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December 2010

December 29, 2010

A Yellowstone Winter on Skis

(Gerry Wingenbach)

We’re skiing on the largest super volcano on earth. There's over two million acres of wilderness and just five minutes out from Old Faithful Snow Lodge we see our first herd of bison lazily grazing in a meadow. Behind them, the ragged Rocky Mountains rise into the sky. Does it get any better than Yellowstone? In winter? On skis?

Before Yellowstone (1874), the world’s first national park was called Wonderland, because of the weirdness of gushing geysers (more than half the geysers in the world) and 10,000 other strange thermal features dotted throughout. The neighborhood is also deep with herds of bison and elk, plus plenty of beaver, wolves, osprey, and eagles. And with its full Monty of flora, now mostly buried under snow, the greater ecosystem of Yellowstone is three times larger than Switzerland.

The busiest week of the winter has just ended at Yellowstone National Park, which lies in the corner of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, halfway between the North Pole and the equator. But even over the Christmas holidays, the number of visitors is a mere trickle compared to summer. Winter operations end March 6, 2011, so there’s only another ten weeks to complete this extraordinary winter trip. It takes some planning.

Continue reading "A Yellowstone Winter on Skis" »

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Related Topics: Skiing & Snowboarding

December 28, 2010

Top Ten Warm-Weather Getaways

A blur of snow geese at dawn in New Mexico's Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (Adam Jones/Digital Vision/Getty)

With record-breaking snowfall throughout Europe, torrential rain in SoCal, and crippling cold throughout most of the Mid-Atlantic and East Coast, we don't blame you if you want to spend some time in 2011 away from lower temperatures (and this is coming from an adamant skier).

To aid in that pursuit, our sister site GORP presents the Top Ten Warm-Weather National Wildlife Refuges, some of the best-kept outdoor-centric vacation secrets in the country. From fishing in the San Antonia Bay to boating in Florida's Crystal River, these are destinations worth visiting before the rest of the world finds out.

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December 23, 2010

Photo Spotlight: Heli-Skiing in British Columbia

(Nathan Borchelt)

Just in time to inspire a New Year's Resolution you really want to keep, we present a virtual tour of British Columbia's seldom-seen ski resorts, cat-skiing operations, and heli-skiing—all rolled into one convenient and tempting package present by Snowwater.

The Kootenay Sampler offers seven days of serious skiing or riding, including a day at Red Resort, two days of cat-skiing with Valhalla Powdercats, a down day at Ainsworth Hot Springs, and three days of heli-skiing in 150,000 acres of the snow-choked Selkirk Mountains.  Peak season (Jan 15-March 15) packages run $5,400 (Canadian), and shoulder-season (Before Jan 15 and after March 15, conditions permitting) packages cost $4,400 for a seven-day trip, and $3,350 for six days. Prices include all food and lodging at the company's plush backcountry digs (gourmet cuisine, hot tubs, expertly-prepped cocktails).

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Related Topics: Skiing & Snowboarding · Travel Deals · Travel Photography

December 21, 2010

A Guide to Skiing Snowbird, Utah (and Other Ski-Related News)

Powder skier, Snowbird Ski Resort (Snowbird Ski Resort)

Before I wax poetic about Snowbird Ski Resort, let me say that I got to crow over the bottomless powder all over the West this week. From California’s Sierra Nevada to the Colorado Rockies, the Wasatch in Utah to the mighty Tetons, not to mention those oodles of British Columbia resorts—the snowfall is over the top.

Mammoth Mountain and other Lake Tahoe-area resorts are measuring snow in feet (five to eight feet; four feet in 24 hours). Skiers and boarders at Breckenridge, Vail, and other see-forever, Continental Divide resorts are up to their ears in cold smoke. The same in Utah where Big and Little Cottonwood canyons and Park City resorts are experiencing the best skiing of the year. It’s supposed to keep snowing until Santa starts riding the terrain park of chimneys the night before Christmas. Imagine!

We also should reflect on the extraordinary results the U.S. Alpine ski team is enjoying. Lindsey Vonn won back-to-back World Cup races and Ted Ligety made three Giant Slalom wins in a row. Are we the best ski nation in the world? And our racers are top-shelf, down-home mountain folks, probably the best ambassadors we have working Europe.

Continue reading "A Guide to Skiing Snowbird, Utah (and Other Ski-Related News)" »

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December 17, 2010

Favorite Winter Festivals: Breckenridge's Ullr Fest

Vying for the Ullr Fest crown (courtesy of the Breckenridge Chamber of Commerce)

Most visitors to Breckenridge, Colorado, for the holidays will focus on New Year's parties, outdoor firepits, and (Mother Nature willing) deep powder. But for locals, the real party comes the weekend after Auld Lang Syne. That's when the town hosts its annual Ullr Fest, a Viking-inspired party named for the Norse god of snow. Participants young and old form a parade down Main Street in makeshift floats (some pulled by dogs, others made from converted Snowcats). They don horned helmets, colorful outlets, and, yes, the occasional fur bikini. Wild contests (think: frying-pan toss), dinners, a dating game that could only happen in a ski town (where, the saying goes, "for women, the odds are good but the goods are odd"), and many other festivities take place during this six-day bash as the town lets loose after what can be a crowded and wild holiday. So if you're visiting Breck this winter break and have some flexibility in your travel plans, consider sticking around for a few extra days, investing in a Viking helmet, and joining the fun. Ullr might just bless your travels with a big snow.  

Ullr Fest runs January 9-15, 2011. For a full schedule, check the Breckenridge Chamber of Commerce website. Video after the break. 

Continue reading "Favorite Winter Festivals: Breckenridge's Ullr Fest" »

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Related Topics: Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Skiing & Snowboarding

December 16, 2010

Holiday Horror Stories Contest: Winner Announced

By awayblog

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(Ryan McFarland/Flickr)

"While traveling to the UK, I stored our passports in the seat pocket on the airplane. I ran 1-2 miles through hallways that were packed before I realized that I had no hope of getting back. An airline employee told me that I should go to the connecting flight counter. They discovered that the plane was to be cleaned and was still at the airport. One employee offered to fetch our passports. Thankfully he returned with the passports and we were able to enter the UK and celebrate Christmas with no problem. Mommy is no longer in charge of passports!"

We're pleased to announce that the above entry from Jessica S. of Minnesota is the winner of our recent Holiday Horror Stories contest. The judges felt her entry captured that spine-tingling moment when we discover something's gone awry on our journey. And that mad dash through an airport with hope slipping away, not to mention the daunting consequences of "what if...?" filling frantic minds, encapsulates the emotional downsides of travel. Happily, Jessica's ordeal also reminds us that airline and airport employees are there to help and do good in small but hugely important ways every day. Certainly something we should all keep in mind as we take to the skies this holiday season. Jessica is the winner of two round-trip flight vouchers on Delta to help salve the trauma of Holiday Travel Nightmares Past. Congratulations, Jessica, and thanks to everyone else who took part!

Need some help planning your next (non-dramatic) vacation? Sign up for our new Travel Insider newsletter, packed with the latest travel features, tips from our editors, and money-saving deals.

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Related Topics: News · Christmas Vacation · Free Stuff

1,000 Americans: Orlando, Mexico

By Harry Kikstra

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Orlando is an 80-year-old Mexican with great knowledge about geography and the mountains all over the world, clearly a very educated man. Now Orlando just waits in the shade for his next customers—in exchange for free food and lodging he sold gasoline for a local lady. Using his mouth and a hose, he transferred the fuel into the cars that stopped by after realizing that fuel stations were a rarity on this particular road.

We saw his eyes gleam when we told him about our trip biking around the world, but our heart broke when he coughed after every fill-up. A wrongly spelled ‘Cevende Gasolina’ sign hung near the road behind him (Se vende Gasolina = Gas for sale).

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December 15, 2010

There's an App for Family Time

By awayblog

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Smithsonian Zoo Lights(Smithsonian's National Zoo)
Zoo Lights in the Dark, Washington, DC (Smithsonian National Zoo)

Everyone loves animals, Christmas, and (other people's) kids, so why not combine them all? Teaming up with SCVNGR, a mobile gaming app company, three of the U.S.'s top family destinations have created interactive "treks" for getting the family together this holiday season.

Children's Museum of Indianapolis
The largest children's museum in the world has two family-focused treks for the museum's annual Jolly Days event. The Jolly Days line trek on SCVNGR provides a way for families to have fun and talk about family traditions while standing in line for the famous giant Yule Slide or for a photo with Santa. The Jolly Days Magic Trek provides an interactive way for families to experience the museum's holiday exhibits together. Sample challenges include:

-Every family has their own special traditions when it's cold outside. What's your favorite outdoor tradition you do with your family?

-Holiday movies, TV shows, and songs can also be a part of your family tradition. What songs do you sing or shows do you watch this time of year?

Duration of treks: December 7, 2010 to January 9, 2011

Continue reading "There's an App for Family Time" »

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Related Topics: Christmas Vacation · Family Vacation · US Travel

December 14, 2010

Gone Fishin'

Fish soak

While in Singapore to witness the first ever Youth Olympic Games, I kept hearing about people getting "fish pedicures." Because travel writers hate being the last in the know, I immediately began doing research. Apparently a "Fish Spa" is not a new idea and dates back to the early 1900s. One of the older and more famous ones, Kangal Spa, can be found in Sivas, Turkey. Initially used to treat psoriasis and other skin diseases, the concept has quickly become a tourist attraction the world around. The first one in the United States opened in 2008 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Visiting a fish spa is like going to an aquarium where you're not only allowed but encouraged to get up-close and personal with the marine life. You sit over the fish tank with your feet dangling in the water below and the Garra Ruffa fish (a.k.a. "doctor fish," which are mainly found in Eastern European countries) will nibble away at your dead skin. The extremely adventurous can choose to submerge their entire body in the tank. The experience is completely painless but not for the ticklish. The benefits include blood circulation, stress relief, and tension, and it helps relieve skin diseases.

In Singapore you can visit a spa chain called KENKO, where their newest location is billed as the world's first Fish Spa Internet Café. You can surf the web while the fish do their thing. Talk about multi-tasking! Another KENKO is found within the same complex as the iconic Singapore Flyer, one of Asia's biggest tourist attractions. At 541-feet tall the Flyer is an ultra-modern Ferris Wheel that gives stunning views over the city, including an up-close look at the newly opened billion-dollar Marina Bay Sands hotel (the world's most expensive hotel with the world's largest outdoor pool).

Lisa Costantini is a writer/editor currently traveling the world with her husband working on a project about sport and culture. More information can be found on their website at Lisa will be blogging from the road for us as she and her husband travel through Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe over the next several months.

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Related Topics: Asia Travel

December 13, 2010

How to Score Drugs in Mexico

The beach in Lo De Marcos, Mexico (Nathan Borchelt)

1.    Go somewhere somewhat off the Gringo Trail.  An hour south of Puerto Vallarta, like the Snowbird-centric town of Lo De Marcos should do.

2.    Meet up with 21 relatives, including six people in their late 50s and early 60s, two teens, six kids in ages ranging from 18 months to ten, and a bunch of middle-age family members.

3.    Go swimming with said kids to protect them from the imaginary tidal waves and not-as-imaginary undertows.

4.    Step on a stingray…on the stinger.

Continue reading "How to Score Drugs in Mexico" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Mexico Travel · Outdoor Adventures

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