Explore Antarctica, Fat-Bike in Alaska, SUP in Colorado, or hit the slopes at one of the best spots in the country.
Cristina Goyanes 1 / 9
From Alaska to Antarctica, we found the coolest snowy escapes for every kind of winter adventurer, not just skiers—though hitting the slopes is almost always an option. Bundle up with our awesome gear recs, too (your holiday lust list continues!), and discover a whole new winter wonderland beyond your backyard and driveway, which you can shovel (or not) when you return.
Exactly 100 years ago, British polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton set out to become the first man to cross Antarctica from coast to coast. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned. The ambitious expedition quickly turned into a heroic story of survival for Shackleton and his 28 men, who ended up having to navigate the world's most treacherous waters in small wooden lifeboats (amazingly, they all made it!). Today, the lure of the 7th continent is just as strong, but much safer. Quark Expedition's impressive 200-passenger vessels, such as the Ocean Endeavour (a real icebreaker complete with spa and sauna facilities, a gym, yoga center and heated salt-water pool) have been escorting modern-day polar explorers (all ages and fitness levels) across the infamous Drake Passage to the largest wilderness in the world. Getting there is only half the fun. Once on land, you have the incredibly unique opportunity to snowshoe, cross-country ski, kayak, camp, mountaineer, and, as of this season, stand-up paddleboard in the coldest, most remote and isolated place on the planet. Warning: You may want to pocket a penguin—they're so damn cute. (11 or 12-day all-inclusive packages start at $5,995; international flights and activities not covered)
Essential Gear: Quark Expeditions makes packing easy, providing all passengers with a yours-to-keep parka, plus borrowed boots and other necessary equipment for all excursions. Good thing, too, because there's a 20-kilo limit on your luggage to get on that private charter flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia for embarkation. Make weight with the Travex Expedition Drop Bottom Rolling Duffel ($199) from Eddie Bauer. The lightweight, large duffel made with a tough-as-nails nylon fabric is the perfect size to carry all your adventure-of-a-lifetime needs.
No need to park your bike in the winter anymore when you can swap skinny tires for fatties—3.7 to 5-inch-thick wheels on a sturdy mountain bike-like frame—that roll over any terrain, including fresh powder, all-year-round. Embracing one of the fastest-growing trends in cycling is Woodstock Inn & Resort in Woodstock, Vermont, where a new fat-tire biking program makes its debut this season. With 11 adult bikes in various sizes and four kid's bikes available to rent, guests can hit the beautifully-groomed 22 km multi-use trails (share 'em with cross-country skiers and snowshoers) with or without a guide. Once you've mastered shifting gears, braking, mounting and dismounting the bike in snow, enter Woodstock's eight-mile fat bike race with Vermont Overland on February 20. The event will draw more than 100 riders of all ages and abilities.
(3- to 5-mile tours and lessons cost $55 an hour per person; $45 an hour per person for small groups; hotel rates start at $250 midweek and $300 on weekends)
Essential Gear: Stand out on the trail, regardless of the conditions, in Specialized's Deflect Reflect Hybrid Jacket ($400). Not only will this wind-and-waterproof piece protect you from the elements, but also it will make you highly visible thanks to a reflective laminate that shines in low-light. Throw this on over a thermal, like the HH Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip Graphic made of non-itch merino wool ($95), to help regulate your body temps on chilly days.
With the world's first national park, Yellowstone, just a few miles away, Jackson Hole's Spring Creek Ranch offers skiers and snowboarders a unique break from the valley's legendary slopes in the form of a four-hour dawn or dusk winter safari. Taking in Wyoming's beauty starts right at the luxury mountain resort, which is located on a wildlife sanctuary overlooking the breathtaking Teton Mountain range, including the majestic 13,700-foot Grand Teton. From there, go on an uber-exclusive excursion—it happens only twice a year—in Yellowstone, where you'll get to see its world-renown geysers (oh hi, Old Faithful), boiling hot springs, and local residents, including bighorn sheep, elk, bald eagles, bears, coyotes, wolves and more (some 200 species call this place home).
(Offered February 2-7 and 24-28; starting at $3,199 per person based on double occupancy for five nights, including meals, accommodations, and guided tours)
Essential Gear: No point in going on safari without a camera to document your encounters. Protect your equipment in cold, wet conditions by stashing 'em in this waterproof Blocker Dry Sack from Sealine made of a durable, double-sealed polyurethane-coated nylon ($22.95 to $24.95). For smartphone photographers, use an eSeries 9.5 case, which fits the iPhone 6 Plus, to keep your precious device dry.
Between the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, Canada has proven one thing: They are excellent hosts. Which is why you won't want to miss the country's first international NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto this February 11-14. The biggest names in the sport today—Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry, plus some legends—will likely be there (the roster will be confirmed in January) as well as some other familiar faces, like Drake (this is Mr. Hotline Bling's hometown!). The Celebrity All-Star game that Friday night will also draw superstars, not to mention the artist performances at half-time won't disappoint. Warning: Tickets are going fast!
(Packages for the four-day event starts at $1,899 per person without hotel, or $2,599 per person with hotel for double occupancy)
Essential Gear: If last February's temps in Toronto are any indication (it dropped to -13.9º F!), you need to bundle up, even if you plan to spend most of the time indoors. Stay warm and stylish in the Novo Parka ($400) from Helly Hansen. This 600-fill down jacket—featuring waterproof fabric, handwarmer pockets, and internal pockets to stash your wallet, keys, and smartphone—helped Prince Harry and the United Kingdom's Walking with the Wounded team reach the South Pole in 2013, so it will definitely get you where you need to go, including Drake's afterparty.
Fat biking can help you make tracks in deep sand, thick mud, wet roots, slick rocks and just about any terrain. The snow, however, is where it got its start. Legend has it, some biker approached the organizer of the famous 1980's Iditarod Dog Sled Race in the Alaska about letting two-wheelers in on the fun. He agreed, and the Iditabike was born. Three decades later and long after Iditabike ended, fat biking enters the picture and changes the game. Today, the ultra-marathon, featuring fat-bike racers, cuts through the serene Winterlake Lodge on the western edge of the Alaska Range (198 miles north of Anchorage). Whether you're in the area for the Iditarod Trail Invitational on February 28, or just looking for a peaceful weekend escape, Winterlake is the perfect hub for you. Starting this January, the lodge will be offering guided fat-tire biking excursions on aluminum Kona bikes with 5-inch fat tires. Of course, you'll have access to the illustrious Iditarod Trail and about 20 km of trails around the lodge itself, but if you're looking for something even more remote, ask the lodge to give you a lift via helicopter to hard-to-reach trails, like the Denali Lookout loop. See if Carl Dixon is available to join you. The lodge's co-owner has been an Alaska backcountry guide since 1976, has summited Denali multiple times, and is a wilderness first-responder who has rescued many distressed travelers along the Iditarod Trail over the last 30 years.
(Packages start at $2,350 per person for a two-night stay, and includes all meals, round-trip transportation from Anchorage, all guided activities—fat-tire biking, dog mushing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobile tours—related gear and more)
Essential Gear: Keep track of wherever you go with the Microsoft Band 2 ($199), which works with most smartphones, including Windows, Android, and iPhones. The new-and-improved second generation of this fancy fitness tracker features 11 sensors, including GPS, a UV monitor and a barometer. In addition to watching your every step, it will now follow you on the bike, too (plus a golf course), offering real-time stats on your heart rate, calorie burn, and more.
The last thing you want to do is unintentionally go for a swim in a freezing river in the dead of winter. Which is why you will engage every muscle, especially your core, to make sure that you stay on your board while stand-up paddling downriver with Shaboomee. The leading SUP outfitter based out of Carbondale—a small mountain town with big charm and good eats nestled between Aspen and Glenwood Springs—is giving new meaning to “braving the cold” with an exciting program that allows people to paddle along spectacular stretches of waters, including the iconic Colorado River. Leave your swim trunks at home, polar plungers. Instead borrow a thick dry suit and booties that will keep you dry in case you do end up in the drink. Bring a warm hat and sunglasses (Colorado is impossibly sunny days all year round) so that you can take in the amazing views and unexpected wildlife around you. The river is surprisingly tranquil this time of year, so it might be a nice break from the busy nearby slopes, which you'll undoubtedly hit, too.
(Group lessons start from $150 for two people, including gear)
Essential Gear: Stash your camera, snacks, and extra accessories (i.e., gloves and hat, in case you decide to swim with the fishies) in this super-lightweight waterproof Drycomp Summit Sack from Outdoor Research ($80). This protective day-pack features a durable, reinforced nylon fabric that's made to withstand wet conditions and even temporary submersion.
7. Get in the Driver's Seat at the Snowcat Academy in Colorado
Sure, you can sit back and enjoy the ride—or you can quit being a passenger and see where the road takes you. That's exactly what Aspen's The Little Nell is proposing to guests at their new Snowcat Academy, aka Snowcat Skool. As part of the resort's year-old Skiing & Winter Adventures Program, expert instructors are debuting a chance to seize the joy-stick-like controls (your video game days will finally pay off!) and man the Prinoth Bison 360 Snowcat (said to be the lovechild of a Lamborghini and an F-15 fighter jet) at nearby Buttermilk Mountain. First Tracks on Ajax, Friday Powdercat Skiing, Sweep the Mountain with Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol and Groom the Mountain are just a few of the cool activities on the menu. The cat's wrap-around windows will give you and a guest (your lady or kid) a unique perspective of the beautiful snow-white scenery, plus a front seat view of your newly acquired badass skills as you push snow and groom trails of your own.
($875 for up to two people for about three hours, includes instructions and hot cocoa and sweets at The Nell; runs through April 2, 2016 except Thursdays)
Essential Gear: Don't just brag about it. Literally show your family and friends that you were in the driver's seat on the side of a steep mountain with the Sony X1000V 4K Action Cam with WiFi and GPS ($499.99). Featuring 4K video mode with high-end bitrate for maximum quality output (translation: its tech is Hollywood blockbuster worthy), they'll get the big picture, crisp and clear.
This January 8, more than 130 ski resorts across the country will be simultaneously showing beginners the ropes, er, slopes at exactly 10 a.m. as part of the world’s largest ski lesson, according to Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month (LSSM), which recently recruited Olympic Gold Medalist Kelly Clark as an ambassador. One place to sign up is Utah's Park City—the nation's largest resort, boasting 7,300 skiable acres, upgraded chairlifts and a new, high-speed eight-passenger Quicksilver Gondola. Park City is part of a $50-million capital improvement project that will transform two resorts, formerly Park City and Canyons, into one epic brand that will be available at the start of this season. If Utah is too far, find a participating resort and great deals on rentals, lessons, and lift tickets near you at LearnToSkiandSnowboard.org. Added incentive: Alpine skiing burns an average of 500 calories an hour. Cross-country skiing torches even more—an average day on the groomed trails may help you blast up to 4,200 calories, or 53 buffalo chicken wings.
Essential Gear: Après-ski, strip down to the chicest thermals in town with the new lululemon Metal Vent Tech Thermal Crew & Tight ($78 each). Enjoy your hard-earned cocktails in comfort in these sweat-wicking tights and long-sleeve crew that are made of an anti-stink and chafe-resistant material.