During my wild youth — OK, my 30s — before the turn of the century, my wife and I had the opportunity to attend a media event to celebrate the first winter season at the Mount Washington Hotel, almost a century after the legendary building set out the welcome mat for its first guest. Winterizing the hotel was a massive undertaking, a $3.5 million project that included replacing 800 windows, installing 100 new radiators and 300 individual thermostats, and adding extensive amounts of insulation.
The hotel launched its winter sequel the day before Thanksgiving in 1999, a grand way to ring in the new millennium. But my strongest memory was the unshakable sense that the hotel felt like it had always been open for winter. The setting was simply too perfect.
With a fresh blanket of snow covering the expansive grounds, the distinctive, sprawling white hotel with its bright red roof (imitating Spanish tiles, in keeping with the structure’s Spanish Renaissance Revival architecture), set high on a promontory, simply demands your attention. One writer friend, Steve Jermanok, once brilliantly described the Mount Washington Hotel as a giant wedding cake. To see a horse-drawn sled sliding across the hotel grounds, with the majestic Presidential Range serving as a backdrop, is to watch a Robert Frost poem come to life.
Inspired one morning during that media weekend, as Lauri slept soundly, I snuck outside just after sunrise. The air was crisp and cold and remarkably clean. With my snowshoes, I marched out to the rolling field behind the main dining room and created a giant arrow and a heart, inscribed with “I love you, Lauri” (which got some hilarious reactions as we sat down later for breakfast). That’s the kind of goofy, romantic act you might expect from a lovestruck Irishman, but it’s also the kind of emotion that a truly special place can engender. A place like the Mount Washington Hotel.