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Dispatches : Travel

Deceptively Budget-Friendly Tahoe Lodges

There are plenty of inexpensive places to stay on Lake Tahoe—but in many of them, you’d be too afraid to get beneath the sheets. These four clean, inviting lodges are the exception. They manage to combine value, location, and quality for travelers who want to live large on a budget.

Rustic Cottages, Tahoe Vista

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The history of the Rustic Cottages is almost reason enough to stay in one of its 19 classic Tahoe-style houses and cottages spread over two wooded acres. Built near the turn of the 20th century to house workers for the Brockway Lumber Company, it turned into a holiday getaway in the mid-1920s. Rustic Cottages sit across North Lake Boulevard from a postage stamp–sized beach on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore. Rates start at $99 a night.

Sunnyside Lodge, North Shore/Tahoe City

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Built as a summer mansion in 1906, the well-updated Sunnyside Lodge has been an institution on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore since it opened as a resort six decades ago. Though it maintains its rustic look on the outside and in the wood-beamed indoor common areas, its modernly appointed 23 rooms and suites look surprisingly new. The Sunnyside is known as much for the American-style gourmet meals served in its dining room overlooking the lake as for its accommodations. Suites start at $150 a night.

Zephyr Cove Resort, South Shore/South Lake Tahoe

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Zephyr Cove Resort, with its lodge and 28 surprisingly up-to-date cabins, has been an affordable and not-so-secret getaway on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe for more than a century. Billed as an almost-all-inclusive destination, you can rent ski boats and WaveRunners from the resort at the mile-long beach, go parasailing, play volleyball, or simply laze in a lounge chair. Zephyr Cove also runs cruises on two old-fashioned paddleboats. If the $181 nightly rate for the cottages is too steep, you can pitch a tent on the property’s campsite for $35.

Tamarack Lodge, Tahoe City

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Shaded by tall pines and only a few minutes from Tahoe City, the Tamarack Lodge is a hidden mountain resort that probably looks much the same as when the Oppio-Fenech family first opened it nearly 90 years ago. Once a getaway for movie stars, it’s now a haunt for cost-conscious skiers, hikers, and mountain bikers. You have your choice of three cabins or a handful of rooms inside the lodge. Lodge rooms with shared bath start at $75 a night.

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A Heavenly Lodge in the Land of Light

Iceland is so full of adventure, it can be hard to know where to dive in. Plenty of lodges offer great accommodations, but few can match Hótel Glymur’s access and views. A quick 45-minute drive from Reykjavík, Glymur is set amid the countless hikes, rivers, and volcanic fields around 20-mile-long Whale Fjord. The lodge has 22 rooms and three suites, but we suggest splurging on one of the six villas, which have floor-to-ceiling views of the fjord, state-of-the-art kitchens, and private geothermal hot tubs outside. From there, head 13 miles east to the highest waterfall in the country (and the hotel’s namesake), which cascades 643 feet in a single drop from the Botsna River over the side of Hvalfell volcano. Inaccessible by road, the waterfall is one of Iceland’s least visited attractions—and one of its most stunning. The hotel will point guests in the direction of the trailhead, a 20-minute drive away. After the five-mile hike, return to a dinner of lamb fillet served with blueberry sauce and baked potatoes. Then pour yourself a Reyka vodka with a lemon twist and take it out to the hot tub to toast the waning midnight sun.

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Icelandic Getaway: A Few Pointers

Access: Fly Iceland Air to Keflavík International Airport in Reykjavík. Rent a car at Höldur (from $197); no four-wheel-drive needed in summer. Rooms from $300, villas from $480.

Climate: In August, 55° high and 46° low

Detour: The 5,200-foot-long Vidgelmir Lava Tube is only 46 miles northwest of the hotel. Extreme Iceland helps you explore it and other caves in the Hallmundarhraun lava field ($1,060 for two).

Indulge: Made right at the lodge, Glymur’s ice cream ($18) is infused with chocolate cake bits and soft caramel. 

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When Ski Resorts Melt

It's a sad fact: winter is shrinking. The Rutgers University Global Snow Lab reports that the Northern Hemisphere has lost more than a million square miles of snow since 1970. That's why the hottest trend in the winter-sports industry is warm-weather activities. In April, the U.S. Forest Service implemented a new system that makes it significantly easier for resorts to get permits for things like canopy tours and ropes courses. Here are four of the best excuses to get back on the lift—this time in shorts and a T-shirt.

Walk the Razor's Edge

Fernie, British Columbia
Fernie has long been overshadowed by provincial brethren like Whistler and Revelstoke, which is fine by locals—the serious alpine terrain is largely empty. Try the ridge traverse across the breathtaking Lizards Range crest. Start at the top of the Timber chairlift and take a 20-minute stroll through open meadows past Lost Boys Pass and, if you want the added security, along a short fixed rope to 7,010-foot Polar Peak, where the views span from southern Alberta to Montana. From there the three-mile loop winds down through wildflower meadows to the Lost Boys Café, where you can down a well-earned Kokanee. $22 lift ticket.

Bikes and Bikram

Snowmass and Aspen, Colorado
The two signature resorts in Colorado's Roaring Fork Valley, Snowmass and Aspen, deliver summer's yin and yang. Snowmass has the adrenaline rush: it already boasts the only lift-served 4,000-foot mountain-bike descent in the U.S., starting above the treeline and ending in the high desert. And this year the resort is teaming up with the renowned trail builders at Gravity Logic to add a full-size beginner park and pump track. Upvalley at Aspen, it's a bit mellower. Take the Silver Queen gondola to the 11,212-foot Sundeck for thrice-weekly yoga sessions with views of the Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak. Bonus: the Sundeck hosts bluegrass shows every Sunday throughout the summer.

Armor Up

Mammoth Mountain, California
Southern California's largest resort has a long affiliation with downhill mountain biking. Last year, Mammoth brought back the Kamikaze Bike Games, the precursor to the Mountain Bike World Championships, which included the sport's first lift-served downhill race in 1986. The revamped games now feature gravity, cross-country, and cyclocross races over four days in September. If you can't make it then, check out the updated bike park—where attendance has grown 22 percent in the past two years—and its new pump track, beginner loop, and skills park (think small drops, berms, and bridges). $49 day pass, $359 season pass.

Take to the Trees

Stowe, Vermont
This year, Stowe—already one of Vermont's busiest summer hubs—debuts two fresh options. The first is a zip line near the top of 4,395-foot Mount Mansfield that sends visitors whizzing down 2,150 vertical feet over roughly two miles. The second is a high ropes course on Spruce Peak that will feature six routes for kids and adults alike, with challenges suspended up to 30 feet above the ground. If you prefer to remain on terra firma, there's always the 150-year-old, unpaved Auto Toll Road, which leads to Mansfield's summit ridge, where a 1.3-mile hike puts you atop Vermont's highest peak.

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