By Karen Rubin
Snow-covered mountain resorts are particularly magical at the holidays, and they go all out.
“The quintessential holiday vacation is a ski trip in the mountains,” says CMO at Ski.com and industry veteran, Dan Sherman. “From elaborate light displays in quaint mountain villages and Santa races to holiday markets and torchlight parades, mountain destinations offer the epitome of an idyllic holiday atmosphere.”
Here are just a few examples:
Stowe, Vermont An idyllic New England town, Stowe is a winter wonderland. The streets of historic downtown come to life during the holidays with a local artisan market. From candy cane-making demos to the annual winter-themed ice carving, there is plenty to do off the mountain. Catch a holiday concert at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center or take the kids to a community screening of It’s a Wonderful Life. Ring in the New Year with Stowe’s on-mountain Torchlight Parade and Fireworks Show over Spruce Peak.
Vail, Colorado: Vail’s Holidays are held from November 29th through December 31st. The festivities kick off with the annual Kris Kringle Market, an outdoor market featuring 34 local and regional Colorado vendors, where travelers can pick up unique last minute gifts. On the evening of December 17th, join the Mayor and take in the Town of Vail Tree Lighting by the Covered Bridge, while the Vail Children’s Choir sings. On December 22nd, Vail Winterfest Ice Theater hosts their Grand Opening Celebration. Ice Sculptor Paul Wertin creates oversized ice chairs where travelers can kick back and relax while enjoying film projects, such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas. On New Year’s Eve, ski instructors and locals form a glowing train down the mountain, while fireworks bring in the new year, lighting up Vail’s iconic setting. Other activities include ice skating, lantern making, holiday sweater runs to burn off some extra calories and children’s cookies and tea parties.
Whistler Blackcomb, Canada Dress like Santa and Ms. Claus and ski for free on the annual Santa Ski Day, this December in Whistler. The first 75 guests to arrive at the Garibaldi Lift Company dressed in holiday garb will be awarded a free lift ticket. The iconic Fire & Ice shows light up the town every Sunday evening as skiers and snowboarders hit a big air jump through a ring of fire. The 34th annual Christmas Eve Carol Service takes place at the Westin Resort and Spa, bringing to life the story of the birth of Christ along with traditional carols and music. In addition, children can ice skate with Santa throughout the holiday season at the Whistler Olympic Plaza.
Kitzbuhel, Austria An ultimate holiday destination for skiing and festivities, the town of Kitzbuhel transforms into a Christmas market and winter wonderland from November 30th through December 26th. Featuring traditional Tyrolean crafts, food and traditions, the market celebrates the holidays with a variety of musical acts featuring local choirs and musicians, Christmas readings, petting zoos and pony rides for the children. On January 1st, thousands of locals and visitors ring in the New Year with a torch skiing and flame jumping show, complete with the 64th annual fireworks show put on by fireworks champion, Armin Lukasser.
Squaw Valley, California: The holidays kick off in Squaw and Alpine Meadows on December 16th with the Opening Ceremonies. The Ceremonies include a glow stick parade, lead by the one and only Santa. The parade meanders through Squaw’s “Ye Olde Christmas Village” and the “Merry Wonderland” (a transformed Olympic Village Lodge). Check out the Ice Garden and performances by the Truckee Tahoe Community Chorus. Participants will also enjoy the “Taste of Squaw,” where local dining establishments provide free bites of signature items. Santa continues his visits throughout the week, stopping at the Merry Wonderland, the Ice Garden, Village at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. On December 21st, visitors can enjoy a concert put on by the Squaw Valley Institute featuring blues-infused covers of classics by likes of BB King, Kat King Cole, Otis Redding, Eric Clapton and more. Other festivities include Ugly Sweater parties, brunch with Santa and skiing with Santa on December 25th.
Innsbruck, Austria: From mid-November through early January, the capitol of Tyrol is awash with Christmas festivities. The neighborhood of Alstadt features popular Medieval houses on the narrow Kiebachgasse street. Brothers Grimm characters peer down from the widows and tickle the imagination of children and the young at heart. Vendor booths are laden with festive goods like gingerbread, wooden toys and hand-blown ornaments. Every day at dusk, trumpeters perform traditional carols on the 500-year-old Golden Roof. Don’t miss Kiachln, a traditional Advent doughnut served with hot cranberry sauce. Take a ride up the funicular to Hafelekar, located just outside of Innsbruck to enjoy the twinkling city below.
Sun Valley, Idaho The birthplace of skiing in the U.S., Sun Valley, Idaho is a small town with five-star amenities, but without the crowds. Christmas festivities start early with the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 16th. Santa will be present, as well as the Sun Valley Carolers, an ice carving demo and free cookies and hot chocolate. Carolers perform daily performances throughout the Sun Valley Village and at various Sun Valley restaurants through the holidays. A European-style open-air market on the Sun Valley Lawn features vendors and holiday goodies. On Christmas Eve, enjoy the Winter Wonderland Ice Show while warming up with free hot chocolate and fresh-baked cookies at the Lodge. Don’t miss Christmas Eve fireworks and a sky-illuminating torchlight parade down Dollar Mountain. Take sleigh rides to Trail Creek Cabin for dinner or amble down Main Street in Ketchum, lit up with a festive holiday gallery walk and festive decorations on all of the beautiful lodges.
Aspen, Colorado: The 12 Days of Aspen usher in the holidays in Aspen, Colorado. On December 20th, kids can make their parents a special gift at the St. Regis, while LeAnn Rimes will perform at the Belly Up that evening. The following day, Santa will be at the Winer Wonderland with his live reindeer. Come meet St. Nick and enjoy free hot cooca and cookies while getting your picture taken. Santa will also be conducting sleigh rides throughout the 12 Days through town with Mrs. Claus; visitors can reserve spots in advance to take a ride. During the afternoons the spirited Hotel Jerome will be hosting carolers for visitors and locals alike. On the 23rd, everyone’s favorite characters from Peanuts come to life at the Wheeler Opera House with a presentation of A Charlie Brown Christmas. And finally, on the 31st, ring in the New Year with an astounding fireworks show over Aspen Mountain. The Infamous Stringdusters will cap off the evening with a performance at the Wheeler Opera House.
For assistance making travel arrangements, visit Ski.com (you can do an on-line chat with a specialist) or call 800-908-5000 or 970-429-3099.
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