The West’s Best Hostels For Winter Sports Enthusiasts

backcountry skiContrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be young, broke, or drunk to stay at a youth hostel. I’ll be the first to admit not all hostels are created equal, but as a perpetually cash-strapped journalist in her 40s, they’re often my only option for indulging in the snowy outdoor pursuits I love. Fortunately, there are clean, efficient, well-run hostels throughout the West that make a stay pleasurable, rather than painful.

There are other good reasons to bunk down at a hostel, whether it’s a dorm, private, or shared room. If you’re planning to play all day (and possibly night), who needs an expensive room? Hostels are also great places to meet like-minded people to hit the backcountry or slopes with – a huge advantage if you’re traveling solo.

Most hostels also possess a decidedly low-key, “local” atmosphere where you’ll get the inside scoop on where to cut loose (on the mountain or off). In many instances, hostels also offer tours or activities, or partner up with local outfitters, which make life easier if you don’t have a car or require rental equipment. Also…free coffee.

Below, in no particular order, are some of my favorite Western hostels, based upon their proximity to snowy adventure:

St. Moritz Lodge
, Aspen, CO

I’ve been a regular at this place for a decade now, and I’m still smitten. Its groovy, ’70s-meets-Switzerland ambience; friendly, helpful staff; clean, well-lit rooms, and free mega-breakfast kick ass…what’s not to love? It’s just a few minutes walk from the slopes, and free parking is plentiful. A dorm bed is $44, and a private room/shared bath $95, high season.

The Abominable Snowmansion, Arroyo Seco, NM
Just outside of Taos is this classic, rambling old hostel with a communal feel. Arroyo Seco is an adorable mountain hamlet (all you need to know is that Abe’s Cantina gives great green chile). A private room/bath at this hostel is $59 in winter, and the region abounds with backcountry opps and natural hot springs.banff national park HI-Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel, Banff National Park, Alberta
The photo at right shows the sauna at this off-the-grid cabin near stunning Lake Louise. If you’re good with no shower and using an outhouse, this 20-bed spot will keep you cozy after a day ice-climbing, snow-shoeing, or skiing the backcountry.

Grand Canyon International Hostel
, Flagstaff, AZ

Owned by the same people who have the janky Du Beau hostel in town; I recommend this place instead, which is located in a historic, multi-story building minutes from downtown. “Flag” has loads of opportunities for outdoor buffs, from backcountry, to downhill skiing at Arizona Snowbowl, 20 minutes away. The hostel also offers year-round tours to the Grand Canyon, 80 minutes away. Flagstaff itself is a happening little college town; before heading out for the day fuel up on caffeine and divine, house-baked goods at Macy’s European Coffeehouse (I accept bribes in this form).

Alyeska Hostel, Girdwood, AK
Girdwood is pure Alaska-weird. Moose wander the main street, and quirky locals are just as likely to invite you to an all-night kegger in the snow as they are to take you cross-country skiing (the bonus of being female in Alaska, I discovered). This tidy hostel will set you back $20 for a bunk bed, making it the best deal in (a very, very small) town.

Hostel Tahoe, King’s Beach, CA
I’ll be honest; I’ve never bothered to stay in a hostel in Lake Tahoe for two reasons: dirt-cheap motels abound, and my brother lives there. But I came across this place researching this story, and it looks great. You’ll need to self-drive or shuttle to ski (it’s mid-way between South and North Shore, but right by a bus stop servicing Northstar, Squaw, and Alpine Meadows), and it looks infinitely more pleasant than some of the budget lodging I’ve enjoyed in Tahoe in the past. King’s Beach is old-school Tahoe at its best: funky, boozy, and a bit down-at-the-heels.

Crested Butte International Hostel, CO

Cheap lodging is tough to come by in Colorado ski towns, which is what makes this place such a find. Eighty dollars for a private queen with shared bath in downtown CB is a hell of a deal, and a $39 dorm bed can’t fail to make cash-strapped skiers and snowboarders happy. This is also the place to induct hostel-phobic friends or partners. I find it rather sterile, but it’s spotless, quiet, and kid-friendly. With two apartments for families ($184/night) and off-site condo rentals also available, CBIH makes family vacay do-able. Bonus: loads of free parking, and just 100 yards from the free mountain shuttle (Mt. Crested Butte is 3 miles away).

Fireside Inn Bed & Breakfast and Hostel
, Breckenridge, CO

This sprawling, historic old home converted into a warren of rooms is a treasure if you’re a lover of hostels. Friendly and walking distance to downtown (you can shuttle to the Breck Connect Gondola, Peak 7 and 8, and the Nordic Center), it’s got the patina of years on it, but it’s cozy, homey, and a great place to meet like-minded travelers. Love.

The Hostel, Jackson Hole, WY
In this spendy little ski town, affordable accommodations are rare as a ski bum with a Platinum card. Located at the base of Teton Village, The Hostel offers dorm beds and private rooms. Backcountry fans will love being just one mile away from the glory of Grand Teton National Park (be sure to check park website for information on restrictions or necessary permits)

[Photo credits: skier, Flickr user Andre Charland; hostel, Flickr user Mark Hill Photography]

Nordic Skiing Basics

Celebrate 50 years of skiing Breckenridge with great deals on lodging

Skiing Breckenridge is easy with good deals on lodgingBreckenridge is celebrating its 50th anniversary this winter, by offering a number of great deals on lift tickets and lodging alike. Now that winter has finally arrived in Colorado, bringing plenty of powder along with it, it is a perfect time to hit the slopes at last.

As we mentioned last week, ski resorts across the western United States have finally been receiving healthy doses of snow, and Breckenridge is no exception. So far this season, the area has had more than 150 inches of powder dumped on it, and currently Breckenridge has a base of about 51 inches. That means that all of the lifts, and nearly all of the runs, are currently open for business.

To entice visitors to come ski or ride some of the best snow in North America, several of the lodges there are currently running some great specials. For instance, the Village at Breckenridge, which is a ski-in/ski-out resort, is offering up to a 30% discount on double occupancy rooms through April 15. Similarly, the near by Mountain Thunder Lodge has a great weekday rate that allows travelers to book two nights and get a third one free, which also runs through the 15th of April. Even the Doubletree by Hilton is getting in on the action by offering bonus points for their HHonors members who stay there through the end of April. For a complete rundown of these deals, and others, click here.

The snow may have been late in coming this year, but there is still plenty of time left to enjoy the ski season. Breckenridge is truly one of the best destinations around for doing just that, and in its 50th year of operation, there are some good discounts to help skiers and snowboarders enjoy the mountain.

Breckenridge celebrates 50 years of skiing

Skiing at Breckenridge this winterOne of the top ski resorts in all of North America is preparing to kick-off a season-long celebration of a half-century of operation. Colorado’s Breckenridge Ski Resort will turn 50 this year, and the iconic destination has big plans to commemorate the occasion.

The hill will officially open November 11th (11/11/11) and to get skiers and snowboarders excited, they’ve already launched 50 Days of Giveaways on the Breckenridge Facebook page. The prizes they’re giving away are increasing in value each day, culminating with the final giveaway on the 11th. Thus far have handed out gear, food and drinks at the resort, tickets to events, and much more.

The resort will also soon launch its “50 Wishes” campaign, during which visitors to the mountain can submit a wish that they’d like to see fulfilled while they are there. The staff will comb through those requests, and select 50 of them to fulfill at random times throughout the season.

Early season skiers and snowboarders will also have the opportunity to enjoy great savings as well. If you book your stay at the Village at Breckenridge prior to opening day, you’ll receive 50% off the normal rate rate for a condo, which translates to $118 per night, with a minimum of a two nights stay. That’s an incredibly great deal for the chance to stay at one of the top ski resorts in the world. They’ll even throw in 2 free drinks and an appetizer at a local restaurant as well. For more details on this offer, click here.

Last year was a record breaking season for snow in Breckenridge, with the resort receiving an unbelievable 519 inches of accumulation. The long term forecasts for this year indicate that we should expect more of the same, which should make for outstanding skiing and snowboarding once again. With plenty of snow and plenty to celebrate, Breckenridge should be a fantastic destination all season long.

[Photo courtesy Breckenridge Ski Resort]