The best winter ski and snow vacation destinations are great for travelers who want a Christmas holiday trip, but who don’t need to warm up somewhere tropical. Cold weather has its adherents; top winter ski vacation spots in Colorado, Utah, and other western states offer more than just the best powder and slopes for skiing, snow boarding, and snow tubing. Now, there are lots of options out there for family winter travel, girlfriend trips, and romantic winter getaways besides winter sports. The Vacation Gals and other travel experts weigh in with recommended top winter travel destinations.
Travel Experts’ Best Winter Vacation Destinations
Colorado - It’s no surprise ColoradoGal Kara Williams’ favorite winter travel destination is her home state. Colorado beckons with 26 different ski resorts, for all budgets and ski levels. She’s partial to the ski hills in her own backyard, Aspen/Snowmass, and she loves the new slopeslide Viceroy Snowmass: the multi-bedroom residences are great for families. Her family had a ball at Keystone Kidtopia last winter, with all sorts of great special activities for kids and plenty of family-friendly condo-lodging options right at the base of the mountain. Another top resort is the luxurious Beaver Creek. The kids’ ski school is top-notch, and she recommends a stay at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek — make time for a treatment at the excellent Allegria Spa!
Quebec City, Quebec - TwinCitiesGal Beth Blair picks Quebec City as one of her favorite winter destinations. The rich history, detailed architecture, cobblestone streets, and quaint shops add to the city’s cozy ambience. The best time to go is during the Quebec Winter Carnival. Be sure to get a photo with the carnival’s mascot Bonhomme. Another “must do” is a side trip to Hotel Glace, a hotel built out of ice and snow. Better yet, take the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and spend the night.
Sun Valley, Idaho - Ciao Bambino’s Amie O’Shaughnessy comes from a family of winter sports enthusiasts, so ski venues are her favorite destinations for Christmas and winter travel. While her site has a terrific list of family-friendly ski hotels and resorts in North America and Europe, her favorite is Sun Valley, Idaho. Other than the hassle factor to get there, Sun Valley is a winter paradise. The ski terrain is comprised of long runs, so you don’t wait in line every 10 minutes, and there’s a separate ski area just for kids and beginners (the separation from the main mountain means that novice skiers don’t need to worry about being run over by experts). Accommodation options are plentiful; Amie likes Sun Valley Lodge for the old-world vibe, long list of children’s activities, and impressive list of special events.
Michigan – Jessica Voigts of Wandering Educators loves to take her family to Traverse City, Michigan any time of year. Summer is beautiful she says, but winter is magical. There are many places to ski and snowboard, but this part of Michigan is so much more than a haven for winter sports. Downtown Traverse City is lovely – old fashioned street lamps, a plethora of unique stores (including an incredible toy store), arts and culture, and extraordinary food. Family winter vacationers should consider staying at the Great Wolf Lodge; the huge indoor waterpark provides a great escape from the cold.
Olympic National Park – The Vacation Gals aren’t alone in our infatuation with this US National Park in Washington state. Pam Mandel of Nerd’s Eye View says, “Sure, you could go to Washington state’s Olympic National Park in the summer time, but the weather on the rugged northwest coast is unpredictable year round, so why not pack your foul weather gear, hope for the best, and head to the ocean in the off season! If it buckets rain, you can watch the big stormy skies from your cozy beach front cabin at Klaloch or Ocean Shores, and hey, because it’s off season, you can get a killer deal on a place with a breathtaking view. And if the weather is good, you can hike in the rain forest or go to low tide at Ruby Beach, and then lurk by the big fireplace in the lodge on the edge of Lake Quinalt. You’ll see a million shades of green in the deep mossy forests, fill your lungs with the salt air of the ocean, and find a nature inspired winter peace like no place on earth.”
Park City, Utah – One of my recommendations for a top winter ski vacation spot is Park City, Utah. I’m hardly a skier, but The Vacation Gals had an amazingly fun girlfriend getaway in Park City, and our ski instructor couldn’t have been better. He enabled me and Beth to feel comfortable (well…relatively comfortable) on the beginner slopes in one session. Park City is much more than a top ski resort, though; the town’s charm, hopping bar scene, and fabulous restaurants made it perfect for a girlfriend getaway. Not too ritzy but hardly humble, Park City hits all the right notes for a memorable ski vacation.
Vermont - Mara Gorman of Mother of All Trips has a hands-down favorite top winter destination as the slopes of Mad River Glen in Waitsfield, Vermont. This is a purely old-school New England ski resort that’s changed little from the days when Mara was a kid herself. What’s great about Mad River is the amazingly varied and gorgeous terrain, and the family-friendly atmosphere. It’s truly a skier’s mountain (no snowboards); the ski school offers the best programs in the area that will get children up on the mountains, and get them back down again with a clear understanding of the fundamentals. Mad River is all about skiing, skiing, and more skiing. And at what other ski area can you get beer that’s brewed using maple sap in the bar?
Top travel experts weighed in with their picks for tropical vacation spots too. Not every Christmas vacation in a wintry clime has to focus on winter sports, obviously. No matter how you tailor your winter vacation, The Vacation Gals wish you the best one yet.