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]

2012 Summit For Someone registration is now open

Summit For Someone offers great adventures while giving backBig City Mountaineers, the non-profit organization that provides urban youth with opportunities to build life skills through wilderness mentoring experiences, has announced that registration is now open for their 2012 Summit For Someone program. SFS gives adventurous travelers the opportunity to climb some of the world’s most iconic peaks, while raising funds to support the Big City Mountaineers program.

The process is simple. First, you select a mountain that you’d like to climb, such as Mt. Hood in Oregon or Mt. Whitney in California. Each of the mountains has a pledge value assigned to it ranging from $2400 for alpine rock climbs up to $8500 for a full blown mountaineering expedition. By signing up to climb a particular peak, you agree to raise the pledge amount for Big City Mountaineers. Once you’ve reached that goal, you’ll join a Summit For Someone climb on that mountain.

The SMS website has a full list of 2012 climbs which can be viewed here. Some of the mountains available include Grand Teton in Wyoming, Mt. Rainier in Washington, and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Difficulty levels range from beginner, meaning no mountaineering experience at all, to advanced, which is reserved for those who already have a variety of technical climbing skills. There are a number of intermediate options as well, offering something for everyone.

The beauty of the Summit For Someone program is that it gives travelers an opportunity to take part in a true mountain climb and a real adventure, while also raising funds to support a fantastic youth program. If you’re considering options for travel in 2012, perhaps an SMS trip would be the perfect opportunity for you.

[Photo credit: Walter Siegmund via WikiMedia]

Mother of all relay races takes place today

The 29th annual Hood to Coast Relay will take place today when more than 12,000 runners will descend on Mt. Hood in Oregon to take part in the largest relay race in the world. The event gets underway with the first wave of runners setting out from Timberline Lodge, located at 6000 feet on the mountain, at 6:30 AM. After that, more teams will follow every 15 minutes until the final runners hit the course at 6:45 PM this evening. The race will end tomorrow when the final teams reach the town of Seaside on the Pacific Coast.

The Hood to Coast Relay more than lives up to its moniker as “the mother of all relays.” The race runs for 197 miles and is broken up into 36 different legs, each between 3.7 and 7.4 miles in length. The teams taking part in the race consist of 8 to 12 member, and each member must run at least three of the legs. The number of teams that can take part in the event is limited to 1000, and in a testament to how popular the relay is, the event has filled its capacity, on the first day that registration opens, for the past 12 years running.

While the Hood to Coast looks like it would be a lot of fun in and of itself, the entire event is also used to raise funds for their charity of choice, the American Cancer Society. Last year the event raised more than $360,000 for that charity, and fans of the race can contribute to that worthy cause on their donations page.

And when the race is finished tomorrow, organizers wrap up the weekend with the largest beach part on the west coast, which includes live music, dancing, and an awards ceremony, not to mention plenty of things to eat and drink.

Anyone want to organize a Gadling team for next year?

[Photo credit: Hood to Coast Relay]

Who pays for rescue efforts when people are lost? Who should?

A few days ago, Kraig wrote about the three hikers lost on Mt. Hood. At the time of his post, one of the hikers had been found dead. The other two were still missing. Almost a week after they set out on their climb, they are still missing and most probably are dead. Because of this tragic situation, the question of who foots the bill for rescue efforts has come up once more.

Back in 2005, then Gadling blogger Erik Olsen wrestled with the question about who should pay–the lost hiker who hopefully is found–or tax payers? Olsen’s musings came about after a hiker hurt his ankle while hiking in Colorado. Several fire departments rescued the hiker after he spent a night on the mountain. The sticker price for the rescue was $5,000. In this case, the fire departments wanted the hiker to pay.

Usually, the people who are getting rescued don’t pay anything. But is that fair? Rescue attempts can be pricey. Consider this: From 1992 to 2007, the U.S. National Park Service spent $58 million on search and rescue efforts.

This recent Newsweek article echoes some of Erik’s points. As the article highlights, the hard economics question of who should pay for rescue attempts has as many facets to consider as it always has.

While one might say that people who take risks by heading up a mountain top or straying off a path should pay up once he or she is found, there are other factors to keep in mind.

  • One is a concern that people may avoid calling for help until it’s too late out of fear for what a rescue attempt might cost.
  • Some risks are unknown. A beautiful sunny day could go sour if the wind shifts, for example. Should people be punished when nature is at fault?
  • A large portion of rescue attempts are made by volunteers, therefore the cost is curtailed.
  • When fire departments and military units are part of rescue efforts, they often have hours to log towards rescues. A real live rescue helps them meet their quota.
  • Sometimes a rescue attempt may be launched even though the hiker is not in danger. A seasoned hiker may be holed up somewhere waiting for more favorable hiking conditions while a family member is frantic with worry.

With the knowledge that lost hikers are part of the outdoor scene, being financially proactive seems to be the best approach for handling costs before they occur. Colorado, for example, collects a small portion of the money from state recreational fees to put into a fund that is earmarked for search and rescue.

In Alaska, people who are mountain climbing up Mount McKinley pay $200 for the privilege.

Although planning for a tragic situation is never pleasant, it seems that in this case, planning ahead for the ” just in case” is sound. Otherwise, at the worst possible moment, people will be faced with the question, “How much is a life worth?

Two climbers missing, one dead on Mt. Hood

It was a long and tragic weekend on Oregon’s Mt. Hood, where search and rescue teams combed the area searching for three missing climbers. That search turned tragic on Saturday when one of the climbers was found dead high on the mountain, while his two companions remain missing as of this writing.

On Friday, 26-year old Luke T. Gullberg, Kattie Nolan, 29, and Anthony Vietti, 24, set off to climb the 11,249 foot Mt. Hood, which is a popular mountaineering destination in all seasons, although obviously more challenging in the winter months, when deep snow and unpredictable weather can cause all kinds of problems. The three climbers were due back at 2 PM that afternoon, but when they didn’t arrive by Saturday, the search teams went into action.

Gulberg’s body was discovered on the Reid Glacier at about 9000 feet, along with some climbing gear, but no trace of Nolan or Vietti was discovered. The recovery team said they found a digital camera in Gulberg’s pack, which gave clues to the location of the missing climbers, but due to bad weather, heavy snow, and avalanche conditions, finding them won’t be an easy task. That task will be made all the more difficult by an incomplete climbing registration form and conflicting reports on the route they were taking to the summit.

The search is expected to continue today, with a National Guard and Coast Guard helicopter reporting to the area. The Coast Guard aircraft comes equipped with thermal imaging that should prove helpful to SAR teams, despite the adverse weather conditions. Search teams remain hopeful that Nolan and Vietti will still be found alive.