By the Editors of FarewellTravels
Photo by Layne Kennedy
When it comes to winter vacations, nothing quite matches parking yourselves at a lodge or resort in a snowy land for a week or so. That way, someone else does all the cooking and cleaning while you divide your time between fun things like snowshoeing, dog-sledding, horse-drawn sleigh rides, soaks in open-aired hot tubs, game-room air hockey tournaments and all-out relaxing in front of inevitably perfect fires someone else is stoking.
Of course, you might also like to ski and snowboard, but not everyone in a family does. Even if they do, an injury, a pregnancy or simple fatigue might keep them from wanting to be on the slopes day in and day out on a family vacation.
Here are ten North American winter retreats designed to keep everyone in the family purring along happily.
Le Château Montebello
Montebello, Québec, Canada
Situated on the Ottawa River in French Canada (80 miles west of Montreal and 43 miles east of Ottawa), Le Château Montebello is the kind of place families return to year after year, generation after generation.
Constructed of logs, it was originally built as a private resort back in the thirties. Outdoor diversions include dog-sledding, skating, sledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing and indoors, there’s a curling rink, an Olympic-size pool and a spa.
There are also lots of nooks and crannies to curl up and relax in, as well as a magnificent granite fireplace that soars up through the three-story lobby. Nearby, there’s more snowshoeing at Kenauk (a vast wilderness preserve), wildlife spotting at Parc Omega and shops and cafes in the small town of Montebello.
The Whiteface Lodge
Lake Placid, New York
This magnificent Great Camp-style resort (log construction, massive stone fireplaces, rustic furniture) has 94 guest suites with Adirondack furnishings, gas fireplaces, and some very exciting common areas including a Surround Sound movie theater, ten-pin bowling lanes, an indoor and outdoor pool and a skating rink. Its Kanu restaurant, which is tastefully decorated with old wooden skis, snowshoes and even a canoe hanging from the ceiling is the setting for hearty, hand-crafted meals—lots of native fish and game dishes—prepared in an exhibition kitchen.
Lake Placid and its many winter attractions (it was the venue of both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics) is within easy reach, including Whiteface Mountain for downhill skiing and the Olympic Sports Complex Cross Country and Snowshoe Center plus the Winter Olympics Museum, shops and restaurants in town.
Emerald Lake Lodge
Field, British Columbia, Canada
If your idea of the ultimate escape is to retreat into nature but still enjoy high-class comforts, stop right here. One of the prestigious Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts, Emerald Lake Lodge is located in the heart of Yoho National Park, on the border of Alberta and British Columbia, Canada (25 minutes west of Lake Louise; 2.5 hours from the Calgary International Airport).
It’s the wilderness lodge of your dreams with stone fireplaces, hand-hewn timber and snowy wilderness all around. Two dozen cabin-style buildings set on a peninsula accommodate up to 200 guests. The food—hearty Rocky Mountain cuisine (free-range elk, bison and caribou as well as seafood and pasta) is unfailingly good.
When not relaxing in front of a fireplace, you can venture out on cross-country skis or snowshoes and follow trails around the lake or do a bit of ice skating. Other winter activities include snowmobiling, tobogganing, waterfall ice climbing, ice fishing and dog sledding. Nearby downhill ski areas include Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay and Kicking Horse.
Devil's Thumb Ranch
If there’s a travel award to win, the Lodge at Devil’s Thumb Ranch has won it. Its food, its wine, its eco-friendliness…all contribute to getting it put on Top 10 lists everywhere.
Named for a rocky outcropping that towers above it, the ranch is set on 6,000 acres at the foot of the Continental Divide. Just 65 miles from Denver, it has a variety of rooms in both its main lodge and cabins, all with attractive rustic furnishings. The cabins range in size from one-bedroom lofts to four-bedroom homes-away-from-home, all with hand-chosen antiques, down bedding, fireplaces and kitchens.
While it’s only minutes away from the downhill trails of Winter Park, there’s plenty to keep you here including a spa (treatments as well as a steam, sauna and aromatherapy room), outdoor hot tubs, plus cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skating, and sledding. A must: a horse-drawn sleigh ride.
Four Seasons Jackson Hole
Teton Village, Wyoming
Mention Jackson Hole and many people automatically think SERIOUS downhill skiing. Indeed, this Teton Mountains destination has some of the most challenging terrain in the country. It’s nice to know though, that you can also come here and never have to squeeze your feet into ski boots.
Sure, it has ski-in/ski-out lodging, but the Four Seasons Jackson Hole also offers plenty for the non-skier (or the part-time ski dabbler) including a full spa and salon, a heated outdoor pool and whirlpool. Other activities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobile tours. The village itself has shops and art galleries to poke around in.
Stein Eriksen Lodge
Park City, Utah
Named after Stein Eriksen, the Norwegian Olympic alpine skier who many say was the sport’s “first superstar,” the Stein Eriksen Lodge offers a little bit of Scandinavia in Utah. Beamed cathedral ceilings. Stone fireplaces. Every inch fine European quality.
Accommodations range from one to five bedrooms, all individually designed and furnished. Some with hot tubs, decks and fireplaces; suites with kitchens.
The lodge sits on more than 10 acres at 8,200 feet and is just minutes away from Park City’s Historic Main Street. In addition to ski-in/out access to Deer Valley Resort, it has a spa, fitness facilities, a heated pool and hot tub.
The Woodstock Inn & Resort
A major landmark in the village of Woodstock, the Woodstock Inn and Resort has a wonderful warm and fuzzy feel to it. This is apparent the moment you walk in and see the huge hearth, around which guests congregate on big, comfortable couches.
But at the same time, it offers some state-of-the-art facilities including a spa and a Racquet & Fitness Club with indoor tennis courts, racquetball courts, a 30-by-60 foot indoor lap pool, a whirlpool, workout equipment and a steam room and sauna. There’s cross-country skiing right outside the door on its golf course and downhill at its very own ski area, Suicide Six.
Woodstock itself is filled with antiques shops, art galleries, boutiques and restaurants. Nearby is Billings Farm, a great outing for young children (open on winter weekends).
The Fairmont's Banff Springs, Château Lake Louise, Jasper Park Lodge
In the Canadian Rockies, Fairmont Hotels has three extraordinary resorts you’ve likely heard of. The Banff Springs Hotel, Château Lake Louise (pictured left) and Jasper Lake Lodge. All three are surrounded by scenic wilderness and are winter wonderlands unto themselves. You can settle in at one of the resorts or divide your time between them, getting in all the winter pleasures: skating, dog-sledding, horse-drawn sleigh rides.
For skiers, there’s not only like a gazillion acres of powder (for all levels of ability), but these are some of the least crowded ski areas you’ll find anywhere. They include Sunshine Village (which sits at 7,000 feet on a throne of natural snow), Ski Norquay (where you can actually ski or ride by the hour) and Lake Louise, consistently ranked No.1 for scenery in North America.
Photo Credits: With the exception of the sled-dog photo on the top of this page, which is by Layne Kennedy, all of these photographs were provided courtesy of the individual hotels. The lobby photo for the Four Seasons Jackson Hole was taken by Peter Vitale.