Image: Mount Washington Resort
Mount Washington Resort
Carolyn Stickney, the wife of the man who built the Mount Washington Hotel at the Bretton Woods ski area in New Hampshire, is said to haunt the tower suites—she reportedly writes on the walls and turns lights on and off at random times.
By Charles Leocha Travel columnist
updated 10/31/2007 1:43:05 PM ET 2007-10-31T17:43:05

At first ponder, ski and snowboard resorts seem strange places to find ghosts. But when you consider that many of our winter snow resorts are built in areas that once had wild and sometimes grisly histories, then the occasional appearance of an unsettled soul is perhaps not so surprising. New England, for example, has a long history of hauntings, and its tales and apparitions have spread into the trails, woods and villages surrounding the region's ski and snowboard resorts.

The grand Mount Washington Hotel, which anchors the Bretton Woods ski area in New Hampshire, has reputedly had a ghost for years. The wife of the man who built the hotel, Carolyn Stickney, is said to haunt the tower suites; she reportedly writes on the walls and turns lights on and off at random times. In the past, these visitations were reported only in the summer months, but now that the hotel is open year-round, winter guests also report encounters with "the princess," as she came to be called when she married Aymon de Faucigny-Lucinge, a French prince, after her husband died. This hotel has an amazing history (it hosted the Bretton Woods International Monetary Conference in 1944), and even I sometimes think I can see ghostly groups of diplomats discussing world economics around the giant stone fireplace.

Ghost stories also surround many of the old Vermont hotels. In Stowe, guests at the Brass Lantern Inn have reported ghosts having impromptu parties, and the Green Mountain Inn claims a ghostly tap dancer on the third floor who dances during winter storms. The Equinox Hotel in Manchester, near Stratton Resort, where Mary Todd Lincoln used to stay with her children, is rumored to be her favorite place even in the afterlife. And near Mount Snow, in Wilmington, the White House Inn claims the ghost of Claire Brown, the wife of the lumber baron who built the mansion.

Out West, ghosts haunt some famous hotels as well as the many ghost towns left by miners and cowboys over the past century.

On the hulking shoulders of Mount Hood, at Timberline Resort, stands the majestic Timberline Lodge. This wooden hotel, built by hand during the Great Depression by the Federal Works Progress Administration, is one of the most beautiful timber structures of its time. Its unusual rustic architecture made it the perfect setting for the outdoor shots of the hotel featured in the Jack Nicholson movie "The Shining." After seeing that movie, more than one guest has declared that there are ax-wielding ghosts loose in the halls and hiding in the bushes.

The hotel that inspired that Stephen King novel is the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park next to the Rocky Mountain National Park. The hotel takes "The Shining" connection to heart, prominently featuring the scary room and holding a "Shining Ball" during Halloween season. The nearby woods are home to a small pet cemetery that inspired another Stephen King novel, "Pet Cemetery." The national park has excellent cross-country trails along the Colorado River.

Breckenridge, Colo., has long claimed a ghost named Sylvia, a miner's widow, who resides in the Prospector Restaurant, one of the best places in town for breakfast. She used to live there when the place was a boarding house, but I like the story that Sylvia used to be the madam at the best bordello in town, which was right here at the Prospector.

Purgatory, at Durango Mountain Resort, has the benefit of an Old West town filled with ghost stories. The 122-year-old Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad that runs from town into the mountains is reportedly haunted by an old railroad worker who lost his legs in an accident on the tracks. Downtown, at the Rochester Hotel, guests staying in the John Wayne room have reported seeing the ghost of a woman wearing a Victorian dress or, sometimes, classy lingerie. Even the city's school district building has reported hauntings. Video: Book a room at this haunted hotel

Crested Butte, Colo., is an old mining town that was resurrected by the development of the ski area. The town's restored rustic buildings harbor plenty of stories and claims of ghostly sightings. Locals swear that they used to see a ghost hitchhiking along the road between the town and Gunnison. Others claim they have seen several old saloon girls in the wee hours peeking out the windows of Slogar's or upstairs dancing after hours at the Eldorado.

Mammoth Mountain, Calif., hasn't had any ghostly sightings in town or on the mountain, but the nearby ghost town of Bodie, Calif., is a state historical park. This ghost town has been preserved in a state of "arrested decay." I'm sure there are a handful of ghosts wandering these streets by night. Only problem for us mortals is that the park is closed around sundown. I wonder why?

New Mexico's mountains have always been rumored to be enchanted by the spirits of local Indians. Taos Pueblo residents consider Taos Mountain to be sacred, never mind the ski resort that has been developed there. Santa Fe resort is also said to have trails curling through sacred Indian lands. Further south in Ruidoso at Ski Apache, the spirits of the Mescalero Apaches mingle with the ghosts of Billy the Kid and some old buffalo soldiers who were once stationed at Fort Stanton. And don't forget Roswell only about an hour away — it's the epicenter of American extraterrestrial stories.

Up in Canada, the castle-like Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel regally presides over Banff. It provides lodging for hundreds of skiers and snowboarders visiting the three nearby resorts of Norquay, Sunshine and Lake Louise. This historic hotel claims several well-documented ghosts. A vanishing bellman from the 1960s has been reported to still open doors for guests and to fix the lighting. And the ghost of a bride who tripped on the train of her bridal gown and stumbled down the stairs to her death still wanders the halls of the hotel and has been seen dancing in her elegant but fatal dress.

Strange as is seems, these tales have been repeated for years. And who are we to doubt centuries of stories and experience? The spirits that haunt many of our ski and snowboard resorts add warmth and mystery to our outdoor winter pleasures. I wish them all a happy Halloween.

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