(Relaxnews) - For ski lovers craving more adventure this season, here are three snow-filled holidays to consider -- from hut-to-hut ski expeditions through the Caucasus to wilderness heli-skiing in Kyrgyzstan.
Ski trekkers: For thrill seekers with endurance to spare and a love of epic scenery, ski touring strikes the perfect quad-burning balance. While popular spots have long been Chamonix, Davos, and Gran Sasso, among other Western European locales, head to Slovakia's High Tatras for a taste of something different (and more economical). In early March, British company Mountain Tracks takes a small crew on a seven-night trek for £945 (about $1,579). Alternatively, the company also offers exhilarating 10-day hut-to-hut ski expeditions into the heart of the Caucasus Range, between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea -- the trip (£2,095/$3,500) combines ski touring and the possibility of ascending Europe's highest summit, a staggering 5,642 meters.
Globetrotters: For riders and skiers who don't mind jetlag, sign up for the Epic Race, kicking off November 1. The event is a season-long challenge to ski or ride 26 mountains in four countries. The first 10 to complete the task will win an Epic Pass for life, which permits winners to ski free for life at all participating resorts. The Epic Pass, which costs $726 per season, allows for unlimited, unrestricted skiing at resorts in the US, France, Austria, and Switzerland. The catch? Racers are responsible for their own expenses and can only ride one resort per day in the US and two resorts per day in Europe.
Freedom seekers: If skiing with hordes of holidaymakers isn't your idea of fun, get airlifted via helicopter to fresh powdery wilderness. From snow-capped mountains in the Andes to epic descents in Alaska, snow lovers are spoiled for choice. For something truly untamed, check out the 4,500m-high Terskey Ala-Too range in northeastern Kyrgyzstan. Mountain expeditions company K2 Adventures, specializing in Central Asia, transports skiers and snowboarders via private helicopters for seven-day trips, running January to April. To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit adventuretravel.ru/eng. Price is $3,990 per person to ski the intermediate range and $4,790 per to ski the more advanced range.
While wilderness in Europe can be hard to come by, also consider Lapland, Sweden, a vast land almost the size of Portugal. While the mountains aren't as high as the Alps, the runs are long, and later in the season, the long days give you the option of 24-hour-ski days, if you've got the legs for it. With Abisko, you can tap into the peaks of Tjåmahus, Kåtotjåkka, Nallo/Sielmatjåkka, and Kebnekaise mountains with runs up to 1,400 vertical meters. Four-night packages start at 18,789 SEK (about $3,119).
Like this article? Follow us on Twitter Follow @HPCaTravel
Also on HuffPost:
Bretton Woods, NH
Located in the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire (under a 3-hour drive from Boston), Mount Washington Resort in <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/travel_guides/Bretton_Woods?refer=CSYND-hp-familyskiresorts-122710" target="_hplink">Bretton Woods</a> is the state’s largest (and best family) ski area and gets high marks for its consistently good weather conditions: An east-facing exposure protects it from the northwest wind, while exceptionally good snow coverage means parents don’t have to worry (as much) about exposed rocks while teaching their kids to ski and snowboard. Younger children (not to mention their solace-seeking parents) will love the Kids’ Club, which offers supervised games, activities, and kid-friendly dinners like pizza or macaroni and cheese (during select holidays and winter weekends) on the lower level of the historic Mount Washington Resort. Older kids (ages 12 and over) with parents in tow can alternatively check out the resort’s year-round Canopy Tour (opened in December 2008) – it features elevated suspension bridges and treetop zip lines descending some 1,000 feet to the base of the resort.
Nestled in the shadow of the Niagara Escarpment and bordered by Georgian Bay, Collingwood’s Blue Mountain resort, situated about 2 hours north of <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/travel_guides/Toronto?refer=CSYND-hp-familyskiresorts-122710" target="_hplink">Toronto</a>, is Ontario's quintessential family ski destination. A haven for clans whose idea of family fun is a wee bit less intense than tearing down the slopes, ski-bunnies-in-training here can take advantage of the wide variety of lessons and activities available to children in the resort-sponsored Kids’ Camp, while their parents get a much-deserved break. Or, parents themselves can enjoy learning to ski, or brush up on long-forgotten skills, thanks to lessons on offer and the high number of beginner and intermediate runs. After a day of playing in the snow, rally the troops for a dip at the resort’s indoor water park, before winding things down for a good old-fashioned family powwow by the fireplace.
Crested Butte, CO
Crested Butte's uncrowded, powdery Colorado Rockies’ slopes come minus the icy patches more common to Eastern resorts, making them a resounding hit with tumble-prone kids (and adults) alike. Youngsters are especially stoked by kid-specific trail maps and the children’s terrain park, featuring rails, jumps, tabletops, rolls, and even a mini-halfpipe. Day care is on offer for little ones aged 2 months to 3 years (toddlers aged 2.5- to 3-years-old can even begin their own 1-hour lessons), with a 1-to-2 caregiver-to-infant ratio for tots under 18 months – ski programs are available for older kids. Tubing, movie, and pizza-dinner evenings keep the young ones entertained, while this historic-mining-town-cum-ski-resort – completely devoid of traffic lights and chain stores – serves to charm the skis right off of the adults. Choose from more than 20 lodgings within walking distance to lifts, including condos, luxury hotels, and ski-in/ski-out buildings. Access is via a 5-hour drive southwest of <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/travel_guides/Denver?refer=CSYND-hp-familyskiresorts-122710" target="_hplink">Denver</a>, or just 45 minutes from the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC).
The second-highest peak in the <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/travel_guides/Catskills?refer=CSYND-hp-familyskiresorts-122710" target="_hplink">Catskills</a>, snowy <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/travel_guides/Hunter?refer=CSYND-hp-familyskiresorts-122710" target="_hplink">Hunter Mountain</a> is only about 2 hours north of <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/travel_guides/new_york_city?refer=CSYND-hp-familyskiresorts-122710" target="_hplink">Manhattan</a> in Hunter, New York, making its scenic slopes a popular weekend destination for New Yorkers (so plan a weekday trip to avoid the crowds). Hunter has long attracted Burton-clad snowboarding hipsters looking to perfect their ollies and butters, but it’s equally well-known for its state-of-the-art family ski facilities, including user-friendly lifts and terrain designed specifically with the novice in mind. Ski and snowboard lessons are on offer for adults and kids, including a daycare program (ages 6 months to 6 years) that can be combined with a short ski program for 3-year-olds (Just for Me Because I’m Three). Downhill enthusiasts can also enjoy Hunter’s popular snow-tubing park, with two tows and up to nine chutes (42-inch minimum height). New for 2010, visitors can also zip off along North America's longest and highest zip line and canopy tour for guaranteed thrills
With over 50 miles of skiable terrain, 100-plus acres of off-piste routes, and four terrain parks, <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/travel_guides/Jay_Peak?refer=CSYND-hp-familyskiresorts-122710" target="_hplink">Jay Peak</a>, located 60 miles from Vermont's Burlington International Airport (BTV) in Jay, Vermont, offers a nice mix of options for skiers and boarders of all ages. An array of age-appropriate ski school programs – Kinderski (ages 3 to 5), Mini-Learn-to-Ride (ages 5 to 6), Jay Explorers (ages 6 to 10), and Mountain Riders (ages 7 to 10) – make use of an indoor ramp, moving carpets, and special kids-only ski areas. On-property guests can take advantage of free daycare (ages 2 to 7), part of a package that includes complimentary lodging and lift tickets for kids 14 and under (non-holiday periods only). Tip: If you’re traveling from D.C. or New York City, consider hopping aboard the Amtrak Vermonter, which terminates in St. Albans, Vermont, about 45 minutes from the resort; children ages 2 to 15 are eligible for a 50-percent fare discount and children under 2 ride for free when accompanied by a fare-paying adult. A bonus for everyone: Nearly all of the resort's lodging options are within skiing distance to the mountain.
Mont Tremblant, Canada
Just 90 minutes northwest of <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/travel_guides/Montreal?refer=CSYND-hp-familyskiresorts-122710" target="_hplink">Montreal</a> in <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/travel_guides/Mont_Tremblant?refer=CSYND-hp-familyskiresorts-122710" target="_hplink">Mont Tremblant</a>, this Canadian resort is considered by many to be the best in the Northeast. With a festive village in the base area, an $800 million expansion underway (including a recently added, gondola-accessed casino), and nearly 40 lodging offerings within walking distance to the slopes, it's often favorably compared to resorts in the Alps (expect 95 runs and 14 lifts, including five high-speed quad lifts and two panoramic gondolas). Most importantly, for those looking for a place that will virtually guarantee a snowboarding teenager’s happiness (no small feat, perhaps), rest assured: The family ski resort’s 30-acre terrain park, which includes modules, rails, ramps, and a tunes-blasting sound system, is a sure bet. Don’t be afraid to let the pre-teens tag along, as well; there’s a daycare for kids ages 1 to 6, as well as an ice-skating rink and evening tubing. Kids ages 7 and up can take advantage of snowboarding lessons while 3 is the minimum age for ski lessons.
Tucked away in the shadows of Wasatch Mountains in Big Cottonwood Canyon, this private <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/travel_guides/Utah?refer=CSYND-hp-familyskiresorts-122710" target="_hplink">Utah</a> ski lodge, located just 40 minutes from Salt Lake City in Solitude, Utah, offers groups on family ski outings a barrage of kid-friendly activities. Parents can enjoy a day shushing through Solitude Mountain Resort's 1,200 acres of fresh powder, while the little ones are enrolled in the resort’s kids’ programs – the Play Academy caters to kids age 5 and under, and features activities like snow play and storytelling, while the Children's Academy brings ski instruction to children ages 5 to 12; snowboarding lessons are reserved for youngsters ages 7 and up. Ice-skating, fireside s’mores roasts, and a terrain park (dubbed the Fun Park) round out the family-friendly experience.
Revered for its decided lack of glam, Steamboat, Colorado, continues to hold out against the trend of local, homey ski towns turning ritzy resort. It’s true <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/travel_guides/Colorado?refer=CSYND-hp-familyskiresorts-122710" target="_hplink">Colorado Rockies'</a> cowboy country up here (160 miles northwest of Denver, but a mere 25 miles from the closest airport in Hayden), combining Old West-ranching heritage with wicked tree skiing and copious amounts of champagne-powder snow cover. Adults adore the town's authenticity (and the more than 50 lodging options within 400 yards of the slopes), while youngsters dig the kids-only terrain and lifts (with areas for both novices and the more advanced), small group lessons, and weekend dinners at the mountaintop Western BBQ buffet-style restaurant (complete with live music and games). Parents will especially delight in special family deals (like free kids rentals and lift tickets), as well as top-notch daycare for children as young as 6 months.
Sun Valley, ID
<a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/travel_guides/Sun_Valley?refer=CSYND-hp-familyskiresorts-122710" target="_hplink">Sun Valley</a>, Idaho was the first major ski resort in the Rockies, hosted the range's first ski school, and was the first to install a chairlift – it’s fitting then, that Sun Valley Resort is among the first destination choices for families in search of an optimum ski outing. Managing to avoid the bulk of the more commercial and flashy elements common to other Rockies’ resorts, the mountain – and Ketchum, the town at the resort's base – maintain a distinctly Western charm and relatively unpretentious feel. Camp-style, full-day group ski lessons can be arranged for skiers ages 4 to 12 and for snowboarders ages 6 to 12; even 3-year-olds can enroll in a Tiny Tracks group lesson, or enjoy a private lesson with mom or dad in tow (daycare can also be arranged). Off the slopes, professional-skater ice shows, sleigh rides, tubing, and ice-skating offer more fun ways to enjoy the snow and scenery.
Families comprised of beginning or intermediate skiers and snowboarders should look no further than Truckee's Northstar-at-Tahoe, in California’s <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/travel_guides/Lake_Tahoe?refer=CSYND-hp-familyskiresorts-122710" target="_hplink">Lake Tahoe</a> area, where nearly three-quarters of the resort's 3,000 acres are designated as green or blue trails. Extras like the Parent Predicament perk (allowing two parents with young children to share one lift ticket), après-ski ice skating and s'mores roasts, and moonlight snowshoe tours get rave reviews from parents and youngsters alike. Also worthwhile, for more adventurous young skiers, is a visit to Adventure Parks, which offers an outlet to practice elementary jumps to both beginning skiers and snowboarders.