.
One antidote is the New England Inn & Lodge, tucked away in tiny Intervale, N.H., wedged between Glen and North Conway. First established as an inn called the Mountain Rest in 1809, more than a century before skiing made it’s way to the region, the New England Inn has been in operation since 1906. That makes it the oldest continuously operating inn in the Mount Washington Valley.
And it’s been successful for good reason.
“One thing I can say about our property, being spread out like it is, is that during the day most of the time people think, ‘There’s nobody here,’ ” said longtime innkeeper Gary Riendeau. “But we could be fully booked.”
That’s because the inn takes full advantage of the sprawling property, which straddles both sides of Route 16A (which is thankfully removed from the noise and congestion of Route 16). The New England Inn & Lodge has a variety of accommodations — 31 units in all — that can fit almost any vacation getaway, short or long term.
Owned by Crystal and Chet Hooper (who bought the property a second time in 2012, after selling it four years previously following a 13-year run), the inn is a wonderful mix of buildings that span two centuries. The original white-clapboard inn, interestingly enough, has 11 small rooms that are no longer rented but may be converted into suites or apartments at a later date, said Riendeau.
A full continental breakfast — a bountiful spread with cereals, yogurts, pastries, bagels, juices, and, of course, coffee — is included in the room charge, and served from 8 to 11 each morning in a room that was added to the original building in 1836.
Behind the breakfast room is Tuckerman’s Restaurant & Tavern, owned and operated by the Hoopers’ son, Adam, and Todd Neil. Opened from 4 p.m. daily, the restaurant is a convenient gem, providing a welcomed reprieve after a day on the hill or the trails, and serving a wide variety of hearty dishes at surprisingly reasonable (for a resort area) prices. Want proof? How about a bowl of spicy chicken corn chowder or New England clam chowder (each $6), a classic burger ($10) or prime rib telera sandwich ($13), or entrees like the mountain man meatloaf ($18), pesto linguini with salmon ($21), or the rib-sticking short rib mushroom marsala ($20). You won’t leave hungry, I promise.
As a bonus, inn guests are given preferential treatment at Tuckerman’s.
“Let’s say there’s an hour wait,” said Riendeau. “If you’re staying with us, you get seated immediately. You get the next available table.”
Once I have a full belly, my “late night” plans usually consist of getting horizontal, finding a great bed in a quiet room. Again, the New England Inn delivers. The queen-size beds in our well-appointed open-concept Mountain Pond cabin — one of the inn’s newly renovated Garden Suites — struck the perfect balance between support and luxury, with clean, crisp linens. I slept like a baby.
The room also had a comfortable sitting area, refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, flat-screen television and full bathroom with a full-pressure shower head that helped take the edge off my aching muscles.
If you want more muscle-soothing options, consider the suites across the street at the resort’s two-story, wood-themed lodge. Built in 2001, the lodge is considered “adult only,” with 12 large non-smoking suite-style rooms. Six of those suites have jetted tubes, which can be a godsend. All rooms, however, have gas-fed fireplaces, large 43-inch flat-screen TVs with a bevy of cable channels and DVD-Blue Ray players, and a refrigerator. Some rooms also have king-sized beds, for folks who like to spread out. There also are three “adult only” one-room Woodland Cottages beside the lodge.
Parents with kids in tow, or larger groups, can choose from 10 units with a choice of two, three or four beds, all a short stroll from Tuckerman’s.
For guests who have more energy than I do after a full day on the slopes, nightlife options just a few miles from the inn include the Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub and Margarita Grill in Glen, the Wildcat Tavern and Shannon Door Pub in Jackson, and McGrath’s Tavern, Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewery, and Delaney’s Hole in the Wall in North Conway. And yes, taxi services are available.
During the winter months, the inn is equally popular with couples and families who enjoy snowmobiling and skiing, said Riendeau. Special package deals with Northern Extremes Snowmobiling in Bartlett are available. Skiing and snowboarding guests, meanwhile, can access an online code that can be used to purchase discounted lift tickets at local ski areas. Black Mountain, Wildcat Mountain, Mount Cranmore and Attitash/Bear Peak are all a short drive away. So, again, guests have plenty of choices.
The inn also features a nice 30-by-50 indoor pool that guests share with the local Agiochook Aquatic Center (Agiochook being the Native American name for Mount Washington).
“They have classes and a swim team,” said Riendeau. “They teach from 9 months old to 90 years old. But it still leaves plenty of time for guests to be able to swim in there, too.”
Want to bring along the family hound? No problem. The inn provides six units, including the Woodland Cottages and traditional four-bed suites situated along the back of the property, that are pet-friendly. There is a $25 fee per dog.
About the only thing missing from the New England Inn’s lodging menu is long-term stay options. But the Hoopers are resolving that issue, constructing new buildings along the property’s southern property line that will house larger suites featuring full kitchens, laundry facilities and other amenities.
“Those are actually going to be under another name,” said Riendeau. “Right now, it looks like they’ll be called the Sandy Brook Cabins. We hope to have the first two online in mid-December, and add more in the spring.”
One last note: In keeping with the owners’ “Go Green” initiative, the inn is a “limited-stay service facility.” In other words, housekeeping and trash removal isn’t automatically provided every day. That’s not a big deal for most, including me, but guests should be aware of that stipulation (daily housekeeping is available for an additional fee of $10 per day). However, when staying longer than four nights, housekeeping is done every other day at no charge.