Adventure Adviser

    Photo: John Ueland

Q: What's the best spot in Hawaii for snorkeling?
Amanda Dumenigo, Santa Fe, New Mexico

A: During the winter, when Hawaii's best-known beaches are packed with flipper-toting winter vacationers, the best place to snorkel is wherever you can get away from the masses. That's easily done on the Big Island, where Sea Quest Rafting and Snorkeling Adventure (808-329-7238; www.seaquesthawaii.com) transports groups of no more than six to some lesser-known coves, such as Hanaunau Bay and Kealakekua Bay, on the Kona coast. These spots include sea caves and lava tubes you can explore in a single breath. Four-hour morning tours ($75) and three-hour afternoon tours ($56) include gear and snacks.

Q: Are there any outfitters that take groups of cross-country skiers to Banff for weeklong trips?
Liz Arky, Washington, D.C.

A: Winter is Banff's low season, so you'll have much of the backcountry to yourselves. With an in-the-know guide, you can spend the whole week gliding between bowls of untouched powder in and around the 1.6-million-acre Banff National Park. Canmore-based White Mountain Adventures (800-408-0005; www.canadian natureguides.com) offers backcountry tours for US$700 to US$1,500 for five- to 16-day trips, respectively, including transportation from Calgary, accommodations, and palate-pleasing meals like poached salmon. Rent touring skis, boots, and poles (US$15 a day). The exact itinerary depends on your skills and the weather, but trips generally cover five to ten miles and about 1,000 feet in elevation change per day. Start with a couple of warm-up sessions on groomed trails near Banff; then graduate to real workouts in the backcountry. You'll base each night in one of two classic spruce-log inns: Skoki Lodge or Assiniboine Lodge, both of which boast wood-heated saunas.

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