The Best Of The West: Classic Ski Lodges

tamarack lodgeDespite deceptively balmy temperatures in parts of the U.S., there’s still plenty of ski season left. Why not spend it staying at a classic ski lodge or chalet out West? These regal or groovy remnants from the early-to-mid-20th century are a dying breed, although some have been refurbished to good effect, while still retaining their original style. They also tend to offer friendly, personalized service, so you feel like a welcome guest, not just a number.

Classic places are often more affordable, and just as stylish and comfortable than their boutique or generic high-end chain counterparts. Even when they’re pricey, they’re a bit of living history that can give your ski trip a fun retro feel. Think racy Piz Buin and Lange boots ads, fondue, tight, color-blocked sweaters, Bicentennial Ray-Bans, and all things Bavarian.

Below, some favorite vintage ski accommodations across the West. Don’t forget your Glockenspiel.

Tyrolean Lodge, Aspen, CO
It may come as a shock that Aspen has a classic ski lodge that’s remained little-changed in atmosphere or ski-town spirit since its opening in 1970, but the Tyrolean is just that place. Located several minutes’ walk from the slopes, this no-frills, family-owned chalet is one of the best deals in town, with rooms starting at $155/night; some with kitchenettes. The rooms have been upgraded to be more modern, but the decor and vibe is still vintage Tyrol ski culture. Love.

Tamarack Lodge
, Mammoth Mountain, CA
This small, mid-century property overlooking Twin Lakes is on the California Register of Historic Places, and caters to the cross-country crowd. It has both European guesthouse style rooms, historic, refurbished cabins (see photo above), and from December through April, ski-in/out access. If the town of Mammoth is too hectic and soulless for you, consider this a peaceful alternative to the mainstream.
strawberry lodgeStrawberry Lodge, Kyburz, CA
Highway 50 Tahoe road-trip regulars will be familiar with this former Pony Express stop (right). Located off the side of the road in the nano-community of Kyburz, Strawberry is 20 minutes from South Shore. It’s seriously old-school, in that musty, funky way, with bad taxidermy, historical oddities, and is a much-loved Lake Tahoe institution.

With 31 rooms starting at just $49 a night (some are European style, with a shared bath), it’s hard to pass up, especially when you consider the proximity to all manner of vices, ranging from drinking (please don’t attempt to drive back) and gambling, to outdoor recreation. I love it because it’s one of the last remnants of old Tahoe, in a pastoral mountain setting. Strawberry also offers cross-country skiing, and the restaurant and bar can get hopping, sometimes with live music.
sun valley lodge
Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho
Built in 1936 at America’s first destination ski resort (with the world’s first chairlifts), the SVL was considered cutting-edge. It offered “every amenity a skier could possibly imagine.” Today, the 148-room property has been completely refurbished into a luxury hotel, complete with glass-encased swimming pool, yet it retains its majestic timber-and-stone facade and stately atmosphere.
P.S. Hemingway slept here.

Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood, OR
Celebrating its 76th year, this National Historic Landmark (lobby, right) was built at a time when American heritage and the spirit of adventure crashed head-on with the Great Depression. FDR heralded the lodge as a “testament to the workers on the rolls of the Works Progress Administration,” which funded most of the property’s construction. The lodge shut down twice, once during WWII, and again in 1955, as it had fallen into disrepair. Under a new lessee, it was restored to grandeur and reopened later that year.

Located less than 90 minutes from Portland, Mt. Hood is a favorite local’s ski area. Timberline is built in the classic Pacific Northwestern lodge style, constructed primarily by hand of native timber and rock. The bright rooms are upscale rustic, with wood paneling, thick comforters, and stone fireplaces: all the trappings for a cozy getaway.

Alta Peruvian Lodge
, UT
Located at one of Utah’s premier ski resorts, this three-story wooden lodge had an unlikely start as a pair of barracks buildings in Brigham. They were relocated to Alta in eight pieces, and reconstructed into a 50-room lodge that opened in 1948. In 1979, an architect was hired to gussy up the property, although by today’s standards, it retains a retro Alpine charm (the kelly-green shutters decorated with Edelweiss, for example).

Rooms are straightforward and more motel than mountain lodge, but a fantastic deal, starting at $129 for a dorm bed. Prices include all meals, served family style in the lodge dining room, and free shuttle service to Alta Mountain and Snowbird. There are also twin and queen rooms with a shared or private bath, as well as bedroom suites. As for why the property is called the Peruvian? No one knows, although possibly it’s for a nearby landmark, Peruvian Creek.
Nordic Inn
Nordic Inn, Crested Butte, CO
Reopened on December 15, 2012, under new ownership, this beloved, 28-room Alpine lodge (right) opened over 50 years ago. Located just 500 yards from the slopes, the Nordic has refurbished half of its spacious rooms, which are now kitted out with hardwood floors, down comforters and pillows, and gorgeous Colorado beetle kill pine woodwork. The remaining rooms (which are a colorful ode to the ’80s, and a screaming deal for ski-in lodging) will be redone by June 1.

P.S. Ski lodges aren’t just for winter! Many are open year-round, and summer is also peak season for outdoor recreation.

[Photo credits: Tamarack, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area; Strawberry, 50Cabins.COM; Sun Valley, Sun Valley Resorts; Nordic Inn, Ken Stone]

EpicQuest puts cycling tours on sale

Cycling Tours Are On Sale!With the 2011 Tour de France now underway, adventure travel company EpicQuest has announced that they have put their cycling tours to Sun Valley and Europe on sale. Travelers looking for an active escape this summer or fall will save as much as 50% on some of the more popular offerings.

With tours designed to appeal to the hardcore rider and the leisure cyclist alike, EpicQuest has created unique and exciting options for active travelers. European destinations include Switzerland, Italy, and of course France. Each of these options include daily rides through beautiful countrysides, mixed with gourmet meals, wine tastings, and luxury accommodations.

One of the more popular EQ offerings is their road tour of Tuscany. The seven day ride perfectly combines art, culture, food and physical activity in the best ways possible. Riders will explore Italy’s Chianti region, rolling through the spectacular hill country, while stopping at local wineries. The tour includes all food and beverages, seven nights stay at the villa Montecastelli, and even a private cooking class.

Alternatively, mountain bikers looking for a more adrenaline fueled ride will want to consider the EpicQuest tour to Sun Valley, Idaho where they’ll find a 160-acre Bike Ranch that combines BMX style riding with cross country trails. Located in the Sawtooth Mountains, visitors will stay at the Idaho Smokey Mountain Lodge while they can learn to master the basic skills of riding, while enjoying natural hot springs, an outdoor sauna, and other amenities. This tour comes in three and six day itineraries and is an excellent choice for anyone looking to hone their skills.

EpicQuest has a number of other great cycling tours as well, so if you’re feeling inspired by the events taking place in France at the moment, perhaps you’ll want to hop on a bike and experience your own cycling adventure.

5 great spring break ski destinations

5 great spring break ski destinationWith spring break just around the corner, many of you are no doubt looking for one last blast of winter fun before the warmer temps set in. With that in mind, here are five great ski destinations that will make your spring break a memorable one.

Big Sky Resort, Montana
Big Sky bills itself as the “Biggest Skiing in America,” and for good reason. With over 150 runs to choose from, the longest of which is 6 miles in length, you’ll never run out of mountain to explore. And thanks to a strategic partnership with nearby Moonlight Basin, visitors have more than 5000 skiable acres to shred. The resort is so large in fact, that you’ll rarely have to wait in line for one of the 22 chair lifts and once you do get to the top of the slope, you may not encounter another skier until you get back to the bottom again. Throw in dramatic Montana skyline, a host of other on site activities, and over 400 inches of snow per year, and you have a skiers paradise to say the least. Complete your Big Sky experience with a Yeti Dog and thank me later.

Whiteface Ski Resort, New York
East coasters who can’t make it out west this year have plenty of options for hitting the slopes as well. Whiteface Ski Resort, located in upstate New York, is the perfect example. With 22 miles of trail, spread out over 86 runs, Whiteface truly has something for everyone. The mountain even boasts 3430 feet of continuous vertical drop, which is not only the most of any resort in the east, it is also more than Aspen, Vail, or Park City. Surrounded by the spectacular Adirondack Forest, the trails offer a remote solitude, but when you’re ready for some fun off the slopes, nearby Lake Placid has plenty of bars, restaurants, and shops to keep you busy too.

5 great spring break ski destinations Mammoth Mountain, California
Skiers and snowboarders on the left coast will no doubt already be well aware of Mammoth Mountain, a fantastic destination for everyone from beginners to experts. Located in eastern California, in the Sierra Nevada range, Mammoth offers up 3500 skiable acres that are covered in more than 340 inches of snow on an annual basis. Of the 150 or so runs available, about a quarter are rated for beginners, while a third of the remaining trails are rated as a Black Diamond or greater. The place is a popular destination for the snowboard crowd as well, thanks to its 18-foot Super Pipe and 22-foot Super Duper Pipe. Known for its long season, (the resort was one open for an astounding 10 months in a row!) Mammoth is likely to have great conditions not just for Spring Break, but for weeks to come as well.

Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley Lodge, located in north-central Idaho, has been a top ski destination since it opened all the way back in 1936. At the center of the ski and snowboarding culture that has developed there is Bald Mountain, or “Baldy” as it is affectionately known. Baldy offers 3400 feet of vertical drop, with an excellent consistency to the terrain, that has made it a favorite for skiers from around the globe. It also offers some of the finest powder you’ll find anywhere and miles of trails with few crowds to contend with. Throw in a great freestyle park and a Super Pipe for the snowboarders, and you have an amazing destination that will keep everyone happy.

Ruby Mountains, Nevada
For a completely different skiing experience, consider going to the Ruby Mountains, located in northeastern Nevada. There you’ll find Ruby Mountain Heli-Experience, a company that specializes in offering heli-skiing opportunities in the pristine backcountry. Unlike the resort options listed above, you won’t find any groomed trails or ski lifts here, just 200,000 acres of fantastic powder that is only accessible by helicopter. You don’t have to be a world class skier or snowboarder to enjoy the Ruby Mountain experience either, as you can choose to take on long, slow, shallow bowls or adrenaline inducing slopes that will have your heart pounding out of your chest. At the end of the day, you’ll return to the lodge for an amazing home cooked meal that will be the perfect end to a perfect day.

The calendar may say that it is turning spring in just a few weeks, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have just a little more winter fun. Enjoy one last blast on the slopes before putting the skis and snowboard away for one more season.



Abercrombie & Kent vacation clubs: try before you buy

Let the tough timeshare and vacation club market work to your advantage this year. Upscale travel firm Abercrombie & Kent’s Residence Club is offering two-year trial memberships starting at $18,700 a year for 15 nights – that’s a tad under $1,250 a night. The residences tend to be around 4,000 square feet and have four bedrooms. A&K suggests that you can “even travel with the extended family,” but I’m sure I could find other uses for the extra space (I’m not a fan of traveling with a lot of people, regardless of connection).

Okay, so it’s basically a decent amount of cash for access to some great properties in places like the Turks & Caicos and Deer Valley, Utah. The details, however, make the difference. A&K takes care of airport pickup, grocery shopping before you hit the ground and the other prep activities that could slip your mind when you’re worried about catching planes and disappearing from the “real” world for a few days or weeks. The Global Experience Manager will take care of all this for you, including any unique needs or interests you may have – from a behind-the-scenes private tour of the South Carolina Aquarium’s Turtle Hospital to skiing withOlympic athletes in Sun Valley, Idaho.

“This two-year trial offer is designed for those considering a second home or who simply want an extended opportunity to experience club life before making a long-term commitment,” says Abercrombie & Kent Residence Club President Scott Wiseman. “Families can enjoy the privacy of a spacious home in their choice of popular resort destinations for much less than the cost of comparable hotel suites. Club membership is an affordable, maintenance-free alternative for those thinking about buying a second home.”

Under this trail program, you can play without having to drop any cash up front. Instead, you pay the normal dues with a 10 percent premium. If you join later, A&K will credit it to your capital contribution. Fifteen-, 30- and 45-night programs are available, so you can choose your level of decadence. If you choose, you can exchange your nights for credit toward other A&K travel, like a cruise in the Galapagos or an African safari.

This is a pretty wild deal – a chance to date a vacation club before marrying it.