For anyone who has followed the checkered career of former American Skiing Company founder Les Otten, there’s only one question regarding his proposed development of the historic northern resort, the Balsams: Does he have one last miracle in his bag of tricks?
I, for one, hope he does. My memories of the Balsams speak to me in a rare and special way. The resort, nestled in the remote village of Dixville Notch, N.H., was a playground for the rich, and those who wanted to “play rich,” if only for a weekend. My family and I were decidedly in the latter group, not poor by any means, but we would never be mistaken for trust funders. Still, we found a way to put aside a few pennies — and a stay at The Balsams was always going to set you back a pretty penny — to spend a few long weekends at the resort.
My two girls (especially when they were younger), my wife and I loved the elegance — both casual and formal — that the Balsams exuded. We loved dressing up for dinner and being waited on by attentive staff members who always remembered our names. Hospitality was raised to an art form. Dinners, served in multiple courses, always were first-class, as were the resort’s amenities. There was just an atmosphere of sophistication and grandeur that is all too uncommon these days.
The Balsams’ Wilderness Ski Area wasn’t huge, but it was just the right size for us while the girls were still in elementary school. The legendary Panorama Golf Course, designed by Donald Ross and featuring a clubhouse that was rumored to be a safe haven for Al Capone’s booze smugglers during Prohibition, was simply spectacular. Suffice to say, we didn’t visit the Balsams often, but the times we did were unforgettable.