Basch: The Glen House elevates Pinkham Notch experience

  • A skier crosses a meadow at Great Glen Trails as seen from the new Glen House hotel located trailside at the outdoor center in Pinkham Notch. MARTY BASCH Photo / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 1/6/2019 8:35:31 PM

A lone cross-country skier clad in a red jacket skated swiftly and silently across the open field at the base of a shaded Mount Washington, the early morning sun casting a purple hue across the sky as it touched the frosty crowns of the peaks in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range.

Just 16 or so hours before, peering out from the same third-story trail-side hotel window yielded a very different scene as a muted cloudy drape hid the classic alpine scenery.

Such are some of the panoramas experienced from the recently opened Glen House, the fifth rendition of the iconic White Mountain hotel on the east side of the Rockpile.

Owned by the Mt. Washington Summit Road Company, the 68-room boutique-style hotel continues a Pinkham Notch tradition of hospitality linked to the outdoors heralding back to 1852 when Col. Joseph Thompson opened a renovated farmhouse to guests.

Since then, four renditions of the hotel near the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road succumbed to fire, the last in 1967. After a half century, a new nature-friendly hotel was unveiled in September poised on the Great Glen Trails 45-kilometer trail system with its skate-groomed and classic Nordic pathways, fat biking, snowshoeing, tubing and access to a motorized snowcoach tour to a dramatic tree-line vista on the Auto Road.

The hotel offers a cross-country ski-in, ski-out (roll in-roll out too) experience for those staying and those looking for lunch along the trails at the Notch Grille. That same American style cuisine restaurant houses a comfortable high-ceilinged bar complete with a mosaic-laced moose over the fireplace and windows overlooking the mountains that makes for a pleasant apres ski experience whether coming off the Great Glen trails or nearby Wildcat Mountain. An outdoor fire pit augments it all. Overnight guests received a voucher good for a one-day trail pass for the network.

I’ve been making day trips to Great Glen for some time, enjoying the well-groomed runs through the pines, beech and birch with not just its Presidential accents but also those of the Carter-Moriah Range across Route 16. Opening in December of 1994, the soft adventure focused system was constructed with the idea that it would one day be a playground for the next Glen House. Its bilingual signs are in English and French and there’s even a resident Olympian on staff as ski school director

And there was 1984 Olympian Sue Weymss in the base lodge teaching an early season Nordic warm-up class as my wife Jan and I prepared to hit the trails on a relatively gentle 6.4 km loop with the Great Angel Warming Cabin as the mid-point. Skiing through a tunnel under the road to the open meadow, we soon entered the woods and later stood in front of the analog thermometer with its 12 degree reading. Though the view into the Great Gulf Wilderness was hidden, the cabin’s coziness was welcome from the persistent wind, a pleasing respite from the chill.

After lunch in the lodge’s Glen View Cafe, we tromped about for a good mile or so on the packed in the forest and windblown in the open snowshoe trails on the networks east side outside the lodge, crossing multiple bridges outfitted for mountain biking, scaling some short steeps and passing by a weathered wooden outhouse.

Instead of heading home, the night was spent at the Glen House, first enjoying the hot chocolate and cookies in the lobby before swimming a bit in the small indoor saltwater pool sans hot tub which would have been appreciated. Reasonably priced drinks and dinner at the bar followed before slumbering in the simple Shaker-inspired room.

The next day we took advantage of the weather with a coach tour to about the 4,250 foot mark on the Auto Road with its dazzling look at mountains like Washington, Adams and Jefferson. Fat biking was next, sharing the trails with skiers as we pedaled to the tubing hill for some slides down, biking on trails who had skied on the previous day. There’s the beauty of it all, seeing the same landscape from skis, snowshoes or bikes, and watching those who are just learning or know what they’re doing. With The Glen House, instead of heading home, a day-trip becomes an overnight, a weekend, a holiday, and allows for the possibility of purple-hued perspectives from beds at the base of the northeast’s highest peak.

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