The Big Chill

You could mope about the economy. Or you could go play in the snow, and then thaw out in comfort. Our guide to the best winter adventure lodges in North America.

Nita Lake Lodge
Nita Lake Lodge

 

 

 

 

Nordic Pine

Flagstaff Lake Hut, Carrabassett Valley, Maine

Winter Lodge Smackdown
Disagree with our list? Tell us what you think is the best winter adventure lodge in North America in our forum
Flagstaff Lake Hut
Flagstaff Lake Hut

Hut is a misnomer when it comes to this cozy, wood-paneled outpost. Opening this month as the second in a series of 12 lodges connecting 180 miles of ski and hiking trails in western Maine, Flagstaff better resembles a swanky retreat than a backwoods shack. Picture a main lodge with an atrium ceiling, a woodstove, and a library off to the side. The whole compound—including guest bunk­houses and a 90-foot wind turbine—is perched on a peninsula jutting into 31-square-mile Flagstaff Lake. Around the shores lie miles of looped trails, where you can almost get lost before returning for dinner, which includes Italian sausage and hot-brownie sundaes. Stay for a few days—it's as affordable as a Motel 6, after all—and glide over the frozen lake or ski 11 miles southwest to the Flagstaff's sister lodge, the Poplar Stream Falls Hut. From $65 for nonmembers, including breakfast and dinner; mainehuts.org

The Half-Baked Plan: Walleye World
Your ice-fishing instructions: Head to Sportsman's Lodge, on Minnesota's Lake of the Woods, "the walleye capital of the world" (sportsmanslodgelow.com). Accept guided ride to your ice shack. Do not enter foreign huts. Place bait in predrilled hole after dropping two cans of Miller High Life in hole for good luck. Wait. Whiskey. Wait. Walleye (average: 15 inches). Whiskey.

Diehard's Dream

Norway Basin Camp, Wallowa Mountains, Oregon

The Wallowa Mountains of Oregon
The Wallowa Mountains of Oregon (Wikimedia)

Winter Lodge Smackdown
Disagree with our list? Tell us what you think is the best winter adventure lodge in North America in our forum.

A good backcountry-ski camp should have steep topography, great snow, and easily accessible runs. And the camp itself should not be easy to reach. Exhibit A: This new, plush double-decker yurt in eastern Oregon's Wallowas. With ultralight snow on their glacially sculpted peaks, the Wallowas resemble the Rockies—except without the crowds. From Boise, Idaho, it's a three-hour drive to the one-horse town of Halfway, Oregon. From there, a snowmobile shuttles alpine and tele aficionados seven miles up an unplowed road, then guests skin 1.5 miles to the yurt. Those with adequate quads are rewarded with trackless powder and, at the end of each day, a wood-fueled sauna. Plus a staff chef whips up dinner (think wild salmon and Dutch-oven brownies) that's lip-smacking—and not only because you just burned 4,000 calories. Four days, all-inclusive, $625; wallowahuts.com

On the Waterfront

Nita Lake Lodge, Whistler, B.C.

Winter Lodge Smackdown
Disagree with our list? Tell us what you think is the best winter adventure lodge in North America in our forum.
Nita Lake Lodge
Nita Lake Lodge

Does Whistler really need another posh hotel? Maybe not, but those who make the trip to the year-old Nita Lake Lodge won't complain. Surrounded by 23 acres of old-growth cedars on the shores of serene, tiny Nita Lake, the lodge feels a world away from Whistler's seven-nights-a-week bar scene Every room has a view of the lake or Whistler Mountain, as well as smart features like rain showers, geothermal radiant floor heating, and iPod docks. Take the three-hour Whistler Mountaineer train from Vancouver (round-trip tickets, $200; whistlermountaineer.com), which stops right at the lodge's front door. Chow down at Nita's railway-style restaurant before crashing in one of 77 suites. Want more action? Whistler's bright lights and raging liftees are just a five-minute shuttle away. Studios from $250; nitalakelodge.com

 

 

Slopeside Ski

Lumiere, Telluride, Colorado

Lumiere
Lumiere (Courtesy of Lumiere)

Winter Lodge Smackdown
Disagree with our list? Tell us what you think is the best winter adventure lodge in North America in our forum.

This month-old, 30-suite hotel, perched at 9,500 feet in Telluride's Mountain Village, affords the sort of comfort that can be embarrassing: Chauffeurs drive skiers to and from Telluride's airport in luxury hybrids, and the concierge stocks the pantry according to guests' desires. (Red Bull and Camembert? No problem!) But Lumière also removes every barrier between you and the snow—ski valets carry your gear off the slopes at the end of the day for overnight tuning. Sure, the studios offer outdoor hot tubs and bowling-alley-wide televisions. But Lumière is all about easy powder. And this season, Telluride Ski Resort opens 400 acres of new ski terrain, including Revelation Bowl, an above-tree-line playground with its own quad. Studios,$600; lumierehotels.com/telluride

Green and Gold

Tamarack Lodge and Resort, Mammoth, California

Tamarack Lodge and Resort
Tamarack Lodge and Resort (Courtesy of Tamarack Lodge)

Winter Lodge Smackdown
Disagree with our list? Tell us what you think is the best winter adventure lodge in North America in our forum.

Try to find a better location than this for a ski lodge in the Sierra Nevada. Tamarack Lodge and Resort sits along the Twin Lakes, in a secluded 9,000-foot alpine valley, but only three miles from Mammoth Mountain resort. In July, the 35-building retreat—originally built in the 1920s by a Los Angeles vaudeville performer—opened a new LEED Gold–certified cabin. It features recycled materials, high-efficiency water fixtures, and energy-efficient appliances. But guests will sooner notice the expansive porch with lake views, the fireplace-heated bar area, and the 400 inches of snow that falls outside the front door annually. Rent skis from the resort's cross-country-ski center, then glide along 25 miles of groomed trails straight from the cabin, or take Tamarack's easy shuttle to Mammoth Mountain. From $280; tamaracklodge.com

Hot Water

Chena Hot Springs Resort, Fairbanks, Alaska

The Aurora Borealis in the sky above Fairbanks, Alaska
The Aurora Borealis rises above Fairbanks, Alaska (Ron Crabtree/Photographer's Choice/Getty)

Winter Lodge Smackdown
Disagree with our list? Tell us what you think is the best winter adventure lodge in North America in our forum.

Alaskans don't seem to be fazed by January's 40-below lows. For the rest of us, there's Chena. An 80-room enclave some 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks, it's the perfect combination of rustic Alaskan charm and environmental can-do. Owners Bernie and Connie Karl have funneled the area's mineral-rich, 165-degree waters into a first-of-its-kind geothermal system, which heats the lodge. Meanwhile, a greenhouse churns out lettuce even during deep freezes. But come for the hot springs themselves, which are diverted into an indoor pool and an outdoor rock lake. The lake makes an excellent theater for viewing the dancing aurora borealis. Earn the bath time with a day at the resort's dog-mushing school, where you'll learn basic commands behind a team of huskies. Doubles from $180; shuttle from Fairbanks, $70; chenahotsprings.com

Open Range

B Bar Ranch, Absaroka Range, Montana

Winter Lodge Smackdown
Disagree with our list? Tell us what you think is the best winter adventure lodge in North America in our forum.
Cross-country Skiing
Cross-country skiing is encouraged.

It's a rare Montana guest ranch that values its cattle as highly as it does its tourists. B Bar is one of them: The working ranch, a two-hour drive west of Bozeman, is open to regular visitors in winter only, when the cows are carted off to warmer climes. By January, the 9,000-acre spread, surrounded by the horseshoe of the Absarokas, is covered in up to six feet of snow. The staff here understand that cross-country skiing and snowshoeing should be unguided whenever possible, so guests are let loose to roam. Rent skis in nearby Livingston, then zigzag through lodgepole-pine forests on 19 miles of groomed trails. At night, guests gather for grass-fed-beef tenderloin and veggies from the year-round greenhouse. Home is one of six cabins or three lodge rooms. Opt for the master suite, which has a private hot tub. From $240, including meals; bbar.com

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