How to Master the Delicate Art of the Do-Nothing Winter Vacation
It’s a request travel experts get more often than you think: What if a person wants to go somewhere wintry, and do … nothing?
Sure, the snow and cold weather offer plenty of active delights: skiing, sledding, trekking, ice fishing. But let the masses head to ski resorts and the hardcore head off into the backcountry. For a certain set, it’s other things they’re after: dog sled rides, solving puzzles, going to concert performances, racking up some serious hot tub time, and just parking one’s self in front of the fire. Thanks to the destinations below, you can do all that and less while wrapped in the lap of luxury.
Go Storm Chasing on Vancouver Island
From November through February, 30-foot swells and gale-force winds lash the western shores of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, putting on an awesome show for guests at the Wickaninnish Inn. The Wick, as regulars call it, was designed for storm watching, a favorite childhood pastime of the owner. Each of the 75 rooms has unobstructed Pacific views, a gas fireplace, and a soaking tub. Intrepid guests can don ponchos and wellies and experience a “west coast facial,” which occurs when the rain goes sideways in the wind and massages your face as you walk along Chesterman Beach. Too intense? Book a Pacific Sea Salt Glow facial at the Ancient Cedars Spa and Zen out to the sound of crashing waves. From $340.
Live Your Most Cultured Life in Bavaria
Schloss Elmau brings the best of New York or Berlin to a tranquil valley in the Bavarian Alps in southern Germany. The unique resort—composed of a 162-room, family-friendly hotel, a 47-suite retreat, and six spas—is the ultimate digital detox. Its world-class concert hall hosts 200 performances a year (with tickets included in the room rate), including a popular Chamber Music Festival each January and literary talks from authors such as Ian McEwan and T.C. Boyle. Though the hotel offers Apple TV and high speed Wi-Fi, why not unplug your devices and chill out in the three libraries and on-site bookstore instead? From $260, including cultural events.
Mush With Huskies in Alaska
There’s nothing cozy about the Alaskan wilderness, unless you’re staying in one of the five knotty pine guest cabins at Winterlake Lodge. Operated by the Dixon family, this remote retreat is set on 15 acres overlooking a frozen lake and primarily accessible by seaplane. The lodge has its own team of huskies, and Carl Dixon gives mushing tutorials, but he’ll happily take the reins while guests enjoy views from the sleigh. Head into the wild on a helicopter safari in search of elk, moose, caribou, and badgers, then return to pre-dinner wine and cheese by the fire. Carl’s wife, Kirsten, is an award-winning chef, so save room for her multi-course dinners of reindeer tenderloin with duck fat potatoes and mushroom-and-truffle gnocchi. From $4,370 for two nights, including meals, activities, and one helicopter adventure.
Master Woodworking in the Italian Alps
Fashion-industry veterans Giorgia and Stefano Barbini reimagined a 16th century hunting lodge in Italy’s Dolomites as a luxurious mountain escape for friends. Now San Lorenzo Lodge, their exclusive, four-room chalet, mixes classic alpine decor with updated touches such as underfloor heating and a spruce sauna. In the winter, Stefano hosts woodcarving workshops and leads moonlit snowshoe tours. This being Italy, though, food is at the heart of the experience. Each evening, Giorgia prepares a feast of regional recipes, which Stefano pairs with wine from the stable-turned-1,500-bottle cellar. From $3,195 per day for up to six guests.
Wax Poetic on Whiskey in Tennessee
Set on a 4,200-acre estate at the foothills of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, Blackberry Farm is the perfect place to hibernate for a winter weekend. With a working farm, craft brewery, and one of the deepest wine collections in America (160,000-plus bottles) this is foodie nirvana. Leisurely days start with digging into fluffy egg-topped cheese grits and crispy bacon while watching the fog roll across the mountains. Read in a rocking chair, get pampered at the Wellhouse Spa, or sign up for a winter-enrichment weekend focused on such obsessions as puzzling or photography. Evenings revolve around fancy farm-to-table meals in a restored barn and often end with a nightcap of Pappy van Winkle by the fire in the Hickory Room. From $695, including meals.
Watch Ice Drift in Newfoundland
Fogo Island, located off the northern coast of Newfoundland, is about as off-the-grid as one can get. Its austere landscape is even more extraordinary in the winter, when the 29-suite Fogo Island Inn becomes a haven for artists, foodies, and burnt-out urbanites looking for rest and relaxation. Guests looking to connect with nature can track caribou by snowshoe or, in March, view giant sheets of ice floating down Iceberg Alley from Greenland to the North Atlantic. An artist-in-residency program and a 37-seat cinema satisfy cultural cravings, while rooftop hot tubs are meant for meditative star-gazing sessions. From $1,429.
Solve a Murder Mystery in Vermont
Located just a half-hour’s drive from the major ski resorts in southern Vermont, Twin Farms feels like an elevated take on the classic New England bed-and-breakfast. Its famous soufflé pancakes are reason alone to book a stay. A main lodge, housed in an 18th century farmhouse, features four rooms decorated with vintage flags, antique quilts, and other Americana. Sixteen individually designed cottages are scattered across the 300-acre grounds, all with fieldstone fireplaces and screened-in porches. Guests can go sledding out the door then thaw out in the spa’s Japanese furo, a type of sleek, wooden bathtub. For a more social stay, check out the inn’s Art of A Vermont Winter event series, which includes furniture-making workshops with local woodworker Thomas Shackleton and murder mystery weekends. From $1,500, all-inclusive.
Try Ice Fishing with Cowboys
in MontanaDude ranches are best known for action-fueled summer activities. When the snow falls, rates drop and the pace slows. At Triple Creek Ranch, an adults-only, all-inclusive property in Montana’s Bitterroot Range, the focus shifts from cattle drives and horseback riding to snowshoeing and ice fishing. Couples hunker down in log cabins equipped with wood-burning fireplaces and, in most cases, hot tubs; oftentimes, they don’t reappear until dinner. Meals at the Relais & Châteaux-approved restaurant (think wagyu beef with caramelized fennel home fries, paired with a rare Bordeaux) are a highlight of every stay. From $1,050.