Beating the Bleak Weather Blues
The Best Winter Getaways for Sun, Snow Fun, and Quiet Romance
By Christina Williams

Maybe you hear it in the rhythm of the windshield wipers during a long commute home in the rain; maybe it’s a plaintive voice in the back of your mind. Or perhaps it’s a bit more front and center–your significant other is making an ultimatum and won’t be ignored.

whatever it is that calls you to get away, a variety of wintertime destinations are available to play a role in sanity restoration.

Whether your pleasure is snowy or sandy, swanky or cozy, frosty or sunny–it’s all out there. Here’s a roundup to start you thinking. Winter is a lot less bleak with an escape to anticipate.

Ski Spots

Those into the sport probably already know it, but the hottest new feature at Pacific Northwest ski areas this year can be summed up in two words: half-pipe.

Engineers at Mt. Hood Meadows installed a new in-ground pipe with 17-foot walls designed for free-style skiers and snowboarders.

“Everyone enjoys a whoop-de-do occasionally, especially if it’s not unexpected,” says Dave Tragethon, marketing director for the resort.

The handy-to-Portland ski area offers a new deal this year: free lift tickets to those staying at the Cooper Spur Mountain Resort mid-week. Families may appreciate the new Radio Disney Fun Room, which serves as a monitored hangout area for kids while adults are on the slopes.

The ski area at Timberline Lodge also features a half pipe and the Timberline Classic Series, kicking off January 11, will showcase snowboarders and skiers who know how to use one.

To see snowboarding professionals, visit Mt. Bachelor March 5-7 for the Nokia Snowboard FIS World Cup, a first-ever event for the resort. Also new at Mt. Bachelor: buy multi-day lift passes and track your vertical feet skied or boarded on the resort’s Web site. The Mt. Bachelor Village Resort, the most luxurious place to stay near the mountain, begins free transportation to the ski resort this year.

In Idaho, a new 400-foot half-pipe is open on the slopes at the Sun Valley Resort, but the real headline may be the complete renovation of all 109 Sun Valley Inn rooms, including a plasma screen television in each one. And new heated sidewalks around the resort keep snow off the walkways.

The Silver Mountain Resort in Kellogg, Idaho–a straight shot east of Spokane, Wash.– has four new runs this year, including a double black diamond, and a newly expanded half-pipe. The resort, which starts building its condo-style hotel this year, features a range of events including ladies’ days on Thursdays and the March 6 Gravity Games where radar guns rank top-speed skiers.

For the ultimate downhill ski vacation, think British Columbia, which boasted in December its best early-season conditions in years–and the snow has kept piling on since then.

The Whistler Resort–co-host with Vancouver, B.C. of the 2010 Winter Olympic games– was named best ski resort by Skiing Magazine in October. Catherine Adams, manager of media relations at Tourism Whistler, says new construction for the games won’t be evident this season, but visitors can already ski the Men’s Downhill course–the Dave Murray Downhill Run on Mt. Whistler.

The resort is welcoming the newly renovated Sundial Hotel–formerly called The Westbrook–a 49-suite boutique property right at the base of the mountain.

For a different kind of snow adventure, consider Mt. Ashland Inn, a bread and breakfast that offers outdoor equipment–including high-end snowshoes and cross-country skis–to its guests along with discounted lift tickets for downhill skiing at nearby Mt. Ashland.

Or a good compromise getaway: a stay at a swanky Seattle hotel where express busses to Crystal Mountain Resort leave downtown on weekend mornings to whisk skiers to the slopes, while members of the family who prefer urban amenities can spend the day in retail therapy.

Quiet Getaways

For folks whose idea of fun is more about curling up by the fire with a good book or surrendering to the hands of a talented masseuse than about catching air on a snowy slope, a winter getaway will have more quiet-time in mind.

“We have a limited commercial focus,” says Loy Helmly, general manager at Black Butte Ranch west of Sisters at the foot of the Cascade Mountains. “We perceive ourselves more as the quiet laid back kind of place rather than a hustle and bustle kind of place.”

At Kah-Nee-Tah High Desert Resort and Casino in Eastern Oregon, the hot springs-fed pool and the gambling casino are open year-round. The golf course stays open as long as it’s not under snow and the grand lobby features floor-to-ceiling windows and a four- sided fireplace. Watch for get-away packages in February and March.

The updated River Room Spa will be reason enough for some to visit the Campbell’s Resort on Lake Chelan in Washington this winter–aromatic stone treatments, relaxing mud baths and a range of facials are on the menu. For those who need a bit more of a reason to head to the lake, try the Fire and Ice Winter Fest the weekend of Jan. 17th or the Sweetheart Dance on Valentine’s Day–conveniently falling on Saturday this year.

If post-Valentine’s therapy is needed, the Resort at Port Ludlow near Seattle is hosting a couples’ retreat for the first time the weekend of Feb. 21st including sessions with a relationship coach and a full slate of activities.

Closer to home, Columbia River Gorge-based Dolce Skamania Lodge is giving facelifts to its river-facing rooms. The renovation will be done by Feb. 14th and special weekend packages are planned.

On the Oregon Coast, try whale watching at the Inn at Spanish Head south of Lincoln City–an official site for the Oregon State Parks–and book one of the Inn’s Romantic Escape packages to enjoy champagne and a candlelit dinner at the same time.

Warm Weather Escapes

Want to feel the sun on your shoulders and the sand between your toes? Well, you may want to think a little further south than Coos Bay.

Sunny destinations popular with Oregonians include cruises of the Mexican Riviera, says Nancy Parrott, leisure sales manager with Azumano Travel in Portland. “You don’t have to fly so far and that cuts down on cost,” says Parrott. “There are some fantastic cruise opportunities from San Francisco and Los Angeles and San Diego and they’ll still take you to Mexico where it’s nice and warm.”

Azumano also starts fielding many more requests for Palm Springs and Las Vegas travel arrangements this time of year. Parrott advises mid-week travel for best deals.

Hawaii is another popular choice. Will Eichorn, product manager at All About Travel in Tigard says Maui remains the hot spot with some of Waikiki’s hustle-bustle while still retaining that laid back, island vibe. Eichorn recommends the likes of the Embassy Vacation Resort on Kaanapali Beach or the Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel and Spa in Kihei– gotta love the in-pool bar–for the Maui-bound.

Dana Oilar, agent with McBride Travel in Tigard, which specializes in booking all- inclusive resort travel, said the couples-only resorts in Jamaica have been popular choices this year. “Everyone there is in the same mode–there are no kids going ‘Cannonball!’ and jumping in the pool. It’s a nice romance thing.”

BrainstormNW - January 2004

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