Skiers—especially couples and families—are forever in search of the ultimate Christmas ski vacation spot. We’ve got some answers.
But, first, what qualities create that wonderful holiday ambience?
- a Currier & Ives ambience, replete with quaint surroundings adorned by holiday lights
- a local atmosphere of good cheer
- special events that celebrate the season
- and, with help from Lady Luck, snow and plenty of it
Well, no one can guarantee snow. But, traveling east to west, let’s look at an even half dozen North American ski destinations that fill the bill on ambience, decorations and events staged from early December through the New Year.
1. Bretton Woods/Mt. Washington Hotel, NH. We defy you to find a more fete-ful atmosphere than the Mt. Washington Hotel. The entire magnificent hotel building and the surrounding grounds are festooned to resemble a magical North Pole palace, with boughs of holiday greenery strung with twinkling lights, gorgeously decorated Christmas trees and enchanted scenes complete with playful plush bears and dutiful wooden soldiers. Roasted chestnuts and mulled apple cider are served in the grand lobby while strolling carolers and bell choirs serenade. Activities include gingerbread cookie decorating, holiday craft workshops, ornament decorating, a snow tubing party, snowshoeing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, Elf Tuck-Ins at bedtime with a story and a teddy bear to ensure the sweetest dreams, and nightly musical performances and a Victorian Magic Lantern show, New Year’s Eve parties for all ages, night skiing, a torchlight parade and fireworks.
2. Woodstock, VT. Woodstock is vintage New England, with lots of small shops, restaurants and the Woostock Inn, one of New England’s more atmospheric and enchanting hostelries. Skiing can be done locally at Suicide Six or, for downhilling on a larger scale, at Killington/Pico or Asctuney. There’s plenty of Nordic skiing and snowshoeing, as well. Visits to the Vermont Raptor Center, and The Billings Farm Museum are a must. Seasonal events include Wasail Weekend, featuring “Holiday on Stage” a gala Holiday Revue of song, dance and theatre; a reading of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas; “A Child’s Magical Wonderland,” a chance to work alongside the elves in Santa’s workshop making gifts for the family and enjoying holiday treats; Christmas at Billings Farm showcases late 19th century rural Christmas traditions in a restored farm house, special programs and activities, historic ornament making, and horse-drawn sleigh rides.
3. Vail and Beaver Creek CO. Aside from miles of snowsliding, both Vail and Beaver Creek base villages twinkle in the holiday season, and a sense of community comes to the fore. Beaver Creek events include Icing on the Lake, an old-fashioned afternoon with carolers, ice sculptures, holiday crafts and skating; Snowshoe Adventure Series on Beaver Creek Mountain for all abilities and ages followed by a post-race celebration. The Vilar Center performances include A Christmas Carol, Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats and Peter and the Wolf performed by the Jim Gamble Puppets. Vail events include two holiday tree lighting parties—one in LionsHead and one in Vail Village—caroling, a variety of choir and other music performances, and the New Year’s Eve Torchlight Ski Down Spectacular and fireworks show. Vail Cascade Resort & Spa guests find the hotel halls fully decked and a Cascade Christmas that fills 18 days with cooking demonstrations, kids’ activities, Santa visits, Chanukah Arts & Crafts; in-room Elf Tuck Ins; apres-ski magic shows; gingerbread house decorating; stocking and ornament decorating; pictures with Santa; dinner and a movie; complimentary family portraits; caricature artist in action; New Year’s Eve Dinner; and New Year’s Day Football.
4. Jackson Hole Resort and Jackson, WY. Well, Jackson’s “old west” ambience is a bit touristy, but there’s still enough down-home funkiness to make it all fun. The skiing is either at Jackson Hole Resort or, right in town, at Snow King. A side trip to Grand Targhee, about an hour away, is recommended. Must-visits include the local history museum, an historic walking tour, The National Museum of Wildlife Artandthe National Elk Refuge. Events: Santa on the Square, with homemade cookies, hot cider and coffee; performances of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and A Christmas Carol on Ice; on-hill tree-lighting, Santa, crafts, and the annual Children’s Torchlight Parade on New Year’s eve with Tommy Moe.
5. Santa Fe, NM. Santa Fe is atmosphere-rich all the time, but holiday season is even better. Skiing is at Ski Santa Fe, our favorite New Mexico snowsliding spot. Farolitos—small bags filled with sand and lit from within by votive candles—appear everywhere. Restaurants offer holiday specials and hotels stage Christmas events featuring music, storytelling, craft demonstrations, etc., reflecting the region’s diverse cultures. Events include: Las Posadas a traditional Spanish outdoor play/procession that anyone can join, re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s Christmas Eve search for a room; Native American dances at the Pueblos; Christmas at the Palace, with carols, story telling, Santa and his elves, music, Matachine dancers, cider and cookies; Christmas Eve on the Plaza, with 1,000 farolitos, cider and caroling; and music throughout December from New Mexico Pro Coro, Musica da Camera, Sangre de Cristo Chorale, Santa Fe Concert Association, Santa Fe Symphony and many others.
6. Northstar-at-Tahoe, CA. Northstar is super family friendly its holiday season bustles with special activities, including: Santa’s appearance, caroling and live music in the Village; Noel Nights on pre-Christmas December Tuesdays with free ice skate rentals, free hot cocoa, holiday caroling, s’mores, photos with Santa, and wine tasting; a Christmas Day Candy Cane Fun Race; and a Fire & Ice New Year’s Eve Party with fireworks, live music, entertainment, food and drinks.