Outside Magazine, 1999 Annual Travel Guide
Mirror Lake Inn, New York
Fortunately, it only takes a few hours for Lake Placid's rampant Olympic spirit to inspire you to action. The half-mile and mile-long bobsled runs at Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex are a good place to start: The bullet-shaped capsule hurtles you down the icy chute at 40 to 50 miles per hour. When the dizziness wears off, head to nearby Cascade Cross Country Center for 20 kilometers of groomed trails, or try the wilder, four-mile uphill slog on snowshoes or touring skis to Avalanche Lake. Go on your own, or with one of the inn's veteran backcountry guides.
Back at the inn, tromp across the lake for an evening of dogsledding and Christmas carols, then retire to your digs — a simply furnished colonial room or a split-level suite with whirlpool bath and loft. Ah, the joys of being inside. At least until morning.
Doubles are $95-$165 per night regular season, $125-$250 per night peak season (December 19-January 3 and February 13-21); Placid suites, $270-$300 per night regular season, $360-$430 per night peak season. Call 518-523-2544.
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado
The 540-acre ranch is ringed by skiable 10,000-foot peaks and 25 kilometers of immaculately groomed trails, all lathered up by roughly 400 annual inches of snow. Vista Verde doesn't scream the dogma of Lycra and low body fat, and it treats novice skinny skiers and backcountry experts with equal respect. Gung-ho telemarkers can climb and ski the steep faces of 10,824-foot Farwell Mountain; first-timers get instruction in the never-ever program. Cross-country skiers can explore the backcountry, then finish with a cruise under the stars along those lantern-lit trails.
At night, everyone (a maximum of about 20 guests) convenes for a quiet dinner of arugula pesto-rubbed pheasant breast or beef tenderloin with apple-smoked bacon. Then guests retire to one of three lodge rooms or eight outlying one- to three-bedroom cabins, where exposed-log walls, antiques, and bury-yourself comforters allow the storms of winter to recede behind dreams.
Five-night packages (including lodging, meals, ranch activities, equipment rentals, and transportation to and from the Hayden airport, an hour and a half southwest of the ranch) cost $845-$1,045 per person based on double occupancy. Daily rates are $195-$240 per person, including meals and activities (three- to five-night minimum). Contact Vista Verde Ranch at 800-526-7433 or
visit the ranch's web site at www.vistaverde.com.
Edson Hill Manor, Vermont
You can stay in one of nine guest rooms in the inn — most with fireplaces and muraled walls — or in one of 16 units in four adjacent carriage houses. Either way, some of Stowe's best ski touring is right out your door. Edson Hill, one of four interconnected nordic systems in town, has 40 kilometers of amazingly underskied groomed trails — some set in gladed fields, others shooting nearly straight up into the wooded hills behind the inn. The estate's barn serves as base camp; here, you can rent skis or snowshoes, sign up for lessons, or just hang by the woodstove.
The regular winter rates are $150-$210 per night, including breakfast and dinner for two in what is widely regarded as one of Stowe's top dining rooms (peak season rates, from December 18-January 3 and February 12-21, are $180-$250 per night, with a three- or five-night minimum stay). A two-night minimum stay is required on weekends throughout the winter. Call 802-253-7371.
Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort, Colorado
At 8,500-plus feet, the 100 kilometers of groomed trails are not for the meek, and you'll soon discover how Punishment Hill and Screamer got their names. The resort's Devil's Thumb Cross-Country Center is a good place to try out the latest skate-skis, cross-country skis, and snowshoes. The six cabins (which sleep two to six) and 14 lodge rooms (with private or shared bath) are
small and cozy, with pine furniture and down comforters, and some cabins have fireplaces. While the accommodations are charmingly rustic, you won't feel as if Ralph Lauren just dropped by. Better yet, the views out your window of the windswept domes of the Divide are the West we all came west to see. The resort's Ranch House Restaurant will serve up a stylish dinner of blue crab
cakes or Mountain Man grilled sausage. Nightlife? If you've been climbing Crime Hill that day, the horse-drawn sleigh ride probably sounds like work. Rates for doubles are $60-$86 per night for lodge rooms and $100-$200 per night for cabins. Call 800-933-4339.
Le Ch‚teau Montebello, Quebec
Guests don snowshoes to follow moose and wolf tracks in the nearby 65,000-acre private wilderness called Kenauk, cross-country ski on 70 kilometers of trails, take a dogsled ride (the dogs live at the ch‚teau), or ice skate on the Ottawa River. Closer to home, try curling at the lodge's rink, or do laps in the indoor pool while snowflakes fall. Come evening you'll be rewarded with Qu‰b‰cois entrees like roasted Lake Brome duck and chicken velout‰ with grilled almonds.
Standard doubles cost $51-$68 per person, including breakfast. A special Christmas package provides three nights' lodging, breakfast and dinner daily (including a traditional Christmas dinner), a sleigh ride, gifts from Santa for the kids, and nightly kids' events for $361 per person, $11 per child age four to 12, based on a family of four. Call 800-441-1414.
Copyright 1998, Outside magazine
Filed To: Snow Sports