8 Ideas for “Winter-Fun” Getaways

Iceland snowmobile
This winter fun actually occurred in the summertime–Icelandic glacial snowmobiling in June. Luckily there are plenty of places to experience this sort of thing in or within driving distance of PA.

Like it or not winter is coming, so it’s time to get prepared.

Jon Snow Halloween Costume
That was just a cheap ploy to show off my Jon Snow Halloween costume.

My friends and I have started to plan our annual pilgrimage to Lake Placid, for our annual “winter fun” trip. This will be our third year going and honestly I’m in love with the town and area. It’s got everything I look for in a perfect winter trip: breath taking scenery, lots of snow, moose crossing signs (kidding, mostly), a fun downtown area with some nightlife and plenty of winter activities to choose from.

You might be thinking to yourself, don’t you mean a ski trip? You could think of it that way, only I don’t downhill ski, so while I’ve been on trips before where others have done so, I’m always on the lookout for locations that offer more than just skiing. I look for cross country, snowshoeing, snowmobile rentals, nightlife and breweries, something to keep everyone entertained.

While Lake Placid is definitely a go, I’d like to try and get on as many “winter fun weekends” as I can. I enjoy snow sports and the feel of ski towns. I’m hoping to make at least two additional locales on the list below besides Lake Placid and hope to try dogsledding and possibly some ice climbing if I’m brave enough.

Below is a list of the places I’m considering.  Some are in PA, others are a bit of a drive, but what they all have in common is an abundance of winter activity to partake in.

1) Lake Placid, NY-

I’ve written extensively about my trips to Lake Placid here and here, so check them out for all the gory details. Lake Placid is fun because the town is legitimately all about winter sports in generally, probably because the winter Olympics were held here in 1932 and 1980, and many of the stadiums and complexes used during those games are still in use around town, maintained by the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA). You can XC ski, snowshoe, ice skate, ice climb, bobsled, luge and visit a ski jump in Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain is only minutes away if you do want to downhill ski. Try to plan your trip during a full moon to take advantage of the Cascade Ski Center full moon party.

2) Jim Thorpe, PA-

Jim Thorpe is known as a great outdoor adventure spot right here in Pennsylvania.  While it’s primarily known for rafting and biking, those same trails can be used for XC skiing or snow shoeing. Mauch Chunk Lake Park has over 18 miles of trails and on President’s Day weekend the town holds it’s annual Winterfest . Outside Magazine rated the Lehigh Gorge trail as one of the 50 best bike rides in the country, so why not strap on some XC skis and see if it ranks up there in the winter as well?

3) Elk Mountain, PA-

So I’m trying to sell you on my homeland of NEPA once again. I grew up 15 minutes from Elk Mountain and while, again, I don’t ski, this is where my siblings and friends always went growing up (slash, still go). Elk is seemingly one of the last ski mountains to only offer skiing, but NEPA is perfect for XC skiing, snowmobiling, and snow shoeing.  If you want to know some great places to go, shoot me and email or direct tweet and I could fill you in on where I go. If you need rentals, head to Chet’s bar, a few minutes away from Elk (you could stay there too). The Inn at Starlight Lake also has rentals, but it’s a bit of a drive. Check out my post on the “Northern Tier Tour” for a list of bars in the area you could drink, eat, and stay at.

4) Pocono Manor, PA-

I basically picked the Inn at Pocono Manor because of one of my recent posts. The main draw here? Arctic Paws dogsledding tours. The inn also has XC ski rentals and snow shoeing, snowmobiling, ice skating, ice fishing, and winter horseback riding. It’s also conveniently here in PA and close to Camel Back if you want to downhill ski.

5) The PA Grand Canyon

I covered the PA Grand Canyon in one of this summer’s “Weekend Trip Idea” posts and mentioned that I would like to go this winter for some winter hiking, XC skiing or snowshoeing. Pine Creek rail-trail maintains 60+ miles of trail on the floor of the canyon. You can contact the Tioga County Visitors bureau for rentals or guided tours.

6) Stowe VT-

Stowe Vermont is largely known for the ski resort of the same name.  The town is famous for not having any chains but does have an abundance of bars, restaurants and specialty shops.  The resort is located on Mt. Mansfield, which is the highest Mountain in Vermont. You could take a toll road to the top for great views and the resort has a Nordic Center and dogsled rides as well. The town is home to the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum as well as the Trapp Family Lodge, whose proprietors escape from Nazi Germany is what The Sound of Music is loosely based on.  You could snowshoe, XC ski, and go maples syruping at the lodge which also brews their own German style brew.

7) Hunter Mountain, NY and The Catskills

A bunch of my friends and I took a trip to Hunter Mountain NY a couple of years ago. We rented a house and went winter zip-lining on Saturday and some of the group woke up early to ski on Sunday. It was a fun weekend, but don’t expect much nightlife or anything other than outdoor activity. Hunter Mountain is out there and there wasn’t much of a ski town.


Ziplining at Hunter Mountain back in the day (3 years ago).
Ziplining at Hunter Mountain back in the day (3 years ago).

If zip lining  or skiing isn’t your cup of tea head to Bear Creek Restaurant for horseback riding or snowmobile rentals and Mountain Trails offers snow shoe or XC skiing on groomed trails.  If ziplining was too tame for you, try Alpine Endeavors for a day of ice climbing.

8) Warren, VT-

The last entry on my list is where I think I’d most like to go after Lake Placid, Warren Vermont.

Warren Vermont Is an extremely small location where Sugarbush Ski Resort is located. It’s the third largest ski resort in the US and sits in Vermont’s Mad River Valley (which is a great name for a valley) which has SO MUCH to do besides from the skiing at Sugarbush and nearby Mad River Glen. Like most of the other resorts on this list, Sugarbush offers XC skiing, snowshoeing and also ice fishing.

I really like that Sugarbush has a page on it’s website specifically for 20-somethings, giving them discounts and ideas for eating, barcrawling (mainly in nearby Waitsville) and lodging (such as the Tevere Hostel).

There’s a ton of Cross Country skiing options besides for Sugarbush, as well as snow shoeing, including an option for a full moon trek. I like the Mad River Valley because there’s a lot of off-beat options for you to do.

One of the first is Sail-Plane riding, which I’m sure elicits tons of gorgeous scenery. You could go horseback riding, on the only Icelandic horse farm in the US. But my favorite is skijoring, a mix of XC ski and dogsledding

Icelandic Horse
Hanging with the Icelandic horse I rode this June who may or may not have hated me.

Mad River Valley has 25 craft breweries scattered around. I think there’s literally nothing better than getting hammered during a blizzard. They have a Vermont Bed and Brew package which sounds amazing. For just $85 a night you get lodging and a bus to take you to several breweries on a Saturday.

Anything I miss? You have a favorite winter-fun destination? Share your stories and let me know!

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