Treat cabin fever by booking a winter break in these high-altitude towns where snow is considered a good thing.
This bright star in the western firmament has about everything a winter traveler could want: a thrilling ski resort (in spite of its past reputation as an experts-only hill, lots of intermediate and groomed runs have opened for the rest of us), great food (go high and splurge on a meal at or snag some spicy takeout at ), and plenty of activities for non-skiers (say ahhh to a spa day or take a winter snowcoach tour of Grand Teton National Park to see snowy bison).
Mad River Glen not only sounds crazy great, it pretty much is crazy great. Surrounded by country roads and long vistas, this is the ski mountain that the industrial resort complex forgot. Or couldn't get to: instead the mountain operations are owned by a cooperative of Yankee skiers, determined to keep out the glamour. What you'll find instead are spectacular ski runs and little Warren and Waitsfield, the kind of quaint New England towns — a general store and a covered bridge, for goodness sake! — that Disney uses for inspiration.
One of the many reasons families love skiing at Taos Ski Valley is that around half of the runs are rated blue or green so even with all that steep terrain and fresh powder, beginning and intermediate skiers get some variety. One of the other attractions is the scenic town of Taos itself with traditional adobe architecture and inviting alleyways lined with its art galleries, cafés and shops. The area's rich culture — the extraordinarily beautiful Taos Pueblo and the much-photographed church at Rancho de Taos — is a year-round draw but the intoxicating perfume of piñon wood smoke is distinctly a cold-weather treat.
While it's technically a region and not a single town, the Lake Tahoe area is still a magical winter destination. Some people come for the skiing (there's lots of it: Northstar, Heavenly, Homewood, Squaw Valley, Kirkwood), some people come for the gambling or outlet shopping, or to snowshoe, or even take to the ice at an elevation of 8,200 feet at the . What's the unifying experience for all these diverse people? Pausing, gratefully, to take in the view of the impossibly blue lake surrounded by snowy, pine-tree-studded slopes. Divine.
Legend has it that a bunch of snow-starved Washington D.C. residents overheard airline pilots discussing one mountainside in the region that stayed snowy all winter. This eavesdropping lead them on a hunt for the mysterious location, which was Canaan Valley in the Allegheny Mountains, an area dotted by waterfalls and backcountry trails. Now a state park, Canaan Valley (pronounced Kuh-NAYN) has a sprawling resort area that offers seasonal skiing, snow-tubing, sledding, Nordic ski trails as well as hotels, cabin rentals, shops and restaurants scattered through the valley and in nearby Davis. Get on top of the slopes and get a load of the 360-degree spectacular panorama of rolling hills.
Cross a college town with a ski town and sprinkle in some wild, wild west flavor and you'll end up with lovely Bozeman. and resorts provide the enduring thrill of Montana powder while in town you'll find international cuisine, an independent bookshop with sofas, and a booming art scene. Just a couple of hours south, you can even sneak a peek at the only corner of Yellowstone, a particularly magical one, that remains accessible to cars all winter.
Spend the day skiing Mount Bachelor and the evening sampling local beer at one of the Bend's 22 craft breweries or exploring a town full of boutiques and serious galleries and lots of good food. When you want to get outside, you'll have some choices. There's skiing, of course, both downhill and cross-country. Plus the trails that intrigue hikers all summer are perfect for snowshoeing (day and night — there are nighttime snowshoe tours through the forest that end at a roaring bonfire). You can mush behind a dog team or you can even eschew the snow and head to the nearby desert or go spelunking. Bend lets you count the ways to enjoy winter.
Park City has managed to incorporate the outdoor life right into its downtown: skiers can grab the lift right in town to head up the mountain. There are three local ski resorts as well as the Olympic Park complex where you can use the facilities left over from
the 2002 Winter Olympics: Skate, tube (on the steep ski jump!), and zip line down the mountain along the cables that held the lifts. You can also watch Olympic hopefuls from around the world training. Off the slopes, the town's western charm plays out in the architecture and down-to-earth friendliness, even if you can detect the glitz left over from the town's annual Sundance Film Festival.
You won't be able to ignore the fact that the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics were held in this Adirondack hamlet, not just because of the lingering pride, but because a frighteningly high ski jump run is visible from every street in town. In addition to skiing Whiteface Mountain, or taking a thrill ride down the bobsled or luge run, you can skate on Olympic ice rinks (even the arena where the Miracle on Ice was played) or take a curling lesson or snowshoe a quiet birch-lined trail. Accommodations range from high-end lodge resorts to family-run motels and shops carrying Adirondack-style furniture and gifts can keep you busy après-ski.
Don't come to this part of Arizona looking for sand dunes and cactus. Flagstaff instead offers mountains and ponderosa pine forests and some subtle landscape hints of the Grand Canyon, just an hour's drive north of town. The local ski resort, Arizona Snowbowl, is twenty minutes from town on Humphreys Peak, the state's highest mountain. As with all ski areas, much depends on the weather, but Snowbowl averages around 150 snowfall inches a year. Flagstaff is a college town with Route 66 neon and flavor, so you'll find bars and cafés, bookstores and galleries, and even a chance to visit the Lowell Observatory.
Winter in the Rockies is, of course, good. Winter in this particular Rocky Mountains hamlet is great. Great skiing, great hot air balloon rides over the valley, great dog-sledding through the woods, great sleigh rides across the snowfields, and you can even soak in a natural hot spring while the snow falls around you.
Recreation comes with the territory. In this case, 'territory' means the forested hills and valleys to the west of the spectacular Delaware Water Gap. The Poconos, once mostly known for cheesy honeymoon hotels, make an active winter weekend easy to plan. Camelback Mountain Resort supplies the skiing and snow-tubing and in the surrounding hills you can find also indoor waterparks and great antiquing. Stroudsburg is a walkable town at the convergence of three creeks, with a busy main street, pretty houses and stately civic buildings. The area offers both grand resort hotels and small B&Bs so your inner Goldilocks can find exactly the right bed for your getaway plans.
Can you even discuss winter weekends without mentioning mittens? Boyne Falls is at the top of the Michigan mitten and offers some of the most reliable snow in the Midwest. The two skiable mountains catch all the winter weather coming off Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, refreshing the powder on the slopes and terrain parks. If there's too much weather, you can slip away to the indoor water park or head into Boyne City, a historic downtown district that welcomes visitors year round. You'll find plenty of candy shops, restaurants, breweries, boutiques, bakeries and bookstores along Water Street and Lake Street to distract you.
If you're a fan of extreme winter sports, you've probably heard of Tuckerman Ravine, the backcountry, hike-in, ski-down bowl on the south face of New Hampshire's Mount Washington. There are plenty of winter sports here for the less hardcore among us, though, including the largest system of cross-country ski trails in the east, as well as tubing, dog-sledding and more. The local town, North Conway, holds a New England Pinterest board-worth of charm with a white clapboard church and a gingerbread Victorian train station, plus shops, restaurants and galleries to explore.