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Window Seat or Aisle Seat / Winter Sports

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.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.04.05 AMThe Pink Rink in Boca Raton, Florida

I bet you didn’t expect Florida to be on the list of Wintery wonderlands. But the Boca Raton Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, offers your family the opportunity to not only surf the waves but to also put on a pair of skates and glide on their a new pink ice skating rink. The Pink Rink is a real ice-skating rink with “pink” ice. Measuring 85 feet by 40 feet, the ice rink accommodates up to 100 skaters and is open day and evening for open skating, group skating lessons and weekend and holiday figure-skating camps. Skating enthusiasts and first-time skaters will have the chance to meet World Professional Ice Skating Pair Champions Frank Sweiding and Anita Hartshorn. Additional season highlights include an annual Holiday Boat Parade with fireworks, a special appearance by Random House storybook costumed characters at a family holiday breakfast, beach bonfires and a New Year’s Eve block party with kids carnival and a line up of live entertainment. The rink will be open from November 1, 2013 through January 1, 2014 with a  portion of the proceeds going to American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. For more information and reservations, visit them online or call 1-888-495-BOCA

dog-sled.jpgDog Sled in Anchorage, Alaska

Traveling via float plane or ski plane the  Winterlake Lodge is located 198 trail miles northwest of Anchorage on the Iditarod National Historic Trail. Once there you and your family can learn to drive the family’s team of sled dogs with mushing lessons, trek on a glacier, cross-country ski, snowmobile, or snowshoe.  Though Winterlake Lodge is off-the-beaten path, it’s not with out first-class comforts. The hotel offers complimentary massage treatment, daily yoga classes, noteworthy cuisine, wine and cheese tastings, a hot tub, Frette bathrobes and L’Occitane amenities.

Winter Yoga and Apres Ski in Park City, Utah

Park City is known for its killer ski slopes.  But for something really memorable visit Washington School House Hotel, Park City’s newest luxury boutique hotel. They offer guests one of the most unusual family activities with Park City Yoga Adventures. You and your kids can go deep inside a 10,000-year-old crater at The Homestead Resort. There the instructor will demonstrate yoga poses from the dock while you move and bend on paddleboards that float in the 90-plus-degree natural therapeutic pool.

Polar Bears in Tybee Island, Georgia

Polar Bear Plunge - men in cold waterNew Year’s Day, Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 11 am, go ahead and test your mettle by taking a brisk plunge into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the 14th Annual Tybee Polar Plunge on Tybee Island, Georgia. With a $25 entry fee for adults, $15 for children under 12, you and your kids will have an unforgettable experience and receive a long-sleeve Tybee Polar Plunge t-shirt to boot. Tybee, Georgia is a quirky island paradise located just 20 minutes east of historic downtown Savannah, offering five miles of sandy beaches, and you can visit America’s most intact historic lighthouse complex. All proceeds benefit the restoration of the historic Tybee Post Theater. For more information about Tybee Island, please visit www.VisitTybee.com online or call 912.786.5444.

Snow Biking in Flagstaff, Arizona

How about spending a day mountain biking in the snow, using fat tire snow bikes. Primarily known for the 40 kilometers of groomed ski and snowshoe trails, the Flagstaff Nordic Center is now the home of the nation’s largest rental fleet of Surly brand Pugsley fat bikes (24 total) that can be used on all types of terrain including mud, ice and snow.
 During ski season 25 kilometers of groomed trails will be available for you and your kids to go fat tire bike riding.

Minnesota AKA Minnesnowta

skijoringMinnesota is known for its winters. Those families who choose to venture into the Northwestern United States can discover the beauty the icy cold in a few new and unusual ways. You and your kids can try ice fishing or skijoring (akak skiing with dogs). “Skijoring” technically refers to any sport in which a skier is pulled over the snow by a dog. No matter where you go in Minnesota, a cross-country ski, “skijoring,” or snowshoe trail is available. Even city parks, golf courses and resorts offer the sport.
 For a more relaxed and toasty activity, try Ice Fishing. Dozens of Minnesota resorts rent ice fish houses. Typically, they’re heated, carpeted, and furnished with table and chairs, and, of course, two to eight holes in the ice. The houses are positioned over good fishing areas scouted out by the resorts. “Sleeper” houses also have bunks and a cook stove. Or you can rent a day house and return to the comfort of an on-shore resort cabin or motel room.

Snowmobile in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Togwotee Mountain Lodge, just outside Jackson Hole, has been voted the number  1 snowmobiling destination in North America by American Snowmobiler Readers.  Togwotee offers both trail and backcountry riding, as well as guided excursions into Yellowstone National Park, Granite Hot Springs and other natural wonders around Jackson Hole. Seasoned snowmobile enthusiasts will find unmatched deep powder riding in the backcountry riding area of Bridger Teton National Forest, which is larger than the size of Delaware and averages 600+ inches of annual snowfall.  Togwotee Resort offers all-inclusive on location guest services, expert guides and a new fleet of the latest technology in mountain snowmobiles.

Whether you are planning for one of these more adventurous winter sport vacations for your family or sticking with the tried and true skiandsnowboardmonth.org is your one stop-stop for planning your family getaway. You’ll find everything you need like links to resort packages, lesson tips, the right gear to keep you and your kids warm. Then visit GetSkiTickets.com. They partner directly with ski resorts to provide “Steep & Deep” ski deals for skiing and snowboarding across North America. 
Check out deals on Discount lift tickets, season Pass deals, Ski & Snowboard lessons and Rental Equipment.

For more winter sports, check out:

By Kerri Zane for PeterGreenberg.com. Kerri Zane is a family travel expert and author of It Takes All 5: A Single Mom’s Guide to Finding the REAL One, on sale now. For more advice on health, parenting or Kerri’s exclusive MomEscapes, visit her at KerriZane.com.

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