Given the choice, I almost always opt for slopeside accommodations during ski trips. I put a premium on convenience, and the ability to ski out of and ski in to my lodging is, for me, the pinnacle of a ski outing. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. A perfect example is the Inn at Thorn Hill in Jackson, New Hampshire.
This elegant country manor, set atop a short hill overlooking one of New England’s quintessential ski villages with stunning views of the White Mountains, is a special treat any time of the year, and especially in winter. But the inn stands alone, separate from any ski area or resort. On the outskirts of town (straight up the hill on Route 16B), you can find the throwback ski hill of Black Mountain.
Farther north, in Pinkham Notch, is the venerable Wildcat Mountain, opposite Mount Washington’s Tuckerman Ravine. A short drive southwest brings you to Attitash/Bear Peak in Bartlett, or Cranmore to the south in North Conway.
It’s that diversity that makes Jackson a wonderful hub for your northern New Hampshire adventures. My wife, daughters and I love being able to “sample” the different experiences — from conditions to atmosphere — that these four ski areas offer, without feeling like we’re obligated to one because we happen to be staying there. But there are plenty of lodging options, including the Wentworth Inn, the Jackson Inn (at the foot of Thorn Hill) and the Christmas Farm Inn. What sets the the Inn at Thorn Hill apart is a wonderful sense of casual luxury, top-notch dining options and a fabulous spa.
Innkeepers Katey Brothers and Steve Lambert, who assumed ownership on New Year’s Day 2017, have nurtured the property’s well-established charm while adding a number of fun, offbeat events, such as themed weekends (the Murder Mystery Grapes and Grain Tour in March is a sure sellout). The main inn offers 16 luxurious guest rooms, beautifully appointed with outrageously comfortable king and queen beds, stress-relieving steam showers and Jacuzzi tubs, flatscreen televisions (a great babysitter substitute if Mom and Dad want to grab a later, romantic dinner), and cozy gas fireplaces. If you’re looking for added privacy, consider one of the inn’s three cottages.
To fully appreciate a stay at the Inn at Thorn Hill, start with a full day of skiing (or snowboarding) before you head off to Jackson. Again, you’ve got great options, including the four aforementioned ski areas in addition to Bretton Woods on Route 302 to the west of Mount Washington and Sunday River in Maine, both a short drive away. Or, if you’re a fan of skinny skis, visit the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation facility, with 150 kilometers of classic and skate-skiing trails (as well as 15 km of petfriendly nordic trails and 45 km of snowshoe routes). That effort sets the stage for a relaxing afternoon and evening. And this is where the Inn at Thorn Hill really shines.
The manor has a warm, bright sitting room that welcomes the late-day sun, creating the ideal après-ski setting (our girls actually look forward to taking a break from their smart phones and playing board games). There’s also a terrific little library chock full of books highlighting local lore for history buffs like me. Depending on how you like to chill, choose between the well-stocked lounge, or the fabulous on-site day spa. You honestly can’t go wrong with either.
Like any high-end ski resort bar, the Inn at Thorn Hill’s lounge is defined by well-crafted drinks in a comfy atmosphere. The amiable bartenders know their spirits and know how to work a room. The crisp dirty martini I enjoyed on a bone-chilling evening last January was one of the best I’ve ever had. A long wood bar and the inviting seats and sofas promote the goodnatured socializing that makes skiing such a wonderful pastime. There’s also a lounge menu, with mouthwatering items like bison meatloaf sliders and beer-battered fish and chips with fresh haddock.
The spa, meanwhile, has a dizzying assortment of treatments, ranging from massages and wraps to pedicures and manicures (yes, my daughters can’t resist this rare treat). Or you can just warm up your weary joints at the spa’s redwood sauna. Admittedly, the older I get, the more I appreciate the recuperative powers of these amenities.
Dining options abound in Jackson, with terrific spots such as the Wildcat Inn & Tavern and Red Fox Bar and Grille. That has forced Brothers and Lambert to up their game. And they’ve accepted the challenge. Chef Christian Pandora has compiled a formidable menu, with enough flexibility to accommodate my youngest, who is a devoted vegan. My wife and I went more traditional. Our en trees — fresh Maine salmon for Lauri, and boneless short ribs for me, after sharing a “lamb lollipops” appetizer and a large Caesar salad — were exceptional, paired perfectly with wines from the inn’s extensive wine list (there’s even a wine cellar room for private parties of 16).
Afterward, with our appetites fully satiated and our legs weary, none of us had any trouble getting to sleep. The next morning, we enjoyed a robust breakfast worthy of royalty. New this year, the innkeepers have jettisoned the idea of a traditional menu and are offering four unique breakfast entrees each day featuring locally sourced ingredients. I can’t think of a better way to prepare for another day on the hill, no matter which one strikes my fancy.