The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel is a hotel and ski resort located in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire. The resort’s grounds cover 11,000 acres (17 square miles) and feature 59 miles of cross-country ski trails, an alpine ski area with 16 trails, five glade areas and a terrain park. The Balsams also boasts a nine-hole golf course and an 18-hole championship course called “The Panorama,” built in 1912 and designed by Donald Ross, a Champion Golfer and golf course designer who favored clear routes which require a minimum of walking (Jack Nicklaus once said about Donald Ross, “His stamp as an architect was naturalness.”). The Panorama is ranked as the best course in the State of New Hampshire by Golf Digest.

The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch


The Balsams first opened just after the Civil War in 1866 as the Dix House, a 25-room summer inn established by George Parsons for those traversing the White Mountains. In 1895, the Dix House was bought by Henry Hale, a Philadelphia inventor and industrialist who had been a regular guest. Hale renamed the Dix House “The Balsams,” and over time expanded and augmented the facilities. The Hale House was added in 1895, and by this time well-heeled executives and their families arriving by railroad were so enchanted by the resort that they would stay for months at a time. In 1918, Hale completed the Hampshire House, the towering wing which doubled the resort’s capacity from 200 to 400 guests.

The Ballot Room of The Balsams is where Dixville Notch’s Presidential Primary votes are cast just after midnight on the day of the New Hampshire primaries (a tradition dating back to the 60s), as well as just after midnight on the day of the nationwide election. This handful of votes (there were 5 registered voters in Dixville Notch in 2020) is one of the first batches to be cast, counted, and reported nationally in the media (nearby towns with similar and competing midnight voting traditions are Hart’s Location and Millsfield).

The Balsams was closed to the public after going bankrupt during the Great Recession and being purchased by new owners for $2.3 million in 2011, and remains closed as of 2020 as its owners continue to seek financing for their redevelopment and expansion efforts. In 2014, former American Skiing Company CEO Les Otten joined the Balsams redevelopment effort. Included in Otten’s current plan is a massive expansion of the ski area to around 1,000 acres and the addition of multiple lifts, including a year-round gondola to the summit and a lift connection across Route 26 to the hotel complex. The expanded ski area would be quadruple its current size and be one of the largest ski areas in the Northeast. Plans also call for the renovation of the main hotel buildings, the Dix and Hampshire houses, as well as a new hotel wing, and renovations to the golf course clubhouse. The plans also call for the conversion of a portion of the existing buildings from hotel rooms to condominiums as well as the potential construction of additional condominium units.

Otten has stated the project to redevelop the hotel and resort would cost an estimated $170 million. After years of effort by the owners of the property, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed the so-called “Balsams Bill” into law in May 2019, allowing the Coös County Commissioners to create a tax increment financing district around the Balsams. Otten seeks to sell $28 million of bonds under the municipal finance structure in order to begin the redevelopment. No buyer for the bonds had been found as of January 2020.

The Balsams Hotel in 1915

Sources:

  1. https://thebalsamsresort.com/vision/legendary-property/
  2. https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2017/01/15/les-otten-balsams-ski-resort/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Balsams_Grand_Resort_Hotel
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Ross_(golfer)

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