Ever feel like you haven’t truly experienced winter unless you’ve sunk your boots into a pile of powder? North America is home to many winter wonderlands that are the perfect cure to the Southland’s seasonal sameness. If you’re yearning to hit the slopes — or searching for new adventures like dog sledding or snow kiting — you can get your fix at any of the following frosty destinations.
The Winter Games are still two years away, but you can realize your own Olympian fantasies in British Columbia, the 2010 host. Hop into a bobsleigh behind a professional pilot or go solo head first on a skeleton sled at Whistler Sliding Centre. Starting a third of the way up the track used by Olympians, you still might top 100 mph. Thrill seekers also head to the Kootenay Rockies, renowned for heli- and cat-skiing. The Kimberley Alpine Resort offers a tamer option: the Kootenay Fondue Experience, a snowshoeing tour capped off by chocolate indulgences. With 13 major ski resorts across B.C., skiers and boarders can also slide to their hearts’ content. www.hellobc.com
Joy riding takes many shapes in Colorado. Sure, the Rocky Mountain state has 26 ski and snowboard resorts. But you can also cozy up with a loved one on a horse-drawn sleigh, tap into another type of horsepower with snowmobile tours or maneuver down slopes on snow cycles (bikes with skis instead of wheels). At Crested Butte Mountain Resort, you can try your hand at driving a snowcat, pushing snow on a closed course. Man’s best friend gets into the action with dog sledding tours. Bundled up in warm blankets on a wooden sled, you glide through the glades of aspens and pines propelled by a team of enthusiastic huskies. www.colorado.com
It’s easy to get in on all kinds of action in the Lake Tahoe area, with legalized gambling on the Nevada side and 15 resorts for downhillers on the north and south shores. Beginners tackling their first boxes and rails (as well as experts ready for 65-foot jumps) can find their sweet spots at Heavenly Ski Resort’s five terrain parks. If you are more into exploring nature on cross-country skis or snowshoes, opportunities abound, including full-moon tours and overnight snow camping. At Squaw Valley's new SnoVentures Activity Zone, kids can loop around on mini snowmobiles or barrel down on snow tubes. For a bird’s-eye view of North America’s largest alpine lake join HeliTahoe for a scenic helicopter tour. www.visitinglaketahoe.com
With a summit elevation of more than 11,000 square feet and a vertical drop of more than 3,100 feet, Mammoth certainly lives up to its name. The resort boasts multiple parks, including a half pipe, a jib park, a terrain park and a 550-foot-long SuperDuper Pipe where pros like Olympic gold medalist Shaun White are known to practice. The resort caters to families, with kids under age 6 skiing free. Complimentary big blue wagons assist families with loading their gear. Adventure Zones offer kids-only trails through the woods. A new progression park with pint-sized terrain park is in the works. At Woolly's Adventure Summit, you can cruise on groomed tubing lanes or build a snowman in the play area. www.mammothmountain.com
For a dose of Hollywood with your snow fun, travel to the Park City area in January during the Sundance Film Festival. Between screenings of independent films, you can hit the slopes at one of the state’s 14 resorts. The Olympic legacy also lives on in Utah, the host of the 2002 Winter Games. You can strap on a pair of skates and take a spin at the Utah Olympic Oval, home to more Olympic and world records than anywhere else. Looking for something more extreme? Head over to Skyline Drive on the Wasatch Plateau for snow kiting, where a kite pulls boarders and skiers uphill and downhill at up to 50 mph. Hot-air ballooning can also take your winter vacation to new heights. www.utah.com
—Karen Koch, Custom Publishing Writer
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