NORTH CONWAY - Warming indoor rewards can take the edge off winter's freeze - even in the White Mountains.
Slip into a comfy chair before a roaring fire, indulge in a massage, try a bubbling fondue, or kick it up a notch with flaming drinks and desserts.
Chill out by warming up at these ski country locations:
1785 Inn Showmanship and sustenance share the stage here. For over 20 years, the staff has warmed guests with flaming drinks like the coffee French Connection, Cocoa Lava, and Flaming Hot Apple Pie. The fireworks begin with a glass that's dipped in a bowl of sugar and cinnamon before adding the liquor and lighting it. The flaming liquid is a sight to behold. The drinks are made with various liquors, from 100-proof peppermint schnapps to a touch of Italian Tuaca for a vanilla taste. Come off the cross-country ski and snowshoe trails behind the inn and defrost in the post-and-beam tavern with one of these warming concoctions and a couple of flaming desserts: bananas Foster and cherries jubilee. The desserts sizzle from a wheeled-in cart that produces some pub dazzle.
3582 White Mountain Highway, North Conway, 800-421-1785, the1785inn.com. Drinks, desserts $10.85.
The Met Coffee House and Art Gallery Slip onto the purple couch and sip frothy latte at this coffee house and art gallery. Watch the baristas work on specialties like The Carmella, a blend of espresso, chocolate, and caramel sauce; the Met Tuxedo, a hot chocolate mix topped with whipped cream and more chocolate; Spiced Chai Tea Latte with black tea, Eastern spices, and honey; and local apple cider with a shot of gingerbread or cinnamon. Located in North Conway village in a high-ceilinged brick former bank, The Met radiates relaxation with its music and tranquil color scheme. Head upstairs for a bird's-eye view of the coffee doings or get some Wi-Fi work done in the Quiet Room.
2680 Main St., North Conway, 603-356-2332, metropolitancoffee house.com. Medium latte $3.50.
Lincoln Woods Visitors Center This is the place to warm your cold tootsies by a wood stove in rustic comfort. About five miles east of Lincoln on the Kancamagus Highway, this US Forest Service cabin, built in 1990, serves as a warming hut, recreation pass dispensary, and information center. It's steps away from restrooms and a 180-foot suspension bridge over the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River. Cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and backcountry hikers venturing from the Pemigewasset Wilderness thaw out here in lodge-like comfort. The staffed center is loaded with pamphlets and maps about the White Mountain National Forest, including information about the two trails that go up either side of the river: East Side Trail and Lincoln Woods Trail. Displays, books, and handouts help visitors better enjoy the woods and wildlife outside.
Lincoln Woods Visitors Center, Kancamagus Highway (Route 112), Lincoln, 603-630-5190, fs.fed.us/r9/forests/white_moun tain/contact/info_centers.
Mount Washington Hotel Old World charm is found before the roaring stone fireplace in the Great Hall of this grand 1902 lodging. Sip a cordial from the Rosebrook Bar and enjoy the view of the Presidential Range. Watch time tick away from the grandfather clock. Play a board game. Amble into the bright and airy Conservatory for another hearth-side seat. If the weather's right, stroll outside on the long verandah. The hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places, and its Great Hall is a bit of a museum with its operator-run elevator. The ornate Gold Room was the setting for the 1944 International Monetary Conference. An hour or so spent in the Great Hall is a fine place to achieve a winter's glow.
Route 302, Bretton Woods, 800-314-1752, mountwashington resort.com. Mixed drinks begin at $6.25.
The Brick Store All things warming are found inside the "oldest operating general store in America," built in 1790 and located on a classic Route 302 curve that showcases the store, Bath Village Bridge, a church, post office, and the Ammonoosuc River. Snap the covered bridge picture and go inside for a bit of nostalgia in the form of smoked meats, 125 types of fudge, flannel shirts, socks, mittens, Beatles memorabilia, and candy jars worthy of exploration. The former post office counter is where lunchtime casseroles, soups, chili, and stews are dished to go. Spicy pepperoni, mild summer sausage, and slabs of Canadian bacon are for sale. Sample homemade fudge from choices like peanut butter, Flutternutter, and all sorts of chocolate blends.
Route 302 (21 Lisbon Road), Bath, 800-964-2074, thebrickstore .com. Fudge $11.99 a pound, pepperoni around $6.50 a stick.
Wendle's Delicatessen and Cafe This is not your typical New York-style deli but rather a new funky and colorful Franconia spot to savor hearty soups, warming sandwiches, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, and specialty coffees for breakfast and lunch. Patrons first stop at the chalkboard menu for sandwich makings. Choose from breads, spreads, meats, veggies, and cheeses. Or go with a house specialty like the chicken and red-onion-laced Hot Chick or The Grilled, filled with proscuitto and sweet capicolla. Owner Wendy Manning and crew rotate two or three soups daily like split pea or potato but it's the cream of onion with its Vidalias, leeks, and Parmesan that keeps them coming back. The hanging ferns are harbingers of warmer seasons ahead as customers sip and click behind laptops connected with Wi-Fi.
297 Main St., Franconia, 603-823-5141. Sandwiches from $6.25.
Sunset Hill House The table's heated, the fleece blanket awaits, and a fragrant spice candle sweetens the air. Thus begins the hourlong fireside massage in the Victorian furnished parlor of Sugar Hill's Sunset Hill House. The massage therapist eases muscles taxed by skiing or snowshoeing. Spring water, fruit, herbal teas, and coffee are offered as relaxing sounds flow from speakers. Oils or creams are applied. Stress points are smoothed during the Swedish or hot rock treatments. For more relaxation, the bar is steps away with its Antioxidant Martini, a blend of pomegranate liqueur, blueberry vodka, and splash of cranberry.
231 Sunset Hill Road, Sugar Hill, 800-SUN-HILL, sunsethill house.com. Swedish massage $89, hot rocks massage $99.
William Tell Inn Here fondue, a winter warm-up courtesy of the Swiss, is served over a little burner in an earthenware pot. In its basic form, it's a blend of Gruyère and Emmenthaler with some white wine. The bubbling cheese pot with small pieces of hardened bread is a warming communal experience. Need more heat? There's gluhwein, hot, mulled, full-bodied Merlot spiced with cloves, citrus, and cinnamon sticks.
Route 49, Thornton, 603-726-3618, nhwilliamtell.com. Fondue $15 for two, gluhwein $5.50.
Marty Basch, a writer based in New Hampshire, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org