Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Hitting up the Mount Washington Hotel hot tub

Saturday morning saw me quit EMS. At daybreak on Sunday, RD Jenkinson and I were preparing for Wildcat Mtn. And on Monday, after a steamy night courtesy of an overloaded wood stove, I dropped into International Mountain Equipment in North Conway. There I ran into fellow AMC Naturalist Lynne Zummo, who needed a ride down to Boston that night, where I was heading.

What to do in the meantime? I learned on my last day up at Mizpah this fall how easy it is to lean on those who can afford it. The Mount Washington Hotel, home to the Bretton Woods Conference where ideas for the IMF and World bank were hatched, is the poshest resort up north. Blessed with a superb location—the Hotel faces the main ridge of the Presidentials, dominated by Mt. Washington—it is the last of the venerable old hotels which used to dot the White Mountains and Lakes Region, somehow having escaped fire. It’s a place that likes to do things on a grand scale, whether in its “Spanish Renaissance” architecture or the massive fireworks we saw through the fir trees on a Crawford Path night hike this fall.

The irony of a place like the Mt. Washington Hotel is that most guests are social climbers. They aren’t the confident, suave people one imagines luxuriating in a place like this; rather, they go there to impress themselves and their friends. It’s not unusual to hear a strong New Hampshuh accent on the verandah, or to see a mom shushing her kids in the front hall. The jetset may have frequented the Mt. Washington Hotel back in the 40s and 50s, but now they’re going to Vail or the Carribean in the winter.

So if you can look a doorman in the eye and keep the cuss words to a minimum, it’s not too hard to blend in. After all, the staff isn’t going to challenge you—you might be the rough around the edges face of new money, for all they know.

Enter via the side door closest to the parking lot (that is, unless you choose valet): the pool is all the way at the end of the corridor, about a quarter of a mile away. The hotel provides towels—all you need is a swimsuit, or in my case, a pair of boxers. In addition to the Jacuzzi, there are two pools, an indoors and a heated outdoors. I prefer the latter—the view of the Presidentials is tremendous, and the steam rising off the surface in cold weather (it was about 10 degrees out on Monday) is both beautiful and conducive to privacy.

If you feel like mingling, head upstairs after your soak and grab a paper and a cocktail in the main hall. The late afternoon alpenglow on the Presidentials is particularly fine. And as you head at the door, a snappy farewell is a nice parting shot—I find that “Ciao” seems to elicit the most patronizing response from the doorman.

Luxury is a dangerous habit but a delightful treat.

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