Dog sled, snow tube, ski, luge, and kiss pent-up energy goodbye
While the holidays might have made a magical start to winter, your family is probably climbing the walls with cabin fever by now. A change of scenery can do wonders to shake off seasonal blues. Make incredible vacation memories, even in the cold. Here are ten spots for snow and ice adventures—no meltdowns (almost) guaranteed.
Dog Sled and Dine in a Yurt in Big Sky, Montana
Watch your family’s spirits soar in Big Sky, Montana where snow-kissed mountains awaken a sense of adventure. Skiing is the name of the game at Big Sky Resort, the third-largest ski resort in North America, but you can also book a dog sledding adventure and share a candle-lit dinner in a backcountry yurt. Strap up a team of excited Alaskan huskies and mush through the mountains with Spirit of the North Sled Dog. Ride a snowcat up Lone Peak to a wood stove-warmed Montana Dinner Yurt. Your bellies will be cozy too, full of cheesy French onion soup, tender filet mignon, and Toblerone chocolate fondue. Live music accompanies the dinner, plus you and the kids will have a ball sledding in the torch-lit evening snow.
Snowmobile in Yellowstone National Park
Most roads in Yellowstone National Park are closed to car traffic from mid-December to mid-March, but you can zoom around the scenic landscape via snowmobile or snow coach. Sign up for a guided tour with Two Top Snowmobile Rental and spend the day gliding around the Old Faithful Geyser Basin or Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (December 15, 2022-February 28, 2023). Feel the snowy breeze on your face as you ride a single or double Ski-Doo past bubbling paint pots, herds of bison, and other natural wonders in the quietest time to visit the park. Full-day guided tours provide all the gear and park knowledge to allow you to fully geek out. Depart out of West Yellowstone, not from Big Sky and Bozeman, in a group of up to nine sleds.
Sleep in an Ice Hotel in Quebec City, Canada
If you’ve daydreamed about snoozing in an ice hotel, you don’t have to go as far as Sweden to make your icy visions a reality! Hotel de Glace is an unforgettable overnight experience outside of Quebec City, Canada. Each winter, a new ice hotel is built with a unique theme. When I stayed, it was a circus motif with carvings of juggling bears and jesters. There’s a slide, ice bar, hot tubs, and a sauna under the stars. Snuggle up in a cold weather sleeping bag and get some zzz’s on an ice bed in an igloo room. During the day, snow tube at the largest winter playground in North America at Village Vacances Valcartier (the on-site hotel), splash in the indoor water park, or play Pac-Man at the arcade.
Luge, Sled, and Ski in All-Inclusive Club Med Charlevoix, Canada
The first mountain Club Med in Canada, the Charlevoix location opened outside of Quebec in December 2021. Seize your vacation days with unlimited ski-in/ski-out access, included childcare, ample activities, and almost endless food. Ski through forest or powder, ice skate, dog sled, snowshoe, or sled. Drink in views of the snowy mountain or frozen river while the kids splash around the indoor pool, partake in tournaments and games, or zen out with a hot stone massage at the spa, then retreat to a spacious family suite. Kids under 4 stay free. For an additional fee, take an excursion to a 4.66-mile luge course that will make you squeal with winter excitement.
Ride SnoGo Bikes and Cosmic Tube in Winter Park, Colorado
Winter Park is only 67 miles outside of Denver, yet it is an epic mountain playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Shred like never before with a SnoGo ski bike. It’s like skiing on a bicycle, which might be an interesting alternative for those who are nervous about skiing or open to trying a different way to glide down the mountain. New this year, Cosmic Tubing is available Thursdays through Saturdays 5-7 p.m. Neon lights brighten the night as you and your family slide down the track. You can also ski and snowboard, tour via snowcat or snowshoe, ice skate, indulge in mountaintop après, and do sun salutations in mountain yoga.
Celebrate at Great Northern Festival in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minnesotans know how to embrace the cold. Join them in one of the world’s best winter festivals, the Great Northern January 25-February 5, 2023. The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships and St. Paul Winter Carnival are part of the festival, which gives snow and ice center stage. Kids can race through 2-miles of winter obstacles in the Kidarod, an event inspired by Alaska’s dog sled race. Then warm your hands and hearts with indoor performances of music and dance. Interactive public art exhibits educate us on climate change, reminding us why low temperatures are important too.
Extreme Sled and Fat Tire Bike in Breckenridge, Colorado
Families flock to Breckenridge, Colorado for Rocky Mountain ski resorts and small-town vibes. This former mining town boasts killer slopes for skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and hiking. Have you heard of extreme sledding? Soar down Country Boy Mine’s high-speed sledding track. It’s over a half-mile long with twists and turns that will slather a smile across everyone’s faces. Don’t worry, a sleigh or snowcat will bring you back up to the top for three more runs. You can also tour the mine and pan for gold. Fat tire biking is an excellent winter challenge for those looking to try something new. Be warned, it takes some effort to balance on slippery snow trails but it can be rewarding for those that get the hang of it. It’s best to try fat tire biking with a guide, such as one from Breckenridge Gold Run Nordic Center.
Ice Skate, Ski, and Snowshoe at Yosemite National Park
Winter is an especially serene time to visit Yosemite National Park. Be surrounded by Giant Sequoias, massive cliffs, and frosty waterfalls. Feel like you’re in a snow globe as you skate around Curry Village Ice Rink. Drink in views of Half Dome as you glide across the ice, then warm up with s’mores around outdoor fire pits. Ski at the family-friendly Badger Pass Ski Area or take a guided snowshoe hike. The wintery weather reduces the number of visitors, but the temperatures should still be around 50 degrees with sunny skies.
Watch a Fire & Ice Show or Walk Through an Immersive Light Show in Whistler, Canada
Whistler Blackcomb boasts the most ski terrain in North America, making it a perfect destination for families with beginner skiers to Black Diamond experts. Those that aren’t interested in skiing can ride the Whistler Blackcomb gondolas, the longest continuous lift system on Earth, between mountains and to their next après adventure. Free Fire & Ice Shows light up Sunday nights. Skiers and snowboarders jump and flip through rings of fire, with music, dancing, and a whole lot of pizazz. New Vallea Lumina is an immersive night walk through the forest with an interactive light show. Families can also cross-country ski, snowshoe, ice skate, tube, and zipline (yes, even in the winter!).
Ride Horses in the Snow in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
Family-owned Sundance Trail Guest Ranch is a dude ranch adjacent to the Roosevelt National Forest that operates a Country Inn season from mid-September to mid-May. Lodging, meals, and daily horseback rides are included. Saddle up for trail rides through the snow (horses that are great with children are available), then unplug in the hot tub. Play pool, shuffleboard, or foosball with the staff, if you’re up for making new friends. Family-style, Western meals are served in the dining room with staff for more story swapping. Dogs, barn cats, goats, and chickens are also around for interaction. Kids love to roam the property, help feed the animals and check for eggs. Feel the wide open spaces elevate your moods and improve your winter family time.
Editor’s note: The writer visited most of the above destinations on press trips, but all opinions are her own.