Les Dômes Charlevoix, Quebec
Courtesy Les Dômes Charlevoix
Les Dômes Charlevoix, Quebec
Les Dômes Charlevoix, Quebec (Photo: Courtesy Les Dômes Charlevoix)

13 Unique and Fun Winter Trips to Plan Now

Winter opens up endless adventure opportunities. And there’s no time to hibernate, because it’ll be gone before you know it. Here are 13 unique and fun trips, from backcountry lodges to fat biking to the world's longest ice skating path.

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1. Stay at a Cozy Adventure Base Camp

The Little Cat Lodge in Hillsdale, New York, about two and a half hours from Manhattan and Boston, opened in August with 14 rooms that blend 1950s Berkshires ski culture with the feel of a Swiss chalet (from $345). The lodge is set at the foot of the Catamount Mountain Resort, one of the country’s oldest ski areas, which has 1,000 feet of vertical and 43 trails, including the steepest run in the Berkshires. Back at the lodge, relax in a barrel sauna before dinner at the Tavern, where a James Beard Award–nominated chef is at the helm.

Farther south, in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, the Camptel Poconos keeps things cozy with 25 tiny homes tucked in 20 acres of snowy deciduous forest (from $320). A sauna, hot tub, and fire pits are on site, and it’s a ten-minute drive to the slopes of Jack Frost and Big Boulder, where you can night-ski and use your Epic Pass.

In the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in North Carolina, the town of Boone is a great jumping-off point for cross-country skiing around 6,285-foot Roan Mountain or downhilling at Sugar Mountain and Appalachian Ski Mountain. Get a suite at the 15-room Horton, a boutique hotel (from $280) in downtown Boone.

Or head north (way north) to the Charlevoix region of Quebec on the Saint Lawrence River, a mini North American Norway, with stunning fjords and dense woodlands. Stay right in the middle of it all in the Laurentian Mountains at Les Dômes Charlevoix, a collection of walk-in geodesic huts (see image above) with private hot tubs, fireplaces, and fully equipped kitchens (from $350). Fifteen minutes away, the ski area Le Massif has just over 2,500 feet of vertical drop, the most east of the Canadian Rockies.

Winter Park Express, Colorado
Winter Park Express, Colorado (Derek Brown)

2. Ride the Winter Trains

In Switzerland, most everyone takes the train to the ski mountain. There are a few locomotive options on this side of the pond, too. The Winter Park Express from Denver to Colorado’s third-largest ski area is back this season. Trains with baggage compartments for skis and boards leave Denver’s Union Station every Friday through Sunday, January through April, starting at 7 a.m. During the two-hour trip ($29 each way), you’ll roll through 31 tunnels and view the Continental Divide. Returning trains depart Winter Park at 4:30 P.m. Even cooler, if you time your flights right, you can hop the A Line train—with commuter service between Denver International Airport and Union Station—and skip the rental car.

For a more vintage vibe, board the Mount Washington Cog Railway, which has been chugging up the flanks of New Hampshire’s tallest, worst-weathered peak since 1869. The three-mile journey to the 6,289-foot summit is unavailable in winter—200-mile-per-hour winds, anyone?—but you can ride up to Waumbek Station, at about 4,000 feet. There you disembark to warm up with hot drinks and cog-shaped sugar cookies by a fire pit. The ski descent drops 1,300 vertical feet on an easy-to-intermediate trail beside the tracks.

Yet another train trip to experience national parks in the winter is Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which runs from Chicago to Seattle and south to Portland, passing within a snowball’s distance of Glacier National Park. Book yourself on Vacations by Rail’s nine-day Winter in Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton tour ($3,600) and you’ll stay at Glacier’s Lake McDonald Lodge for hikes around the lake, stop for a snow-coach outing to spot bison in Yellowstone, and go cross-country skiing in Jackson, Wyoming.

The Rideau Canal Skateway, Ottawa
The Rideau Canal Skateway, Ottawa (Courtesy Ottawa Tourism)

3. Ice Skate On Forever

Almost 200 years ago, a British Royal Engineer completed one of the greatest transportation projects in the world, a 126-mile waterway between Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario, called the Rideau Canal. In winter, a portion of the canal becomes something even cooler: the world’s longest ice-skating path. It’s up to Mother Nature when the 4.8-mile Rideau Canal Skateway opens—January is always a good bet—but when it does, you can glide through the heart of downtown Ottawa. Rent skates at one of three locations along the route, or stay at the Westin Ottawa, which offers skating packages. From there you can push past warming huts that serve hot chocolate and BeaverTail pastries topped with cinnamon and sugar.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., some kids in Warroad, Minnesota, 250 miles northwest of Duluth, might argue that their five-mile Riverbend Skate Path deserves the longest-skateway title. A couple of years ago, when the pandemic closed the two hockey rinks in town, they built a pair of their own on the frozen Warroad River. Their parents then cleared a path between the rinks, and the route took off. Base yourself at the four-room Doc’s Harbor Inn (from $260) and bring your hockey stick for pickup games.

Le Massif de Charlevoix, Quebec
Le Massif de Charlevoix, Quebec (Jean-Sébastien Chartier-Plante)

4. Sled Your Heart Out

Sledding isn’t just for youngins. Le Massif de Charlevoix in Quebec may have the best skiing east of the Canadian Rockies, but what’s really a hoot is the five-mile sledding trail that whips down 2,703-foot Mont Liguori. A snowcat will take you up 2,620 vertical feet to the entry point. Strap on a helmet and count on taking two hours to get all the way to the bottom, with a pause at one or more of the warming chalets along the way serving hot chicken soup. For an unforgettable twist, do the run at night with a headlamp.

Oregon’s Mount Hood Ski Bowl, located in Government Camp, across from its 11,240-foot namesake peak, boasts the world’s only cosmic tubing park, with 600,000 LEDs, black lights, and lasers dancing in trippy bliss across 14 tubing lanes every weekend and holiday evening. Listen to Portland DJs and live music, or go skiing on 34 lit slopes, the most night-skiing terrain in the country. The midmountain 1937 Historic Warming Hut offers up toasty bowls of homemade Hungarian goulash.

Midwesterners have it good, too. Ohio’s biggest ski area, Mad River Mountain, outside Columbus, turns 60 this year and has two lifts dedicated to tubers sliding about 300 vertical feet down as many as 20 lanes, depending on the conditions.

Colorado’s Buttermilk Mountain
Colorado’s Buttermilk Mountain (Tamara Susa)

5. Earn Your (Delicious) Calories

There’s night skiing, and then there’s truly unforgettable night skiing. For the latter, you need alpine touring gear, so make this the winter you finally get yours. Then head to Colorado’s Buttermilk Mountain for the full moon on January 6, February 7, or March 7, when you can skin approximately 1,800 vertical feet up the Main Buttermilk Route, with shimmering views of Highlands, Pyramid Peak, and the magnificent Maroon Bells ($69 for a season-long uphill ski pass). There, the Cliffhouse restaurant stays open just for adventurers like you, with fire pits, a bar, and à la carte dining options. Fueled up and warm, strap on your headlamp and cruise back down to the base.

Back east, about 200 miles west of Washington, D.C., West Virginia’s Snowshoe Resort, a 37-trail ski area with 1,500 feet of vertical drop, features backcountry hut dining in a log cabin just two miles up the Cheat Ridge Trail. Snowmobiles whisk your party to the cabin for a gourmet meal. Try the daytime resort skiing, too: with 180 inches per season, Snowshoe gets the most natural snow in the mid-Atlantic.

Borealis Basecamp
Borealis Basecamp (Philip Kingsley)

6. See the Northern Lights

The northern lights appear to be gathering their might this year. What better place to catch the phenomenon than at Borealis Basecamp, a pod of 20 glass-domed igloos on 100 acres of forest 25 miles outside Fairbanks, Alaska (from $1,793 per person). Guests can rent 12-by-32-foot “cubes,” each with a full wall of glass on the northeast end for prime viewing. This place fills up fast, so if you can’t get in, try the Blachford Lake Lodge and Wilderness Resort, reachable via a half-hour bush-plane flight from Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories (from $1,500 for three nights). The lodge, which has hot tubs and about four miles of groomed cross-country trails, sits under the auroral oval—the belt around the magnetic pole—offering some of the best panoramas.

Big Sky, Montana
Big Sky, Montana (Courtesy Big Sky Resort)

7. Check Out This Cool Ski Resort News

One of the more impressive upgrades this winter is at Snowbird, in Utah. The resort, famous for its thigh-burning steeps, plans to unveil two new tram cabins with viewing panels built into the floor and floor-to-ceiling windows for the journey to 11,000 feet. Nearby Sundance Mountain Resort has a new fixed-grip quad lift and additional terrain.

For the second time ever, Big Sky Resort, in Montana, will run a guided night-skiing excursion; at sunset you ride the heated seats of the Ramcharger 8 lift (each chair is enveloped in a weatherproof bubble) for a tour of groomed corduroy off 8,800-foot Andesite Mountain.

This season also marks the grand opening of the $65 million, 2.2-mile Base to Base Gondola at California’s Palisades Tahoe. It will connect the resort’s Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows areas. Close by, at Northstar, a high-speed six-pack will replace the Comstock quad, boosting capacity by 50 percent.

In Vermont, Mount Snow and Stowe are adding six-person high-speed lifts, and Killington’s improved K1 Base Lodge will open in November.

In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the ski capital of the Midwest, Big Snow Resort is under new ownership and being upgraded and relaunched as Snowriver Mountain Resort, while the state is investing $20 million to renovate the nearby Copper Peak ski jump.

Catamount Trail, Vermont
Catamount Trail, Vermont (Greg Maino)

8. Explore the Best of the Backcountry

The Catamount Trail stretches for 300 miles through some of Vermont’s most spectacular terrain—a wild tableau of snowy peaks, chutes, and forest. Amid that territory, one section near Bolton Valley Ski Area, 25 miles east of Burlington, stands out, offering access to some of the best backcountry skiing in New England.

Trail options are almost limitless here, but consider tackling the nine-mile tour linking Bolton Valley with Stowe’s Trapp Family Lodge (founded by the family of The Sound of Music fame), leading through hardwood forests perfectly spaced for tree skiing. When you finally arrive at the lodge, a brat platter with housemade pickles and an Austrian beer await. Bolton Valley offers guides and shuttles as well as backcountry clinics (from $175).

Next door in New Hampshire, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s High Cabin sits at 2,700 feet in Mount Cardigan State Park and serves as a perfect base for a few days of playing around in the snow. The 1938 cabin has one room with six beds (sleeping up to 12 people total), a propane stove, and a woodstove for keeping warm ($169 a night per person). From there you can tour about half a mile to the exposed summit of 3,121-foot Mount Cardigan, or work your way over to Duke’s Ski Trail off Firescrew Mountain—one of Mount Cardigan’s three summits—for a run that will drop you close to the Cardigan Lodge, a full-service hut where a hot family-style meal comes with your overnight stay (from $177).

9. Learn Something New, Like, Yep, Snowkiting

Kiteboarding on snow may sound daunting, but it’s easier to learn than on water. For starters, you use skis, you’re already standing up, and a gentle breeze will suffice. Book a lesson with Kite Riders in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, on the southern outskirts of Madison.

Or head 230 miles west to Clear Lake, Iowa; on February 18, it hosts the largest kite festival in the Midwest, where you can also book a snowkiting lesson.

Want to try your hand at fat biking on snow? Lake Tahoe’s Northstar resort is home to 20 miles of fat-biking and cross-country trails. Rent a rig from the Northstar Cross Country Center and set out solo, or with a guide, on one of eight beginner-friendly routes.

East Coasters can book a guide with Water Bikes of Buffalo, in that New York city’s Canalside neighborhood—the only place in the world where you can learn to ice-bike. Picture a bicycle atop a sled with broad, stable runners and a fork with skate-like blades that allow you to turn.

Ice climbing at Michigan’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Ice climbing at Michigan’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Scott Crady)

10. Get Festive at These Awesome Events

No winter is complete without a fun festival celebration. For ice climbers, that means heading to Munising, Michigan, about 175 miles north of Green Bay, Wisconsin, for the lively Michigan Ice Fest, February 8 to 12. The action happens at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along Lake Superior, home to sheer walls and lots of frozen goodness. The festival includes skills clinics and talks from experts.

There’s also the Ullr Nights festival in Snowmass, Colorado, March 11 and March 18, with a gondola ride up to Elk Camp, where you can watch fire dancers, go snow tubing, eat s’mores, and sled down the mile-long Breathtaker Alpine Coaster. Dates this season start on December 28, with select nights in January, February, and March, too.

Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks of upstate New York goes big with a ten-day, 126-year-old winter carnival; this season it’s from February 3 to 12. Tour a giant ice palace, enter a nordic ski race, or play softball in your snowshoes.

Meanwhile, there’s Montreal’s Igloofest, a music and art blowout. Dance your face off January 19 to February 11 in minus-25-degree cold to sixty-something acts, most of them EDM.

Or head west for the annual Tahoe Adventure Film Festival at Bally’s Tahoe on January 7, where you can take in adventure cinematography and mingle with filmmakers and athletes.

Deer Valley Resort, Utah
Deer Valley Resort, Utah (Courtesy Deer Valley Resort)

11. Ski Utah’s Famous Champagne

Welcome to the Interconnect, an incredible multi-resort adventure. This ski trip links Deer Valley to Snowbird and up to four other resorts, all in a day, all on skis—and you don’t even have to skin (though there are some uphill traverses). Hire a guide through Ski Utah and decide how many resorts you would like to ski to. Longer tours include about 25 miles of skiing down 15,000 vertical feet, starting with a lift ride up at Deer Valley and concluding with a run at Snowbird.

In between you’ll ride lifts and work your way over to Park City Mountain Resort, through the backcountry to Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon, and beyond to Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon, with a last traverse over to Grizzly Gulch. Finally, a shuttle will take you and your tired legs back to Deer Valley, 40 miles away by road. A steeper and deeper option starts and ends at Snowbird and includes a 20-mile loop with 15,000 feet of skiing across Alta, Brighton, and Solitude. There are shorter tours, too, and guides will tailor the day to fit the group. From $475

Maine’s Stratton Brook Hut
Maine’s Stratton Brook Hut (Ryan David Brown)

12. Take a Hut Tour in Maine

Maine Huts and Trails offers a four-day, three-night self-guided tour in the Carrabassett Valley, about 100 miles west of Bangor. Four off-the-grid huts are tucked away among the state’s 4,000-foot High Peaks and are anywhere from nine to twelve miles apart, linked by fat-biking and cross-country-skiing trails. Inside each you’ll find a common space, reading areas, a fireplace, and hot showers. The huts sleep up to 48 people, in rooms for two to six (from $90 per person).

On weekends, caretakers with Huts and Trails serve popular home-cooked meals like lasagna. The highlight of the tour comes on day two when you leave the Poplar Hut and roll for about 14 miles above Flagstaff Lake, gliding through hardwood forests to the Flagstaff Hut. At 1,200 feet, it perches on a peninsula jutting into its eponymous lake, with views of 4,150-foot Bigelow Mountain to the southwest.

13. Nordic Ski in the Cascades

Washington’s Methow Valley, some 200 miles northeast of Seattle, runs like a poker deep into the North Cascades, a famed nordic-skiing hub. The more than 120 miles of groomed trails in the Methow wend through fragrant forests, past warming huts, and out to huge-sky vistas. Base yourself at the Sun Mountain Lodge (doubles from $200) and grab one of its 16 cabins on Patterson Lake, with 35 miles of trails right outside the door.

The lodge rents all the gear you need. Near Chelan, 80 miles south, the Echo Ridge trail system (day passes, $10) runs for 25 miles through the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Rent skis at Lake Chelan Sports, where you can pick up a map. Work out the kinks afterward at YogaChelan; instructors sometimes offer “snowga,” if you require still more time outside. Stay at Campbell’s Resort, with 170 waterfront rooms on lovely Lake Chelan (from $114).

From November/December 2022 Lead Photo: Courtesy Les Dômes Charlevoix

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