Balsams Wilderness Ski Area Dixville Notch, New Hampshire
The base area
Balsams Wilderness Ski Area Details
First Year of Operation:
Last Year of Operation:
Lifts in Operation:
2 triples, surface lifts
Lifts Removed/Non Operational:
1 double, surface lifts
A Grand Hotel
Located in Dixville Notch in remote Northern New Hampshire, the Balsams Grand Resort's tourism history likely dates back to the 1860s, when the Dix House opened to guests. In 1895, longtime Dix House guest Henry S. Hale purchased the property and renamed it the Balsams. The Balsams grew into a sizable resort over the next few decades, growing to a capacity of 400 guests in 1918.
In 1954, latex balloon inventor Neil Tillotson of Tillotson Rubber Company likely became part owner of the Balsams. In 1960, Tillotson would proudly lead Dixville's first first in the nation voting, in which the small town unanimously selected Vice President Richard Nixon. This tradition would make the Balsams and Dixville Notch nationally known.
An early aerial view of Balsams Wilderness
Alpine Skiing at the Balsams
While the Balsams was a well known summer vacation resort, its winter potential remained untapped heading into the 1960s. As destination ski resorts popped up around New England, a ski area near Dixville Notch was proposed for 1962. Four years later, lift served skiing came to fruition.
Opening on December 26, 1966, the Wilderness ski area featured a 3,210 foot double chairlift and a 750 foot novice T-Bar. Overall, the ski area had 8 trails and a vertical drop of 1,000 feet. At the base, a two story lodge was built.
A second T-Bar was added for the 1969-70 season, serving the lower two thirds of the mountain.
On October 17, 2001, Neil Tillotson passed away at the age of 102. Per his wishes, the Balsams Grand Resort would eventually be sold.
Following the 2001-2002 season, the aging lift system at the Balsams was modernized. Replacing the longer T-Bar was a new Partek triple chairlift. In addition, the Bungy T-Bar was removed and replaced with a new Partek triple chairlift on a relocated Bungy slope adjacent to the base lodge.
In February of 2011, construction began on the 33 mountain top turbine Granite Reliable Wind Farm, located just southeast of the Balsams. The wind farm went into use at the end of the year.
An idle Balsams Wilderness ski area in January of 2012
In March of 2011, the Tillotson Corporation announced it would be selling the Balsams to Ocean Properties Ltd. Hotels and Resorts. After multiple extensions, the deal fell through that summer, allegedly due to issues with subdivisions, renovations, and landfills relating to the former Tillotson rubber factory. The resort closed in September of 2011.
After the Tillotson Corporation reportedly turned down a $3 million offer from transmission line organization Northern Pass, it sold the resort to Daniel Dagesse and Daniel Herbert Jr.'s Balsams View, LLC for $2.3 million.
In early 2012, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests used some $850,000 in anti-Northern Pass funds to purchase a 5,800 acre conservation easement to block development.
In early May of 2012, the new ownership was reported as saying local planning decisions had killed their Balsams renovation plans. On May 12, 2012, the owners auctioned 2,400 items from the property, including equipment from the original double chairlift. On May 22, 2012, the Colebrook planning board decided to allow the requested subdivision. Later that year, demolition work began on various buildings around the hotel. Additional portions of the facility were taken down in a controlled burn on January 6, 2013.
News emerged in July 2013 that the ownership had missed a deadline to obtain the federal New Market Tax Credits needed to continue renovations and hire staff. Dagesse and Herbert are now researching the federal EB-5 program for potential funding.
The base lodge in February of 2014
While the resort was initially projected to reopen in 2013 or 2014, it continued to sit idle in winter 2013-2014.
On January 17, 2014, Les Otten's legal associate Lawrence Clough created Dixville LLC as a Maine business entity.
In February 2014, the Union Leader reported that Balsams View LLC has entered into an agreement with Les Otten's firm with hopes of reopening the resort. Later that month, the Berlin Daily Sun reported a large expansion to the ski area was being explored.
According to the Union Leader, the ski area may remain closed in 2014-15, with renovations starting in 2015. A subsequent follow up revealed a $100 million investment plan to take place by 2016, including renovating existing facilities and amenities and adding five new ski lifts. In addition, a tramway from the valley to the top of the ski area is being considered.
Our family had a cottage on Route 26, just 3 miles from the resort. My parents built the place back in the 1970s. Our entire family enjoyed the resort and snowmobiling. I learned how to ski at this resort some years ago. I am now in my fifties and wish this place was still alive. The new developments planned will probably take away the 'family' oriented life style that this resort had. It was small, didn't offer 'double diamond' skiing but it certainly provided a family atmosphere which brought many people to Dixville. The lodge was just awesome with a huge stone fireplace at which kept me warm on those cold winter skiing days when it was below 20 on top of the mountain and I came into the log with frozen feet and hands ... BUT ... the skiing was just AWESOME! Memories I will never forget and will keep close to my heart and thank my parents for bring up us kids in such a nice place!
Laura Starrett Nov. 9, 2014
11/9/2014 - Today was my first drive by past the Balsalms after living in NH since 1971. We arrived amidst the first 4" of snow to a lake not yet frozen. It was Cinderella like until we drove onto the property and saw the destruction close up of the windows and property. The people of Colebrook so desperately need jobs and this would provide such a beautiful opportunity to use all of our states beautiful resources, whether we are rich or poor.
Marc Angers Aug. 25, 2014
My dad learned about The Balsams in 1968. Thus began a semi yearly trip for us. First for skiing, then for the summer social season. When we began Warren Pearson was the ski director of the ski school.Up til the closing I have been taking my family each year for skiing. We've enjoyed it to carry on the tradition since 1968. It's a shame to see whats become of one of the last few grand hotel left. Many of the people who we've gotten to know have moved on. Walter the door man always greeting you as your vehicle was unloaded, John Kennedy, Michele in reservations, and Andy at the ski school just to name a few. All the history and people that made The Balsams special for many families/people has disappeared.
Neil Leddy Jul. 17, 2014
I began my hospitality career at the Balsams in 1993. I later joined LBO Enterprises which became American Skiing Co. under the leadership of Les Otten. I worked for Mr. Otten in New England and California can attest to his expertise and passion for the ski, golf and lodging industry. If anyone can bring the Balsams back to life, it's Mr. Otten. I hope Mr. Otten will re-introduce the American Plan made famous by the Balsams and enjoyed by many of my former guests at the resort.
Chris Griffith Jul. 8, 2014
I played music at the Balsams in the winter of 74 with the Penny Carter band,many fond memories.I decided to take a drive down yesterday to see how the renovations were going,I was heartbroken.What a mess!And no sign of anybody working.I truly hope someone will save this treasure.
PAUL SMITH Apr. 27, 2014
SKI AREA WASN'T OPEN WHEN I WORKED THERE,1947-1951.Yup,i was the youngest employee ever, they told me. I have many fine  summer memories of an eleven year old on my own in 1947 to 1951.Place was owned by Mr. Caulman at the time, and yes, the previous owner, CAPTAIN DuDeria lived in the still existing Log house each summer while I was there, only to find myself caring for his two Great Danes in my spare time. I revisit the Balsams each year, only to find a fallen treasure fading away, piece by piece. Wonder if anyone else is still around who could relate to my employment years and would share stories about the good old days at the Balsams. I plan to visit again this Fall, and on, and on, and on. [ YUP ] PAUL
Edwin F. Foreman Apr. 6, 2014
I was a Bell Captain summer 1954 and the Doorman summers 1955-58. Had planned on stopping by this September for an overnight after a windjammer cruise in Camden, Maine. Tillie's partner was Captain DuDeria who won the hotel in a poker game in the 1930's. Tillie and the Captain bought it back in 1953. Is there any chance the hotel will be open for business this September?
Diane OReilly Feb. 24, 2014
I skiied in 1968 at Balsams Resort with the 'Swiss Alps of America' will still be with us thanks to Leslie Otten. He is the man that will keep her alive. Thank you, Leslie
Rich Casey Dec. 17, 2013
My father did ski patrol for many years and as a result my sister and I went up almost every weekend growing up. I'll always remember the friendly people whom I grew close to, the Howard Johnsons in Colbrook center and the movie theater. Watching the ski instructor and ski patrol do the lighting over winter break was a blast. There's not a single memory I have of this place that I wouldn't go back to in a heart beat.I sure miss Jake, Sam and Nick.
Garth Field Dec. 17, 2013
I have such great memories of visiting my Grandparents, Carolyn and Richard Hughes in Colebrook from the 70's-90's. We'd often travel the windy road to Dixville Notch to visit the Balsams and ski the family fun, perfect size Wilderness ski mountain. What a shame if this area doesn't come back in the future, it's such a quaint, under-rated ski area, I will think with the positive energy my G-parents taught me and hope for the best in such a beautiful area of NH! Today, Grampa Dick would have been 100-years old!
Bill Tarkulich Oct. 28, 2013
I received this in response to an inquiry I made to the management: 'The hotel is expected to reopen sometime late in 2014. The ski area will reopen once the hotel renovations are complete'
Maureen Ferguson Apr. 4, 2013
How sad. I had no idea they had closed. We were going to go up next week for some late spring skiing, and thankfully checked the web site. Nice easy trails,lovely base lodge with food which we were told was prepared by the culinary students. I hope it reopens at some point.
kc hughes Mar. 21, 2013
Truly a sad state of affairs. We used to the visit Balsams almost every year (from the 1960's to 2011). it was a truly special place in our hearts. The Wilderness ski area was nice, typically well groomed and never busy. Some nice trails-nothing too too challenging, but a great family hill. I keep my fingers crossed... but think an era has unfortunately passed. too bad.
Janice Fairchild Feb. 17, 2013
Our family misses our February vacations at The Balsams. We are lost without our annual trip! We miss the skiing, the dinners, seeing friends who also vacationed their from year to year. We also miss catching up with the staff especially Andy Pearson and John Kennedy who made us feel so welcome. Our boys grew up at the Balsams ...we hope that it will reopen soon!