Clark Rockefeller

I’ve met a surprising number of impostors in my life. At Duke University, there was a creepy dude who posed as a member of the French branch of the Rothschild family. In my twenties, there was a gorgeous young con artist who convinced two childhood friends to come on a round-the-world adventure with her, and then jacked them for a fortune (plus their passports). I also met a pre-Madoff Ponzi scheme scumbag who managed to scam some savvy investors out of millions, but who (amazingly) realized the kinds of returns he had claimed in his phony statements after the court forced him to sell the real estate, art and classic cars he’d collected. In terms of sheer creepiness, though, Clark Rockefeller takes the cake.
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Door to Door With Doris, Episode 2

A Weekend Jaunt to Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington at Dusk

I have the Sunday New York Times delivered, but I don’t generally read the Travel section. Too much esoteric nonsense on places I’m not that interested in, or uninformed surface-skimming opinions about places I know well and love, have turned me off of it. So I didn’t see it on February 18th, when Bill Pennington wrote a story entitled, “In NH, Can Bretton Woods Get Gnarly?” In fact, exactly a month later, the Times sat on my front doorstep until late Sunday night, because coincidentally, I was busy finding out for myself.

Sam and I went to squeeze in one last ski weekend this season. I’m an avid but pretty average skier who’s been spoiled by places like Aspen, Tahoe, Banff and (my personal favorite) Sun Valley (though I’ve yet to ski anywhere in Europe or the Southern hemisphere). Sam’s a novice snow-boarder, just getting comfortable carving turns and exposed so far only to the kind of icy, sub-Arctic and wind-whipped conditions, paired with mediocre facilities, that constitute skiing at most New England mountains. We settled on skiing Bretton Woods only because we got a great deal at the Mount Washington Inn.

The Mount Washington Inn

Anyone who’s ever been to the White Mountains has probably seen it: a colossal white Spanish Renaissance behemoth, its red roof is visible from the tops of mountains miles away. It was built in 1902 and once attracted so many high-rollers that 50 trains a day stopped at the depot, while its guest register boasts three U.S. presidents, Thomas Edison and Babe Ruth. It’s also supposedly the model for the hotel in “The Shining.” (The most popular theory is that it’s based on The Stanley Hotel in Eustes, Co, but an acquaintance claims that at a book signing years ago—when he still did book signings—Stephen King was asked if it were true and would neither confirm nor deny it.) In any case, it’s a grand old rambling place, complete with mandatory stuffed moose over the fireplace, and for most of the past 30 years, it was known primarily as a footnote in text books because the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were formed there in 1944. Thanks to a recent facelift, however, it’s a lot spiffier and a good deal cozier than the hotel in “The Shining.” In fact, the only creepy thing about it were a few of the other guests and the windowsills in the stairwell landings, where dead flies seemed to collect (thankfully, they were eventually vacuumed up).

The Obligatory Moose

It meets all the basic requirements for a ski-luxe resort. There’s a spa, a skating rink, a huge Nordic ski center and a nightclub aptly named The Cave, built out of the old wine cellar (unfortunately, though, no hedge maze). There are stunning views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range, and right across the street (and affiliated with the hotel) is Bretton Woods. New Hampshire’s largest ski area (which isn’t really saying much; Sunday River in Newry, Maine is several times its size), is a mellow cruiser of a mountain, known for its good grooming and comfy (by New England standards) prevailing weather patterns. In other words, it’s the antithesis of that New Hampshire merit badge for skiing—Tuckerman’s Ravine (which requires a four-hour hike and some serious cajones). And as it turned out, Bretton Woods was the perfect mountain for me and Sam. There were great runs where the pitch didn’t freak him out but I didn’t get bored. The conditions were as good as we could have asked for: sunny with no wind and loose granular snow. And the lodge didn’t feel (or smell) like a highway rest stop.

The Base Lodge at Bretton Woods

As for the hotel itself, it exceeded my expectations. The food at the gastro-pub Stickney’s was better than in the main dining room, but the main dining room gives it the distinction of being the only ski resort I’ve ever been to where gentlemen are required to wear jackets to dinner. The service was top-notch, and the somewhat schizophrenic wine list ranged from a 1997 Domaine Romanee Conti (for just under $400) to a more affordable Coppo Barbera D’Asti. The grounds meanwhile, turned out to be an ideal place for an after-dinner stroll to look at the celestial phenomenon known as the “Super Moon,” which took place that weekend.

In fact, if we had any complaints about the resort, they stem from exactly what gives the place its appeal, namely its age. The cramped elevator is manned and can be painfully slow, the walls are thin, and if you forget anything in your room, you have to hike back up the stairs and down the impossibly long hallways. Otherwise, The Mount Washington Inn and Bretton Woods were perfectly charming…even if Sam couldn’t resist blurting out “Redrum!” every once in a while.