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The jingle of sleigh bells, softly fluttering snow, flickering flames in the fireplace, dinner by candlelight and just the right lodge can make a few days in the mountains a magical time for couples, Charlie Leocha writes.
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updated 2/4/2007 2:20:52 PM ET 2007-02-04T19:20:52

The perfect romantic getaway during the winter for many lovers is a trip to the mountains to ski or snowboard together. The jingle of sleigh bells, softly fluttering snow, flickering flames in the fireplace, dinner by candlelight and just the right lodge can make a few days in the mountains a magical time for couples.

Often the most important factor is the hotel, inn or lodge nearby the resort. This is where couples spend most of their time together. It must be complete with fine dining or award-winning restaurants close by. Just outside the door, should be a step into a surreal winter fairyland. A stunning hotel or rustically elegant lodge with the right combination of intangible sensuality can be the secret factor in the ideal setting that takes relationships to another level.

The following accommodations are all different in terms of luxury, price and atmosphere. However, they all share easy access to some of America's top ski and snowboard resorts from New England across the continent to the Rocky Mountains and California. Most importantly, they all have that je ne sais quoi that make them extraordinary places for lovers exploring fresh relationships, or those rekindling and renewing long-held trusted passion.

The Mirror Lake Inn, Lake Placid, New York, (518) 523-2544
This elegant and rambling hotel sits beautifully beside Mirror Lake only steps from the timeless Olympic town of Lake Placid. The inn exudes elegance from the moment one enters the traditional lobby until stepping into the Colonial appointed guest rooms. The gourmet restaurant, The View, overlooks the glittering lake for that candlelit dinner or the Cottage on the lake shore offers a more casual meal. The extensive spa provides a luscious step into another reality. Skiers can cross-country right outside the door and downhill activities are at Whiteface reached by a shuttlebus from the hotel.

Mount Washington Hotel, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, (800) 314-1752
This colossal turn-of-the-20th-century, Spanish renaissance palazzo, with Tiffany glass and plasterwork sculpted by Italian craftsmen, is what a grand hotel should be. The expansive lobby, delineated by a long row of square columns and chandeliers, is fitting of the presidents and kings, movie stars and sports legends who once gathered here. The elegance breathes of old money, more Rockefeller than Trump. The 200 rooms are spacious but simple, designed as a place to change into a beaded gown. And to sleep. The romance here is a table for two in the elegant dining room with a view of Mount Washington’s snow-capped summit turned pink by the alpenglow of the setting winter sun.

The Equinox, Manchester, Vermont (866) 346-7625
Dating back to 1769, The Equinox is a venerable Colonial resort hotel in postcard-perfect Manchester Village. Abraham Lincoln’s wife and her son Robert Todd put the hotel on the map after they came to sip the spring water and breathe the cool mountain air. Back then, guests were also fed four meals each day, then weighed at the end of their stays to ensure they had added a “healthy” layer. Today, the hotel pampers guests with 183 luxurious rooms and a host of amenities, including the full-service Avanya Spa (offering ways to relax that Mrs. Lincoln never would have conceived), indoor tennis, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, sleigh rides, falconry, and even an off-road driving school. Nearby, the Orvis’s flagship store, Frog Hollow/Vermont State Craft Center, locally-owned shops, and factory outlets fulfill the shopping urge. For upscale skiing and its own village, Stratton Mountain is 17 miles away.

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Ski Tip Lodge, Keystone, Colorado

, (800) 354-4386
With huge stone fireplaces in low-ceilinged rooms with hand-hewn beams and log-lined walls, the look of this 1880s former stagecoach stop just over the Continental Divide is Wild West. But the service and acclaimed dining room, with an ever-changing four-course prix fixe menu, are definitely 21st century. Nestled in the trees along the Snake River, the Lodge feels secluded, and the 10 guest rooms are cozy and uniquely furnished with period antiques. In the small dining room, which only seats 15, couples can gaze lovingly into each others’ eyes and swap bites of rabbit tenderloin satay or black-truffle-wrapped elk chops. Cross-country trails wind from the door and downhill trails are only minutes away.

Saint Bernard, Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico, (505) 776-2251
This is the original hotel built in this ski valley by Jean Mayer, the French founder of the Taos ski school. Directly on the slopes, this lodge could have been teleported from Megève, France, with its dark wood, cozy bar, rambling restaurant and crackling fireplace. The rooms are rustic with an Old World flair, but the atmosphere of the hotel is pure magic. No one stands on ceremony at this rustic lodge. Ski week programs, where couples can improve their skills together, include a hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just watching Jean Mayer beam while proudly serving dinner to his guests is worth the price of admission.

Inn of Five Graces, Santa Fe, New Mexico, (505) 992-0957
This luxurious B&B built in what are reputed to be some of the oldest honey-colored adobe houses in downtown Santa Fe has 22 of America’s most sensuous guest suites. Everything here is focused on providing perfect service. The unique Central Asian décor blends with the Southwest structure. Bathrooms are colorfully covered with mosaic tiles, wooden ceilings are intricately hand-carved, small stoves provide additional warmth and thick featherbeds embrace lovers as they crawl into bed. Breakfast is sumptuous and Santa Fe’s award-winning restaurants are only steps from your door. Sixteen miles away, Ski Santa Fe rises to more than 12,000 feet with trails curling through lush Ponderosa Pines.

Alta's Rustler Lodge, Alta, Utah (888) 532-2582
The Rustler stands as an island of civility in this high alpine ski area renowned for its old-fashioned ambiance. The dark wood and comfortable furnishings give a feeling of home, but the personal service is a reminder that this is a luxury hotel. The 85 rooms are spacious, and the common areas — the dining room and bar — encourage mingling. The lodge’s outdoor heated pool or indoor hot tub, eucalyptus steam room, fitness room, and small but full-service spa are an antidote for tired ski legs. And the open fire in the bar, with complimentary après-ski hors d’oeuvres, could not be cozier. Prices include a delicious, hearty breakfast and savory gourmet dinner in Alta’s best restaurant. If splendid isolation is your idea of romance, this hotel is the perfect spot.

Sun Valley Lodge, Sun Valley, Idaho, (800) 786-8259
This is the first destination ski resort created in America. Here Ernest Hemingway wrote novels, Averell Harriman planned his railroad empire, Sonja Henie skated on the ice rink outside the lobby, and Clark Gable, Bing Crosby and Errol Flynn all came here to chase their lovers. Sun Valley will forever be linked with the early heyday of Hollywood. Après-ski, relax in the giant hot tub, dance to the orchestra in the Duchin Room Lounge, then dine either at the hotel or in downtown Ketchum. The atmosphere is priceless. and the skiing and snowboarding on Baldy is World Class.

Inn at Sugarbowl, Sugarbowl, California (530) 426-6742
Staying at the Inn at Sugarbowl is like going back in time to what ski lodges once were. And the time machine is America’s first gondola that still carries passengers from the parking garage to the Inn over a mile away. Built in 1939, the Inn was designed by renowned architect William Wurster in a utilitarian style that could withstand the epic Sierra snowfall (and wind). The 27 rooms are simple with front-row views of Sugarbowl’s classic alpine terrain. During the day, the Inn’s bar, lounge, and white-table-cloth restaurant second as a base lodge, with lift stations a few feet from the large sun deck. At night, the only sound is the wind whistling through the Sierras—the perfect ambiance for cuddling with a lover and savoring a bottle of wine.

Tamarack Lodge, Mammoth Mountain, California (800) MAMMOTH
This wooden lodge has been welcoming visitors since 1924 in its fairytale setting. This is one of the originals when it comes to American traditional mountain hotels. The lobby and its large stone fireplace appear as if they were brought piece-by-piece from Europe. The romantic lodge is actually made up of 11 lodge rooms and 32 cabins with 19 miles of cross-country skiing out their doors. Amenities range from “mid-century rustic” to flat out luxurious. The lodge’s Lakefront Restaurant serves acclaimed gourmet meals. For downhill skiing, the lifts for Mammoth Mountain are only about 2.5 miles from the lodge.

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