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The Best Family Winter Sports Activities to Try in 2014

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Credit Vail Resorts.There’s more to family winter sports than ski school. This month, Kerri Zane dedicates her Window Seat or Aisle Seat column to 10 of the most innovate new winter sports the whole family can try out together.

A brisk chill has hit the air and for many of us snow is beginning to stick to the ground. These are clear signs that the official winter season has begun. It also means that fun family snow adventures are on the menu. Certainly, skiing, snowboarding, sledding and ice skating will top your list of active seasonal getaways. I endeavored to seek out and share a few unusual, out-of-the-box, and memorable cold weather family-friendly getaways, across the U.S., for you and your children.

Chillcation in Chicago, Illinois

You think winter when it comes to Chicago, but not necessarily winter sports. Turns out the city is home to a one-of-kind city-country vacation package. Chicago Hilton Hotels are offering an innovative combo of Chillcation, available at Hilton Chicago, The Palmer House, or Conrad Chicago, now through April 20, 2014. The package lets you enjoy everything that the big city has to offer, as well as easy access to snowy acitivities.  Northerly Island, a quick 15 minutes away from town, is where you and your family can enjoy a day of snowtrekking with snowshoes and/or cross-country skies. The island is a 91-acre peninsula where you can traverse among winter birds and native animals while still being able to view Chicago’s skyline.  While on the island engage in a good old-fashioned snowball fight or build a snowman. Then, after a day in the cold, head back to your hotel for the lux side of your holiday. Upon check-in you will receive an insulated travel mug to use during your entire stay. This is important because the hotel offers unlimited refills of coffee or tea. Kids will stay warm inside-out with never-ending hot chocolate, whipped cream and marshmallows.

HH_chillcationtxt_710x406_FitToBoxSmallDimension_CenterWhile you are in the city you can ice skate at Millennium Park, window shop on the Magnificent Mile, (or Mag-mile as the locals call it), or visit the Art Institute, which houses some of the world’s most renown paintings. If you want to just chill in your room all day you can do that with movies and room service. Or go out, without getting cold, and eat at one of the hotels AAA four-star restaurants. I sampled tasty bites of dishes like braised short ribs with couscous, Skuna Bay salmon with ginger, cucumber, yuzu cream and rye soil (yes, rye soil! You’ve got to see it to believe it) and of course the best part dessert. I had a caramelia chocolate ganache with hazelnut sponge cake and mango sorbet.

Ice Climbing Wall in Des Moines, Iowa

Is anyone up for some silo ice climbing? About a dozen years ago, local climber Don Briggs converted a silo located outside of Cedar Falls into an ice-climbing wall. The eight-story structure is covered with ice and is open every winter, as long as temperatures stay below 26 degrees. More than 300 people have season passes, so it must be fun! Gear is provided on site with staff available to assist. Children must be at least 10 years old.

Cross-Country Ski the Distance in Kingfield, Maine

flaghutjan764x297For an off-the-grid family experience try Maine Huts & Trails. Located in rural Kingfield, Maine,
this outdoor adventure destination is made up of 4 eco-lodge huts (each hut
location includes single and group bunkhouses as well as bathhouses and main
lodges with libraries and dining halls), connected by 50+ miles of trails.
 These non-motorized trails offer stunning views of Maine’s scenic Western
Mountain range (and even neighboring Sugarloaf Mountain). It is the longest hut-to-hut
 luxury cross-country skiing and snowshoeing available in the US. Each hut
also offers home-cooked meals, using locally sourced organic ingredients, 
local craft beer and wine, comfortable beds, bathrooms with hot
showers, and shuttles to transport gear from hut to hut.  Before you leave the state hop over a little further Southwest for a zip line tour at Sunday River Ski Resort.