Some inns and lodges that you might think of only for a summer vacation can actually make for a smart winter getaway too, what with their winter-wonderland scenery, cozy atmosphere, and array of cold-weather activities, not to mention delightfully reduced low-season rates. So if the tropical beach resorts you’re eyeing for a winter getaway are sold out or insanely priced, stop and really examine your other options. We’ve gathered a list of ten particularly cozy winter retreats for you as a jumping-off point. Sure, a tropical beach resort will be warmer, but I always remember what an Eskimo in Arctic Alaska once told me: “There’s no such thing as bad weather—only bad clothes.” And he was right: Pack the proper modern outerwear—or buy it once you get there—and you needn’t be cold.
For those of you thinking about a mountain retreat this winter, here are a few not-so-obvious features to look for to maximize your experience:
* Winter activities you’ve never done before—or never even heard of.
It always makes a trip more memorable, and leaves you with a feeling of accomplishment, when you try a new activity you’ve never tried before. Think dogsledding, snowshoeing, ice fishing, or even skijoring (which is like waterskiing, only it’s on snow, with a horse instead of a boat pulling you). Triple Creek Ranch in Montana, as an example, is a cozy winter retreat with a smorgasboard of breathtaking winter activities.
* An outdoor hot tub in the snow.
It’s invigorating and fun to dash to the hot tub, unzip your parka, and jump into a steamy pool surrounded by snow—especially one with a panoramic mountain view. My kids love to pop out of the hot tub, make snow angels on the ground, then dash back in. There’s no way I’m doing that, but it’s fun to watch them.
* A fabulous indoor pool.
You already know the sorts of incredible indoor pools that can be worth the splurge. Think the Grand Hotel Kronenhof in the Swiss Alps, where the pool area’s floor-to-ceiling glass looks onto a winter wonderland. It’s a heady experience when you get to savor the scenery of a freezing-cold destination without getting the least bit chilly yourself.
* Plenty of fireplaces.
An outdoor fire pit, and a fireplace not just in the main lodge but in your guest room, are big plusses.
* Special wintertime programs and extras that come free of charge.
The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa in Manchester, Vermont, is an example of one of those places that might not occur to you for a winter getaway—it calls itself a “golf resort,” after all—yet my family has spent three Christmas/New Year’s vacations there. What’s brought us back repeatedly—besides my ability to use Starwood points for a free stay—is not the skiing so much as what’s on offer (for free) that the kids love, from hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies to arts and crafts projects and Bingo games. In winter many resorts even offer complimentary special events and programs. Triple Creek Ranch, for instance, hosts weekends focused on cooking lessons, wine pairing, birding, even dogsledding with an Iditarod racer, that are available to all guests at no extra charge.
* Indoor parking.
Because it’s not a vacation if you have to scrape snow off your car every morning!
Tell us: What’s your favorite cozy winter retreat?
You’ll find more travel advice from Wendy at WendyPerrin.com.