What if this year—instead of giving more stuff—you chose to gift your loved one something that could improve her life for years to come—or, at the very least, enhance his Instagram feed? From week-long stays in vintage VW buses to intensive meat camps, we found five ideas for experiential gifts your family and friends will never forget.
#Vanlife (From $150 per night)
VW Surfari, in Costa Mesa, California, outfits its clients with their own pop-top Westfalia, built at the height of the Clark Griswold era, and loaded with everything you’ll need to cruise the coast. Head south for the classic surfing around San Diego or north to catch breaks in Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. One-week rentals start at $830.
Can’t stand the beach? Rocky Mountain Campervans, which just opened a location in Denver, offers a mountain-based alternative, offering vintage buses that are outfitted for winter, so you can head straight for the ski resorts of Summit County and beyond. Eurovan rentals start at $150 a night, and come complete with 24-hour roadside assistance.
Emergency Rescue (From $85)
With a membership in the American Alpine Club, your loved one will have crazy discounts on gear, plus access to the club’s vast network of campgrounds and huts across North America, Chile, and New Zealand. But the real benefit? Members of the AAC get up to $12,500 in rescue coverage, which could come in handy if you find yourselves hurt or lost in the middle of nowhere. A portion of member dues also go to conservation efforts, and grants for ambitious climbers.
Cooking 101 (From $495)
Sure, you could just throw some tenderloin on the grill and burn it, but if you’re looking to elevate your barbecue game, may we suggest an intensive course. The two-day Camp Brisket, held on the campus of Texas A&M, guides attendees through the history of slow-cooking. The course teaches the basics of building a good cooking fire before giving students hands-on training in overnight smoking. Tuition starts at $495.
Meanwhile, attendees of Jack’s Old South, in Macon, Georgia, will learn the nuances of cooking whole hog from Myron Mixon, four-time world champion and star of the show, BBQ Pitmasters. For the two-day class rolls through the gamut of BBQ, from whole hog to ribs, from chicken to brisket. Tuition starts at $795.
Better Turns (from $1,445)
Suppose the person you’re shopping for is already a lifelong skier, but wants to get better. Maybe they hang their season’s pass on their Christmas tree every year, or tally up their number of days on the mountain by notching lines on the wall of their house, but on the mountain, they’re hucking cornices and dropping couloirs.
For expert skiers looking to start tackling next-level terrain, Steep and Deep Ski Camp is a four-day intensive “ski school,” at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Students learn to read slopes and choose the best line in a variety of situations, with a chance to explore double black slopes with the best instructors on the mountain. The clinic includes a primer on steep skiing etiquette, culminates with a trip to the infamous Corbet’s Couloir. The four-day course starts at $1,445, with lift access covered.
How to DIY (from $600)
There’s nothing more personal than handmade gear, and there are options for those who don’t know how to carve skis or build a singlespeed. Instead, give that special someone a certificate for a DIY gear-building class. At Parlor Skis, in East-Boston, skiers design and build their dream sticks in the Custom Ski Building Workshop, choosing everything from the type of wood that makes up your core blank to the graphics on the top sheet. Four-day classes start at $950.
For the biker in your family, Hero Bike offers workshops in Alabama, with proceeds going to the Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization (HERO), a local housing and social services non-profit. Each month, can build their own bamboo road bike or single speed cruiser, with the help and advice from Hero Bike’s pros. Three-day classes start at $650.