A Guide To The Top Winter Destinations
Created by the legendary Chef Raymond Blanc OBE, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire is renowned for offering one of Britain’s finest gastronomic experiences. (The hotel received two Michelin stars in 1984, the first year of its opening, and, remarkably, has held them ever since.) The cherished manor house is situated in the picturesque village of Great Milton, and offers 32 individually designed guest rooms and suites. This December, the hotel will present a series of six Christmas Carol Concerts throughout the month, with performances by groups including the Trinity Boys Choir and the Winchester Cathedral Choir. Each evening will commence with a Champagne Laurent-Perrier reception, followed by a torch-lit walk to St. Mary’s Church for that night’s concert. Afterward, you’ll return to the hotel for a five-course, black-tie dinner with a menu created by Raymond Blanc himself. Each evening is priced at £255 per person.
Situated among the towering pines on one of the highest mountains in Western Montana, Triple Creek Ranch is an all-inclusive, Relais & Chateaux resort that merges incomparable natural beauty with plush comfort and top-of-the-line personal service. Guests stay in private luxury cabins sprinkled throughout the forest, and dine at a world-class restaurant with a see-it-to-believe-it wine cellar. You can ski or snowboard or sip cocoa by the fire, but why not use this opportunity to go a little wild? The ranch is known for its Skijoring, in which a person on skis is pulled by a horseback rider. Let that visual sink in. Originally a means of Siberian and Nordic winter transportation, equestrian skijoring has evolved into a competitive sport in Montana.
If that sounds a bit heart palpitating for your taste, try ice fishing instead. The staff will help drill a hole for an old-fashioned trout-fishing experience, and you can keep warm with hot chocolate or hot apple cider while luring those trout (i.e. your dinner) to the surface. Rates start at $950 per couple, per night, and include a private cabin, all meals, drinks, and activities.The Hotel Telluride, a boutique chalet in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, offers a rather spectacular line-up of winter packages. There’s the “Winter Picnic on The High Camp Hut” ($2,377), a privately-guided snow-shoe adventure culminating in a gourmet lunch at the hotel’s very own high camp hut, located 11,000 feet up the mountain.
There is also the “Snow Bike and Brew” package ($1,579), which includes a ‘Fatboy’ snow-bike tour across the snowy valley to the award-winning Telluride Brewing Company for locally crafted beers and spirits. For an ultra-exclusive experience on the slopes, consider the Hotel Telluride’s “Master of the Mountain” offering ($15,270), which includes private heli-skiing, a customized 5-course meal, spa treatments, and guest-designed bespoke skis (or snowboards) by Telluride-based designer Pete Wager. If you’re looking for a quick hit, then the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe is the hotel to beat. A short four-hour drive from the Bay Area, the luxury hotel knows how to lean into the holiday season.
You can join the Ritz-Carlton Marshmologist to learn about the history of the marshmallow and enjoy complimentary s’mores with holiday-themed marshmallows. Try “The Champagne Experience,” a lively apres-ski experience held daily near the resort fire pit featuring champagne and a raw bar. There’s a Gingerbread Workshop on December 18 and 20, which is perfect for families, and a Stargazing Tour that takes you on a moderate snowshoe walk to view constellations through high-powered professional telescopes. Rooms start at $800 per night.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a wonderful place to visit any time of year, but during the winter it’s especially magical. The city dials up the charm with twinkle lights strung on every tree, paper bag lanterns (called “farolitos”) lining the streets, and the piquant scent of pinon logs in the crisp December air. Visual contrasts abound— snow falling on red pepper wreaths; adobe homes and courtyard bonfires. The Inn and Spa at Loretto is a 136-room, boutique hotel in Santa Fe located just steps from the historic downtown plaza. One of the state’s most photographed buildings, this urban resort is reminiscent of the famed Taos Pueblo. In winter, guests appreciate the easy access to Ski Santa Fe—a mere 16 miles from the Inn. Enjoy warm homemade breakfast burritos to go and head up to the mountain with two full-day passes already in hand. Rooms start at $169 per night.
Tour operator Nordic Visitor offers a range of great trips, but our favorite offering for this time of year is the 5-day/4-night “Best of Lapland” tour. It’s a winter whirlwind with highlights that include: a guided snowmobile safari into the wilderness for a chance to see the northern lights; a ride aboard The Sampo, a 4,500-ton icebreaker vessel, and a dip in the 0-degree Baltic Sea (a specially insulated flotation suit will keep you warm and buoyant). You get to see a reindeer farm, spend a night in the one-and-only Kemi Snow Castle—rebuilt each winter using snow and ice—and visit Rovaniemi, the hometown of Santa Claus.