Day tripping to the mountains for skiing is fine, but every so often isn’t it nice to make it a full weekend adventure, to treat yourself a little? ? Of course!
After all, there’s nothing quite like skiing the entire day and after après ski, enjoying a relaxed dinner. Then, unlike other ski days, instead of driving home in the cold and dark night, you get to tuck into a comfy bed in a charming room at an historic inn.
That’s exactly what my wife and I did not too long ago, when we enjoyed a fun weekend at the Bethel Inn and a couple days of skiing at Sunday River. Outdoor fun plus real rest and relaxation at its best, for a lot less than you think.
The historic Bethel Inn on the Common in the beautiful village of Bethel is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, a century of catering to guests from all over the world. Its warm and welcoming environs include a variety of comfortable rooms, fine cuisine in the dining room or casual fare in the pub, and Nordic skiing on miles of trails in winter and championship golf on 18 holes in summer. Never mind that Bethel lies in the heart of Maine’s sector of the White Mountains with its myriad recreation and sightseeing opportunities.
“The Prospect Hotel was originally located here until it burned in 1910,” said Allen Connors, Managing Partner at the Bethel Inn. “The inn as it now stands was built on the same site and opened in 1913.”
The original clientele of the Bethel Inn weren’t tourists as you might expect, but rather psychiatric outpatients of Dr. George Gehring. Resident patients not only received therapy amid the cool, clear mountain air, but also worked during their lengthy stays lasting 2-3 months, tending the gardens on the grounds and building the golf course.
The sanitarium concept was relatively short-lived and the inn soon turned to catering to guests from near and far, which it continues to do to this day, through all four seasons.
As with many such resort hotels over time, the Bethel Inn has had its share of struggles to survive and prosper and its complete history is a fascinating one.
The resort finally got onto firm footing when New York advertising executive turned entrepreneur Dick Rasor bought the resort in 1979.
“He and Les Otten had a good partnership,” said Connors, both understanding the beneficial connection between skiing at Sunday River and lodging at Bethel Inn. Ski and stay packages started to attract visitors in greater numbers and today, skiers are still big business for the inn and the area.
“We thrive on the quality of our accommodations and our service,” Connors said. “These things make the inn very attractive to visitors. Repeat visitors make up 75% of the business.”
The Bethel Inn expanded in 1998, adding the Chapman wing and its 15 rooms. The main wing was completely remodeled in 2013. The inn now has 49 traditional rooms and 53 2-3 bedroom townhouses. The health club features a heated outdoor pool plus whirlpool, sauna and fitness center.
“The pool helps to ‘weather-proof’ family vacations,” noted Connors with grin.
Guests can enjoy a nice selection of beer, wine and cocktails and everything from salads, sandwiches and burgers to steaks and seafood in the cozy Millbrook Tavern downstairs in the basement. Upstairs and down the hall is the lovely Main Dining Room, well-known for its prime rib and lobster dishes. A nice selection of wines complements any menu selection.
The Bethel Inn’s 202-acres property features a phenomenally beautiful golf course in summer, complete with a full time golf school. Designed by renowned architect Geoffrey Cornish, the course is 6,663 yards and par 72.
In winter, the cross-country ski center features 40 kilometers of groomed Nordic ski trails, and a ski shop with a full line of gear, plus lessons and ski and snowshoe rentals. We were too early for the x-c skiing on our visit, but we’ll be back for sure.
One of the best things about the Bethel Inn?
“Everything is located right here. Once you park your car you’re here,” said Connors.
With the free Mountain Explorer shuttle bus connecting the Bethel Inn to Sunday River and many points in-between, you really can go car-free during your stay. The shuttle runs daily through the ski season, making 28 round-trips Mon through Fri and during holiday weeks from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., and 16 round-trips Mon through Thurs from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Connors grew up in Bethel, went to college at the University of Southern Maine, and then went on to run a golf club. He’s now been at the Bethel Inn for twenty years.
“I came back here for the golf, and the skiing of course!”
When not busy around the inn, Connors likes to fly fish, ski, golf and spend time with his wife and three kids.
Connors is just one of the many friendly, hospitable people you’ll meet at the Bethel Inn, which has very little turnover in staff, a mark of a well-run operation.
“We find good people and we keep them.”
You’ll certainly notice what a difference that makes when you stay.
MORE INFO: Bethel Inn, (800) 654-0125.