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Winter Escapes

Play in the snow. Soak up the sun. Revel in the urban scene. Here are 25 vacation destinations guaranteed to cure you of that mid-winter Minnesota cabin fever.

Winter Escapes

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Indianhead Mountain

At Indianhead Mountain Resort (indianheadmtn.com), near Wakefield, Michigan, there’s a pretty good chance that the morning will bring a blanket of fresh snow.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula gets twice the annual snowfall of any spot in Minnesota—more than 200 inches on average. The downhill skiing season starts early and lasts deep into spring. The lodge at Indianhead, located two-and-a-half hours from Duluth, sits on top of the hill, so you can park, strap on your skis, and drop 638 vertical feet in a matter of minutes. Indianhead has plenty of variety with several steep pitches, and nearly half of the 29 runs are rated “expert.” But you don’t necessarily have to be a double-black-diamond daredevil to enjoy yourself: There are two parks for novices, too.

STAY: Most convenient for lodging are the resort’s village chalets and trailside condos. Prices range from $327 to $739 during peak season.

EAT: Prepare meals in the kitchenette or stop by one of the lodge restaurants. For a regional favorite, pick up a pasty, the meat pie that the Finnish miners who settled the Gogebic Iron Range ate, at Randall Bakery (906-224-5401) in Wakefield.

GETTING THERE: Located 270 miles northeast of the Twin Cities.


Have a Jack London adventure—without the grisly ending. Paul Schurke and Will Steger led a team to the North Pole in 1986, and Schurke is still exploring the north by dogsled, now with tourists in tow. Most accessible of the tours offered by his Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge (dogsledding.com) are the three- and four-day trips over the frozen lakes and snow-covered portages of canoe country. By day, drive your own sled and dog team through the rugged landscape of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. At night, tuck into a hot meal and enjoy the comforts of a private, lakeshore log cabin near Ely.

STAY: Options vary by package, which range in price from $575 to $1,475. Guests on top-of-the-line trips stay in private cabins or a suite of rooms at the Blue Heron Inn. Arrangements are made by Wintergreen.

EAT: Evening meals are part of the package.

GETTING THERE: Located 255 miles north of the Twin Cities.

Yellowstone National Park

Snowmobiling in the granddaddy of national parks? Motorized recreation in Yellowstone remains controversial, but today’s machines are cleaner and quieter than those of yesteryear. Touring the unplowed park roads, you’ll see bison and elk, and quite possibly wolves. A favorite snowmobiling destination is Old Faithful, of course, and the nearby geysers and hot springs. No freelancing here, though; snowmobilers must travel with a commercial guide and stick to established routes at all times. You’ll find great sledding outside the park, as well, in the Gallatin, Beaverhead, and Targhee national forests. For a list of outfitters and guides at each park entrance, visit nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit.

STAY: It’s not lavish, but you do get your own log cabin at Hibernation Station (hibernationstation.com) on the edge of West Yellowstone, one of the gateways to the park.

EAT: At Sydney’s Mountain Bistro (406-646-7660), on Canyon Street in the midst of West Yellowstone, don’t miss your chance to order the Porterhouse pork chop, stuffed with applewood-smoked bacon and Fontina cheese. Specials occasionally feature grass-fed Montana beef.

GETTING THERE: You can pack up your own gear, hitch up the trailer, and drive the 1,060 miles from Minneapolis to Yellowstone. Or hop on one of the daily direct flights offered by Northwest Airlines to Bozeman or Billings,
Montana, and rent sledding equipment there.

Skiing the Gunflint Trail

More than 100 miles of groomed trails wind among the hills, cliffs, and conifer forests that line the Gunflint Trail (gunflint-trail.com) in northern Minnesota, making it a magnet destination for cross-country skiers. Maintained by local resort owners, the trails are concentrated in three spots: just outside Grand Marais (Pincushion Mountain touts a network of 15 miles), halfway up the trail (40 miles of trail ensure you’ll get your share of solitude), and near the end of the Gunflint (50 miles). Most are tracked for traditional “diagonal-stride” skiing. Some are also groomed for skate-skiing. Skiers yearning for overnight adventure can also travel yurt-to-yurt on the 18-mile Banadad Trail through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Bearskin Lodge (bearskin.com), 26 miles northwest of Grand Marais, is one of the classiest lodges along the trail—and the surrounding trails offer plenty of outing options.

Justine’s, at Gunflint Lodge (gunflint.com), serves huge breakfasts as well as upscale dinners.

Located 275 miles northeast of the Twin Cities.

Downhill in Utah

Alta Mountain, just a 30-minute drive from Salt Lake City, has been catering to downhill-skiing fanatics since 1938. (Even now, no snowboarders are allowed.) Perched at the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Range, the mountain rises to 10,550 feet and boasts a vertical plunge of more than 2,000 feet. On average, snowfall measures more than 500 inches annually (more than 40 feet!). The 2,200-acre ski area (much of it left as Mother Nature shaped it) has 116 runs with wide-open powder, near-vertical chutes, and narrow gullies. Alta’s a value compared to other resorts in the area, and the season lasts on average from late November till tax time.

If you want to stay on site, rather than in Salt Lake, the Rustler Lodge (rustlerlodge.com) offers the option of a spa visit after a day on the slopes.

For lunch, pick up homemade soups and sandwiches at Albion Grill (albiongrill.com). For dinner in town, visit the Shallow Shaft Restaurant (shallowshaft.com), with an emphasis on good wine, local foods (including game), and innovative preparations.

Daily direct flights to Salt Lake City from Northwest and Delta airlines.


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