While your friends are talking about finding beaches to occupy this winter, you’d rather not trade your snowboard for a wakeboard. Instead of escaping the chill, you’ll just layer up and face it head on, thankyouverymuch. When skiing, snowshoeing, and hot cider sipping are at the top of your things to do during winter holidays, we have a few cities in mind. These aren’t just run-of-the-mill winter destinations; these are must-visit places where visitors report having unforgettable experiences. Pack your bags (and your thickest socks) and get ready to make snow angels.
Jackson Hole, WY
Cold weather holidays don’t get much better than a trip to the Jackson Hole valley. This western Wyoming region encompasses the town of Jackson, an incredible mountain resort, and portions of Grand Teton National Park along with charming small towns. If you’re planning on shredding some powder, get a Jackson Hole ski rental package and hit the slopes. Jackson Hole is known for difficult black diamond runs, but if you’re a newbie you can find less intimidating trails to tackle. Other winter activities in Jackson Hole include sleigh rides and spa days. Toward the end of December, the resorts put on events like cookie decorating, skiing with Santa, and stargazing.
Viewfinder Tip:While you’re in Park City, get a salt stone therapy treatment with water from Great Salt Lake to ease your muscles.
Park City, UT
Park City has the largest ski area in the country—7,300 acres of ski terrain, in fact. Plop down your bags and click into your skis, or rent a snowboard, and you’re off to carve your legacy into one of the runs. Refueling is easy, because Park City has an impressive number of chefs per capita. More than Paris, even. In December, the mountain community comes alive with festivities, including a Holiday Spectacular and Sing-Along at the Egyptian Theatre and Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade at Park City Mountain Resort. If you stick around until January, you’ll be rubbing elbows with celebrities at the famous Sundance Film Festival.
Vail has also earned a name for itself in the ski world, and with more than 5,200 acres of skiable land and seven back bowls, it’s easy to see why. Many of the base areas are connected by transportation or heated walkways, making the mountain town in the heart of the Rockies a top-notch winter holiday destination. Over the years, the resorts have evolved from catering to traditional ski vacations to luring in adventurous snowboarders and snowmobilers. When you hop off the lift at Vail Mountain Resort or Beaver Creek Resort, you’re ready to experience the best of apres-ski in Vail. Grab a bite at Bistro Fourteen, which has a spectacular view, or dine at Tavern on the Square near the Eagle Bahn Gondola. In December, the city hosts Vail HoliDaze, which includes a tree lighting ceremony and fireworks. Stay until New Year’s Eve, and a special torchlight ski experience will help you ring in the new calendar like you never have before.
Lake Tahoe, CA and NV
By summer, Lake Tahoe is the best place to go boating, water skiing, and hiking. But when the temperatures drop and snow starts to fall, the largest alpine lake on the continent is a hot spot for winter sports and one of the finest cold weather destinations. Go ice skating at the Olympic Ice Pavilion for unfettered views of Squaw Valley Meadow and Lake Tahoe, or careen down the slopes at Heavenly or Northstar resorts (among many others). Other fun things to do in Lake Tahoe include sledding at Tahoe Meadows, soaking at Sierra Hot Springs along the North Shore, and riding the Heavenly Gondola to a winter picnic spot on the South Shore. Celebrate the holidays at SnowGlobe Music Festival or attend New Year’s Eve at the Heavenly Village.
If you’re interested in getting a stamp on your passport this holiday season, head just north of the border to Whistler. There are 200 trails for skiing and snowboarding, and the Peak 2 Peak Gondola between Roadhouse Lounge and Rendezvous Restaurant takes you back and forth from Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Even if you’re not looking to strap into skis, there is plenty to do. Experience the thrill of bobsleighs and luges at Whistler Sliding Centre or go ice skating at Olympic Plaza. During the holiday season, enjoy the Fire and Ice show each Sunday in December, where you can watch snowboarders jump through a ring of flames. The holidays also bring a skate with Santa experience in the plaza and carolers at the Westin Resort & Spa.
Where do you like to play in the snow?