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Skiing destinations: Downhill from here!

By Brian Schott, courtesy Whitefish Mountain Resort

Perfect for small groups, ski trips offer adventure for members who can handle the tallest mountain and for those who have never worn a ski boot. Lessons and beginners slopes are always available, along with activities that require only walking and the love of majestic mountains.

The whole gang just may want to tag along on a skiing vacation, where some of the most fun takes place around a roaring fireplace and where only rosy cheeks and hot toddies are required.

Whitefish Mountain Resort
Whitefish, Montana
More than 300 inches of annual snowfall ensure that skiers will have a powdery good time at the 3,000-acre Whitefish Mountain Resort in the Rocky Mountains. “We are known for great skiing at an economical price,” said Riley Polumbus, public relations manager.

Skiers can expect short lines at the lifts, which include 10 chair lifts, two t-bars and one magic carpet. “A magic carpet is great for beginners — it’s kind of like the movable walkway you see at airports, except this takes you up the mountain. We have a great Learn To Ski and Ride program for beginning skiers and snowboarders,” Polumbus said.

For those more advanced, a 360-degree view of Glacier National Park and Flathead Valley is the reward upon arrival at the top of the 7,000-foot mountain. From there, visitors can ski in any direction. Sleigh rides, dog sled adventures, snowmobile tours and time at the day spa are other options at Whitefish.

Polumbus suggested that one of the best adventures is the resort’s Dine and Ski experience.

“Start the evening with a breathtaking voyage up to the summit on a chair lift, enjoy a delicious dinner, then ride the lift down or follow our instructors down the mountain for the ride of your life — by moonlight.”


Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa
Thompsonville, Michigan
Although Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa is a four-season destination, winter sports are the highlights from around Thanksgiving to the end of March, depending on the weather. “We are a 1,500-acre pedestrian village that is similar in design to something you’d see in the Rockies,” said Brian Lawson, director of public relations.

Seven chair lifts offer access to ski slopes for every level on 45 downhill slopes. A learning area offers instruction by a well-respected ski school instructor from Park City.

“I see people from ages 2 to 100 on the slopes. In fact, our 100-year-old skier was just featured on a CBS special,” said Lawson.

Three terrain parks with jump rails and a 30-acre preserve with a system of trails are more options. “The preserve includes 40 outdoor sculptures celebrating the history of Michigan,” Lawson said.

The resort’s restaurants’ menus include peak-performance choices that are portion and calorie controlled. Michigan’s renowned wines and a special beer brewed just for the resort, Crystal’s Twisted Thistle, are special treats for those group members who also look forward to happy hour.


Park City, Utah
Only 35 minutes from Salt Lake City, Park City, a former silver-mining town turned ski destination, offers 9,000 acres of skiable terrain and 350 annual inches of snow, according to Amy Kersey, communications coordinator for the Park City Chamber Bureau.

“We also offer three world-class resorts, all top-ranked by Ski Magazine,” Kersey said.
With three on-mountain day lodges and 10 on-mountain restaurants, the Deer Valley Resort is known for outstanding grooming and service.

The Canyons Resort, whose terrain is spread over nine mountains, offers 19 lifts, including the Flight of the Canyons eight-passenger gondola and the Orange Bubble Express, the first heated lift in North America.

“The Park City Mountain Resort is very family oriented and very much a part of the town,” said Kersey. “With direct lift access to the shops and restaurants on historic Main Street, groups can easily take a break in the middle of their skiing for other activities.

“Shaun White, the Olympic champion snowboarder, is an ambassador for the resort and does lots of his training here.”

During a break from the slopes, tour the Park City Museum, which showcases the city’s history, from mid-1800s mining to one of the world’s most revered ski retreats.


Pocono Mountains
There are seven major downhill ski areas to choose from in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, along with a nearly endless list of country inns, bed-and-breakfasts, hotels and resorts for overnight accommodations. All claim to be the closest slopes to New York City and Philadelphia.

A few of those ski areas are the following:

Camelback Ski Resort, the largest in the Poconos with 34 trails and 13 lifts over 160 acres of terrain, offers condos and homes that can sleep up to 10, some with walk-to-the-slopes access.

The Chateau Resort and Conference Center is the closest full-service resort, and Shawnee Mountain Ski Resort is home to 23 slopes and trails and two terrain parks.

Although there are lots of villas and condos from which to choose, the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, a historic property that offers bonfires and indoor relaxation, is the closest to Shawnee Mountain.

Although all ski areas offer lessons, and most have snowboarding and cross-country skiing opportunities, the real fun-lovers and even nonskiers won’t want to miss the chance to snowtube together, an activity that offers perhaps the most gut-laughing experience a group can share. Many of the areas feature snowtubing, among them the Blue Mountain Ski Area with three lifts and 21 slides.