4 WINTER DESTINATIONS TO JUMPSTART YOUR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES
Winter doesn’t have to mean hunkering down — or even making tracks for sunnier skies. Whether you prefer to soar down the slopes or stroll through the snow on a moonlit night, the season’s forecast doesn’t call for staying indoors.
1. Making First Tracks at Bachelor Gulch, Colorado
There are few things more exciting than waking up to a powder day in the mountains of Colorado. Before the sun rises you’re up, dressed in your ski gear and heading out the door. Today you’ll take part in one of Beaver Creek’s most exclusive offerings, the White Glove First Tracks program. You arrive at the Centennial Express Lift to see a squad of lifties brushing snow off the seats. On this private guided tour, you are the first to hit the hill before the mountain opens. Below you, runs covered knee-deep in snow are untouched. Even Beaver Creek’s prized corduroy groom isn’t visible.
The top of the mountain is still socked in, and as you make your way you can’t tell if it’s still snowing or if it’s just the wind lifting champagne powder from pine boughs. When you reach the top of Centennial, the excitement is at a fever pitch. You push off and lean back, tilting the tips of your boards as they hover above the snow. It feels like flying as you lap runs, all of them empty except for a few lucky guests, over and over until the warmth of a gourmet breakfast at the exclusive Allie’s Cabin on the mountain beckons you back indoors.
2. Snowshoeing in Lake Tahoe, California
Combine endless winter sports and gorgeous mountain scenery with a crystal-clear alpine lake and you have Lake Tahoe. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the area is varied in terrain and receives up to 500 inches of snowfall annually, making it the ultimate destination for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and more.
The region’s quiet, serene forests are made even more peaceful by a thick blanket of snow and a moonlit sky. This winter, experience the great outdoors like never before with a full moon snowshoe tour through the Tahoe National Forest. As you travel by moonlight, your knowledgeable guides will discuss natural history and astronomy topics while making stops to take in the views and enjoy snacks and warm beverages. After your exhilarating trip, retreat back to The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe for an apres-snowshoe dip in the whirlpool.
3. Ice Skating in Almaty, Kazakhstan
Following a 10-minute ride from The Ritz-Carlton, Almaty, you face an 800-odd-step climb to the Medeu Sports Complex. But experiencing Medeu is, without question, worth the effort. The highest open-air skating rink in the world is a national symbol of Kazakhstan and its most-visited destination. At 5,500 feet above sea level, the Medeu rink is cradled in a small valley of the Tian Shan mountain range, which protects it from the worst of winter’s chill. At the same time, temperatures are low enough to maintain the ice on the 10,000-square-meter arena.
Built in 1972 when the country was still part of the Soviet Union, the rink is open from December to May, and on most weekends you’ll find a combination of visitors and locals training in speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey and a related sport called bandy.
4. Winter Hiking in Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is not known for high mountains or a great accumulation of snow, but when the white stuff does fly, there are plenty of outdoor adventures, including downhill and cross-country skiing. For those who prefer to pursue adventures on foot, there’s winter hiking. Requiring little more gear than waterproof hiking boots, gloves, a hat and perhaps a pair of poles to help keep balance on snow-covered trails, hiking in the Buda Hills is a local favorite in winter. It provides access to forests and crunching snow underfoot, and allows residents to breathe the cool, fresh air and search for birds and wildlife not found in the city’s center. Normafa, a park space in the Buda Hills, is one of the most popular places to hike, and after a recent renovation, there are even more trails to choose from. A journey to János Hill, the highest point in Budapest, rewards hikers with panoramic views of the city at 1,700 feet.