January 18, 2013

Tracy Wingwoman: Find Your Winter Wonderland

I am more of a water skier than a snow-bunny and tend to gravitate toward sunny beaches rather than snowcapped peaks, but I always love exploring new travel destinations and adventures. Winter offers so many wonderful seasonal activities from outdoor sports to cozy fireside chats and a wide range of destination and vacation options. Whether you are an avid skier or simply looking for the après-ski lifestyle, there is a perfect winter escape out there for you.

With the snow piling up and the temperatures dropping, here are a few winter wonderlands for any type of traveler:

1. Lake Tahoe is a great winter escape. The Lake Tahoe Ritz-Carlton is the height of luxury. With individual fireplaces in each room and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over amazing mountain views, it truly feels like you are staying in a castle.  The beautiful bedrooms help you relax and make you linger in your room a little bit longer before hitting the slopes.

Lake Tahoe is a popular ski destination, but there is so much more to try, too. You can take a snowmobile tour, ice skate or cross-country ski. On a walk by the lake, I felt like I was at the center of the world surrounded by nature with snowcapped peaks in the distance and the crystal-clear water that felt more familiar to me than the Caribbean blue I love on warm weather vacations. It was so serene and isolated and completely peaceful and refreshing.

The local town of Truckee offers more than just skiing with its cute little shops and cozy restaurants. And, if you just want to lounge at the resort instead of venturing out, there are fire pits at the Lake Tahoe Ritz where you can enjoy S’mores and hot chocolates fireside.  The hotel also offers a marshmology class where you can learn the history of the S’more, and then you try your hand at sculpting and eating the perfect treat.  It’s a great activity for kids and adults alike.

2. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is another breathtaking winter destination. The award-winning Amangani resort located outside the Grand Teton National Park is a short drive to Jackson, and is a magnificent place to stay. Amangani means “peaceful home.” Aman is Sanskrit for “peaceful.” and gani is the Native American Shoshone word for “home.” The resort truly lives up to its name. Peak skiing season runs from December through March and offers challenging slopes for the more adventurous skiers. If you prefer to stay off the trails, there’s a heated outdoor swimming pool with majestic, panoramic views. You can even catch the sunset from the whirlpool — my personal favorite spot.

Amangani offers complimentary transfers to the alpine Teton Village, where you will find the après-ski lifestyle and a private ski-in and ski-out lounge. The lounge offers ski lessons, a beautiful meeting place and serves up snacks and hot beverages best enjoyed after an eventful day on the slopes.

Amangani also offers horse-drawn sleigh rides. Rides are offered throughout the day from lunch to cocktail and dinner hours and throughout the evening.  After an arduous day of skiing, tuck in the kids and head out for a moonlight sleigh ride with your paramour. It’s a breathtaking experience as the moonlight’s reflection glitters in the snow.

Winter sports not your cup of tea?

If adventure on the slopes is not for you, why not pursue another winter escape that will challenge you both physically and spiritually and reboot your healthy choices in the New Year? Health resorts that focus on your mental and physical well-being are a great way to enjoy winter activities and commit to a new year, new you.

One of my favorite spots is Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass. A great destination for couples, friends or solo travelers, Canyon Ranch offers a different kind of winter escape where you can take care of your outer and inner self. From cross-country skiing that lets you soak in the beautiful wintry landscape to hikes, and tai chi walks in the crisp air, Canyon Ranch will invigorate you after a dessert-filled holiday season. With delicious, nutritious food and cooking classes, health lectures, yoga options and spa services, you can cater to your whole self. Instead of reading a self-help book indoors, why not get out and live it at a destination retreat?

No matter where you end up, you can craft a perfect winter’s day, whatever that may be for you. My ideal winter vacation begins when I wake up and go to a local coffee shop for a steaming morning brew and rub elbows with the locals. Whenever I travel, I try to mix and mingle with residents to find out about the best-kept local secrets and hot spots. It’s a wonderful way to visit unique places that you cannot find in travel guides.

After my coffee, I try to squeeze in a workout, whether a class offered through the resort, an outdoor activity or just hitting the hotel treadmill. Then I treat myself to a breakfast with lots of protein and carbs to get myself energized for the exciting day ahead. I always try to take advantage of spa services from massages to facials. They are a great treat and a wonderful way to relax after an active winter’s day. Many resorts have libraries too, where you can rest and rejuvenate with a great book curled up by the fire, another one of my favorite activities.

Keep in mind that most winter resorts offer so much more than skiing. From snowmobiling to ice fishing, dog sledding, or tubing and sledding, for those who are not avid skiers there are still active, fun winter activities to explore.

I enjoy staying at winter resorts that offer individual fireplaces in each room and terraces where you can take in views of snowcapped peaks. As a flight attendant, I see a thousand or more people a day sometimes, and these winter hideaways offer a great private sanctuary to relax and renew. I have yet to meet a marble bathtub that I do not like, and after a day of skiing or snowboarding, it’s such a treat to soak in a beautiful bath.

I always take something home with me after a great trip to remind myself of the wonderful memories I made there. Whether it is a souvenir I bought at a little shop, something from nature I found during a hike or beautiful snapshots I took of my adventures, I love having something tangible from each unique trip.

So, get out in the cold this season and explore some new adventures!

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