It doesn’t get much better than this — a double dip for lovers who also happen to be skiers. Valentine’s Day pops around on Presidents weekend. Here’s a chance to combine romance with a downhill rush, but the extra weekend day can set your horizon to more exotic places. So where to start? Follow me and your heart. – Jay Lloyd
It’s Pennsylvania skiing, but in a mountain range that we easterners rarely see – the picturesque Alleghenies. A versatile web of ski trails overlooks a modern resort complex with rustic overtones. But the reason for traveling west to a Valentine venture is Helen’s. Nestled at the base of the mountain, Helen’s is perhaps the most intimate of ski area restaurants. There’s a cozy piano bar with a view of the slopes and candlelit dining in a dimly lit room that evokes a casual elegance and fireside ambience. The dishes and small plate starters are familiar American fare with a quality touch. One reminder if you go: Make a reservation. Helen’s is popular.
Once a summer retreat for the family that brought us Johnson & Johnson, the Fern Hall Inn is set on scenic Crystal Lake in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. Ski at Elk Mountain, just eight miles away, and enjoy the comfort of period furnished rooms, a snug nook of a bar and fireside dining. A special Valentine’s Day menu is on tap that covers the spectrum of American fare, from succulent oysters on the half shell to a signature prime rib. The desserts are photo op irresistible.
One more stop in Pennsylvania before heading to the more distant north country: The Hotel Fauchere in Milford, Pennsylvania on the Delaware is one of my favorite spots for a relaxing bit of romance in a 19th century setting and within range of both Camelback and Shawnee Mountains. It’s a Pocono gem in a throwback town that combines theater, art, fine dining and sophisticated sipping. The dining and sipping parts are fused to the Hotel Fauchere, once owned by the chef who made New York’s Delmonico’s an international sensation. The Delmonico Room maintains the tradition, and Bar Louis hums with lively conversation, casual dining and nibbles that include pork belly sliders. Top off the weekend at the couples spa.
Mary enjoys cross-county sliding, I favor downhill. The choice was easy, a long weekend at the elegant Woodstock Inn in Vermont. Maintained Nordic trails at the front door and the oddly named (but fun!) Suicide Six Alpine hill are nearby. We skied downhill in the morning and on skinny skis after lunch. But between days on skis and a nightcap in the Woodstock’s casual tavern, there was the in-room Jacuzzi and a spectacular dinner at the Red Rooster, a destination eatery since the Rockefeller family launched the resort. By the way, if you’re looking for a bigger mountain, Killington is less than 20 miles away.
The White Mountains of New Hampshire provide the backdrop for one of the most romantic settings in New England. Waterville Valley, which is nestled below the 4,000 foot summit of Mt. Tecumseh, presents an eye-filling view of the mountain. The growing village has been hosting skiers and lovers for half a century, and Waterville embodies that storied aura of wonderland magic. Mary and I got around town on cross-country skis, from pubs to eateries and unique shops. A craving for a succulent lamb shank was satisfied at a table with a view in the Coyote Grill, enveloped by a relaxed apres-ski atmosphere that’s ideal for a Valentine’s Day dinner. Things may be crowded for the big weekends, but scoring a room here on a cancellation is a good possibility. Here’ where to look.