With Thanksgiving over, it's now the winter season!
Time to break out the skis, the boots, the sweaters and the ski jackets. Time to check the bindings. Time to pick a skiing spot, and to make the plane reservations.
And time to hit the slopes! Here are my top choices for skiing in the U.S. this winter:
North to Alaska, for cross-country skiing at Chena Hot Springs.
(Courtesy Explore Fairbanks)
#5 - CHENA HOT SPRINGS RESORT, FAIRBANKS, ALASKA - Chena isn't for downhillers...there are no downhill mountains here. But there are sub-Arctic cross-country trails on which your ski-marks may be the only ones you'll see. There is the realization that you're only 80 miles or so from the Arctic Circle. There is the opportunity to soak in warm springs while still sitting in freezing weather. There are the warm, cozy, authentic-lodge accommodations, with hearty food and heartier fireplaces. And, if your timing is right, there is the chance to see the spectacular Northern Lights.
At the Taos Ski Valley, the sky's the limit! (Courtesy Feed Media)
#4 - TAOS SKI VALLEY, TAOS, NEW MEXICO - Taos Ski Valley appeals to everybody... families looking to spend quality time together, adults looking for terrific food and activities, and die-hard skiers and riders looking for fresh powder under bluebird skies. The resort is undergoing a multi-million dollar dress-up that includes a new slope-side hotel, a new plaza area, and new shops and restaurants. Last year saw the opening of the Kachina Peak Lift, which brings visitors up over 12,400 feet (one of the highest lifts in North America). And just twenty minutes from the ski area is the colorful town of Taos, with its 400-year-old Plaza and its Southwestern art and its Taos (Tiwa Indian) Pueblo and its old adobe houses.
Vail is a European village in the American West. (Courtesy Turner PR)
#3 - VAIL/BEAVER CREEK, COLORADO - When a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army, who had trained here during World War II, decided to create a ski resort in Vail in the 1960's, an empty Rocky Mountain backwater was transformed into an international ski destination. Vail Mountain Resort and Beaver Creek Ski Resort offer myriad runs and terrain for all levels. Vail, one of the biggest resorts in the country, includes over 5,000 skiable acres, and Beaver Creek is very family-friendly. Both resorts are picturesque, European-style villages with superb shopping and dining. Where to stay? The Four Seasons Resort & Residences Vail is a contemporary - and luxurious - alpine lodge. And the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa is a full-service resort with Beaver Creek's only true ski-in, ski-out access.
Round House sits amidst Sun Valley splendor. (Courtesy Sun Valley Resort)
#2 - SUN VALLEY, IDAHO - When it comes to renowned ski resorts in America, Sun Valley is the original. When it opened in the 1930's, this was America's first real ski destination...and everyone from Hollywood stars to international royalty made their way here. Blue skies, immaculately groomed runs, outstanding guest services and local character with a lot of flair are just a few of the things that Sun Valley has to offer. There are over 2,100 acres of skiable terrain, 121 runs and short lift lines. There are also plenty of other activities from which to choose, among them sleigh rides, swimming in the enclosed heated pool, ice skating, catching a movie at the Opera House in the Sun Valley Village, or relaxing with a massage at the new Spa...located right next to the newly-renovated but still-classic Lodge.
And now, my choice for the No. 1 ski destination in America this winter...
Winter Park is a fantasyland at night. (Courtesy Winter Park Resort)
#1 - WINTER PARK RESORT, COLORADO - Winter Park is unpretentious and real...a laid-back, family ski destination in a colorful old town only 67 miles from Denver. The resort's been around since 1940. And, with 3,081 skiable acres, it's the fourth-largest ski area in Colorado, with plenty of terrain for all ages and abilities spread out over seven unique territories. In addition to the world-class skiing, Winter Park Resort also features a quaint mountain village with ski-in/ski-out lodging, and a variety of interesting shops and colorful restaurants. Winter-sports aficionados will find much more than just skiing here, including tubing, ice skating, and scenic snowcat rides. There are only some 6,000 souls in all of Grand County, so you'll probably see more horses than people. And the drive to and from Winter Park is breath-taking, as you traverse winding roads through 10,000-foot mountain passes.