The Best Winter Travel Destinations for People Who Love the Cold
1. Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
This is one of the most popular winter sports destinations in the world, and with good reason. "There are few other places that offer this amount of terrain for exploration," says Robin Van Gyn, a Roxy snowboarding athlete. Whistler also happens to be her home base. "I've been here 15 years and I still don't think I've seen it all."
As for what to do when you get there? "There's something for everyone, including snowboarding, skiing, cross-country skiing, hiking, outdoor hockey (a Canadian favorite), world-class yoga and spas, and of course incredible food." Plus, it's close to Vancouver—just an hour and a half by car—so travel logistics are simple. (BTW, here's all the winter gear you need for cold-weather sports.)
2. Aosta Valley, Italy
This Italian resort town is another one of Van Gyn's favorites, and her reasoning is totally solid: "Pasta, Pizza, Powder." But the culture is also a win. "Not only are the mountains epic, but the people are super welcoming and helpful, plus it tends to be more affordable than some other places in Europe," she says. "Imagine winding up tight roads on the hillside flanked by huge castles from the past (that's actually what the Aosta Valley is known for) and arriving in a quaint little village covered in snow." So basically, a fairy tale with winter sports. (New to skiing? These tips will help you become a pro in no time.)
3. Anchorage, Alaska
If you're craving some serious natural beauty, consider heading to this Alaskan city. "Most people visit Alaska in the summer when temperatures are higher, but consider visiting in the winter, when the stunning Northern Lights are visible and hotel rates are much lower," says Brian Han, a HotelTonight marketing executive and their resident travel expert. There's also plenty of skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling here, if that's what you're after. (These are the best activities to try on your fitcation in Alaska.)
4. Hakuba Valley, Japan
Japan might not be the first place you think of for winter travel, but it has a vibrant winter sports scene that allows you to be immersed in Japanese culture at the same time. "The Hakuba Valley has many resorts to choose from," says Torah Bright, a Roxy snowboarding athlete and two-time Olympic Medalist. "You can be a zealous skier and snowboarder with the nine ski resorts in the area catering to all skill levels, she adds. (Before you hit the slopes, prep your body with these workouts.)
5. Park City, Utah
A classic winter destination, Park City has something to offer for everyone. It may be a hotspot for winter sports, but there's also a burgeoning boutique fitness scene, with a nearby OrangeTheory, Pure Barre, and a CrossFit box. While you're visiting, take a break from your workouts to stroll through the surrounding town, which is chock-full of cute shops, great restaurants, and bars. And if you're a movie fanatic, plan a trip to the Utah city the last week of January to see the groundbreaking flicks at the Sundance Film Festival.
6. Patagonia, Argentina and Chile
There are plenty of places to visit in Argentina that will be super warm this time of year (our winter is their summer), but for active travelers who aren't looking for hot weather, this is a prime time to take on Patagonia. From November to February, you can expect lows around 40 degrees, making it ideal for hiking, visiting the region's glaciers, and checking out the landscape.
Van Gyn recommends checking out Bariloche from June through September—it's her favorite training spot during the North American summer months. "The idea of giving up our summer days to head south to winter is a bit backward, but trust me on this one," she says. "Bariloche is in Patagonia and perched above a humongous lake, so it feels like you are snowboarding above an ocean. The culture is rich and I always make a point of getting some days in Buenos Aries tango dancing and antique market shopping before running to the mountains."
7. Silverton, Colorado
Going to Silverton is like stepping into the past. "It's an old mining town from the 1800s, rich with gold rush history," Van Gyn says. "The town is just as you would have imagined it back then, but then add a few feet of champagne snow on top, and that's the visual you will get when you arrive." Sounds pretty cool, right? Most winter sports are done with the help of a guide here, since it's mainly a back-country resort. "The resort's open Thursday through Sunday, and on days off I would head to Bonnie Belle cabin to get in some touring and a little dose of cabin life at 12,000 feet."
8. Savannah, Georgia
No, Savannah isn't cold, but it happens to be a great place to visit in the winter, especially if you're not looking for somewhere freezing but also not in need of a tropical escape. "Call it the next Charleston," Han says. "Winter is low season in this history-rich city, with temperate weather but thinner crowds and lower prices." And if you're still looking for a holiday trip destination, this might be your place. "Savannah has a famous cocktail hour on New Year's Eve, where open-container laws are lax and the town takes to the many historic town squares. Charming hotels dominate on HotelTonight in this destination."
For an active twist to your trip, check out the running trails in Forsyth Park and hiking routes in Skidaway Island State Park. (Not sold on the whole hiking thing? These benefits will make you want to hit the trails.)
9. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole airport offers nonstop flights from 13 major U.S. cities, making it easy to get out west to this famous, remote American ski locale. Aside from the ski mountain, the nearby Yellowstone National Park is a veritable winter wonderland during the colder months, with fewer tourists than usual and *lots* of snow. The area is also home to the National Elk Refuge, which offers sleigh rides through the grounds during the winter. How could you pass that up?! (Don't forget to pack these winter workout clothes.)
10. Catskill Mountains, New York
This scenic landscape is ideal for nature lovers who want to explore the snowy trails. Stay at the chic Eastwind Hotel & Bar, in a room at the inn or in one of its luxury Scandinavian cabins called Lushnas. The hotel will outfit you with binoculars and bikes or hiking boots to tour the terrain, then you can unwind in the wood-barrel sauna. In winter, Saturday dinners are cooked over an open fire and served family style.
11. Quebec, Canada
There's no better place to experience wintry conditions than a city that celebrates them. Walk through beautiful Old Quebec, which is decorated in holiday lights until March. Visit the city's Winter Carnival, the largest in the world, and enjoy ice skating, night parades, and great food. Check out The Hotel de Glâce in Quebec, which is made from 15,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice, explore a snowshoe trail, or try the city's toboggan run. Then get cozy at Le Monastère des Augustines, a wellness center in a former monastery.
12. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Take advantage of the smaller crowds and moderate temps (high 30s to mid 60s), and try Joshua Tree's most famous activities: rock climbing and bouldering. Joshua Tree Rock Climbing School offers guided day classes and four-day sessions. (Not convinced? Here are all the reasons you should definitely try rock climbing right now.)
13. Philipsburg, Montana
After you get your fill of ice skating, sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling, the Ranch at Rock Creek can take you fat-tire biking, a type of winter mountain biking that's crazy fun and a great way to explore the six miles of trails around Rock Creek. There are also winter photography workshops, a fitness center, and a spa.
14. Portland, Maine
Portland has been gaining a serious reputation as a food city, with local ingredients and far-flung flavors. Eat breakfast at Rose Foods, a Jewish deli that serves Montreal-style bagels. Warm up over pho at Cong Tu Bot for lunch. Then enjoy a glass of (chemical-free, hand-harvested) wine with your dinner at Drifters Wife. Stay at the Danforth, a boutique hotel with a tasty small-plates breakfast.