By guest blogger Blair deLaubenfels
Does the idea of a winter wedding complete with sleigh rides, making tracks through fresh powder, hot toddies, and friends around a roaring fire make you feel warm and cozy inside, but the idea of planning for one leaves you cold? Then try these 5 tips for simplifying winter wedding planning.
1. Choose a resort that offers something for everyone. North America is full of fabulous places to ski and snowboard, but not all of your guests will be enthusiastic about heading to the slopes. Pick a location that offers a wide range of activities and choices for everybody. Resorts like Whistler, Breckenridge and Vail offer first class nightlife, dining and shopping, as well as plenty of other relaxing and entertaining options for guests of all ages.
2. Hire a local consultantEven if you're quite familiar with the area you've chosen, finding a highly recommended wedding planner who has lots of experience planning weddings at that destination is a must. Ask for references and check them. Once you've found someone you're comfortable working with, set a budget you can live with and supply the consultant with as much information about the preferences of the guests on your list as you can. Stay in close contact as changes arise.
3. Book early. Peak times at coveted ski resorts are often booked a year or more in advance, so be sure that you get your reservations all set 12 to 18 months before your wedding. Send out invitations as soon as you've made your arrangements so friends and family have plenty of time to schedule time off and travel.
4. Help your guests planHave your consultant provide a detailed itinerary to each person attending. Be sure that it includes a map of the area, transportation arrangements to and from accommodations and events, an hourly time-line for your wedding day and the days leading up to it, as well as contact information for your consultant and local emergency numbers. In addition, guests who aren’t familiar with ski resort living will appreciate a packing list with all the items necessary for them to keep warm and safe.
5. Consider taking your photographer with you. Seattle wedding consultant Dianne Greene, of Distinctive Weddings and Events, recommends that you hire a photographer who lives near you so that you can meet and see their work before your wedding. When your photos and album are ready you'll be able to pick them up in person, insuring that you get what you paid for.
Blair deLaubenfels is Senior Editor for Junebug Weddings.
Photo supplied by Whistler photographer David Buzzard
Orbitz released its second Annual Orbitz Ski Insiders Index, where stats from their site and trends in the ski industry are analyzed and the result is a top 10 list of the most popular U.S. ski destinations for the year. It's the usual suspects, although I was surprised to see Snowmass.
For 2006-2007 skier visits, Orbitz predicts these will rank top 10:
- Breckenridge, CO
- Mammoth Lakes, CA
- Lake Tahoe, CA
- Park City, UT
- Steamboat Springs, CO
- Winter Park, CO
- Jackson Hole, WY
- Aspen, CO
- Vail, CO
- Snowmass, CO
Puget Sound Journey's Nov/Dec issue has a great article on how snowshoeing is "an escape from both urban and ski-resort crowds." As winter blusters its way in, snow fans who want to get their fill of the powder, but away from the crowds and off the beaten path, can reap magnificent rewards with snowshoeing. It's a great group sport for the following reasons:
- Like skiing, you can snowshoe at your own pace. Like hiking, this often leads to good conversation with various members of the group, depending on your speed, etc. Unlike skiing, you rarely lose your group to lifts and runs and mostly stick together yet with the freedom hiking allows to stop and snack, look at vistas, etc.
- Safety in numbers: Should avalanche danger exist, or one person gets injured, there are multiple people to take action and mitigate problems or help in any other way.
- Orientation: If solo trekking while snowing, your tracks can easily get erased with new snow, causing some disorientation of where the trail is or which way is north; therefore, it's always good to count on at least one other to share responsibilities for staying on track.
- Unique way to "walk" in nature and share an outdoors experience.
- Photo ops: You won't just get scenic shots. You can get proof you were there by having a friend take your photo next to Mt. Spectacular and email it to your mom.
- Green travel in action: Snowshoeing is one of the best ways to experience winter without noise pollution (as in snowmobiling), expensive gear (as in skiing + lift tickets), and low impact on the environment (it's essentially you, the elements, and your snowshoes).
Any other reasons snowshoeing is either neat-o in general or eco-friendly? Any other tips for people organizing group snowshoeing trips?
Carving around corners, bumping down moguls, breathing in cool mountain air and sweeping views. Ah, the essence of skiing. What a rush. Plus, there's also the company of like-minded ski aficionados. Ski villages offer whatever nightlife you crave, from a quiet family dinner to dance floors for shaking your groove thing with friends.
Boarders and skiers put their passion for powder to practice on slopes across North America from mid-November through March (later if snowfall permits). Skiing is an ideal activity for groups, fostering camaraderie and a healthy dose of competition among friends and family. It allows adventure-seekers to vacation together, skiing off on separate runs if desired and meeting up at the lift lines to swap slope stories. At the day’s end, everyone regroups for some après ski activities. Here’s a guide with tips and resources to help you plan your group ski trip with ease.
Planning Ski Trips
- Find a mountain and ski resort for your group
- Invite friends, family, or team/club members (ski team, church group, school mates, professional organization members)
- Discuss trip details with travel companions
- Create an event schedule of dinner reservations and other key itinerary details
- Shop for flights, hotels, rental cars, activities and attractions and share booking details
Ski Trip Checklist
When planning a group ski trip, there are plenty of factors to keep in mind. Does anyone in the group require child care for their kids? Is anyone interested in taking group ski lessons and how varied are the ski skill levels? Is everyone buying group lift tickets before arriving or while there? Here's a quick list of things to consider before you go:
- Lift tickets
- Ski rentals
- Group discounts
- Group ski lessons
- Ski lessons for kids
- Daycare for kids
- Restaurant reservations
- Bulk food assignments made (who's bringing what?)
- Hotel or rental home reservations
- Pet-friendly hotel rooms, condos, or houses
- Extra gear for those who may have forgotten gloves, goggles, hats, wool socks
Top Ski Resorts in North America
Take your pick of ski areas, states, and snow conditions for the upcoming ski season and start planning your ski trip. Since there are simply too many ski areas to list, but here are 10 popular ski resorts for groups for starters (in no particular order):
- Vail Ski Resort, Colorado
- Breckenridge Ski Resort, Colorado
- Heavenly Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe
- Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort, British Columbia
- Steamboat Ski Resort, Colorado
- Mammoth Lakes Ski Resort, California
- Killington Ski Resort, Vermont
- Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort, Colorado
- Park City Ski Resort, Utah
- Jackson Hole Ski Resort, Wyoming
Ground Transportation Options
Find out what options are available at the airport and ski resort your group is heading to. If you're on a budget, shuttle services offer group rates. One of the greatest benefits of a group trip is being able to split costs such as transportation to and from venues.
- Shuttle service – There are usually private services that transfer you from airports to your hotel or ski resort area. Some ski resorts themselves even offer airport transportation to and from their resort. Call ahead so you find the best deal for your group.
- Private limo
- Rent cars, SUVs, vans
- Hotel/resort transportation service
- Friend as chauffer – best option if available
Ski-In, Ski-Out Accommodations
Convenient for those who plan to spend most of their trip skiing, you can save gas and glide right outside your hotel door. Hotels, condos, and resorts can all fall into this category. Examples include Snake River Lodge & Spa in Jackson Hole, Sunshine Inn (Banff's only ski-in/ski-out hotel), and The Loft at the Mountain Village 3-bedroom condo in Park City.
Vacation Rental Homes
One of the best ways to enjoy a group ski trip is by renting an entire house. I've done this several times and it's usually been the best option.
TripHub allows you to discuss, plan, and make decisions on group activities with your trip mates all in one central location, saving you the hassle of sending a zillion emails to coordinate.
- Shopping – Most ski resorts cater to skiers and the fact that you're a relatively captive audience, having traveled through snow-covered roads to the mountain. So there's plenty of shopping variety from apparel boutiques to candy shops to cafés to video rental stores.
- Sightseeing – Whether driving or flying in for a weekend getaway or vacation with friends or family, ski destinations often have more to offer than just mountain with slopes. There may be historical or art museums/galleries, or nearby attractions such as lakes to explore. Find out what interests your group most and offer suggestions before the trip.
- Nightlife, Restaurants & Bars – You can always find a variety of restaurants, many of them high-end, to recharge after a day on the slopes. And all major ski resorts (Whistler, Vail, etc.) have nightlife equally as invigorating as the day life (if you're in a party mood). But there are also quaint, charming pubs and restaurants as well as the cheap eateries. If your group is set on a certain type of food or restaurant, book reservations as early as possible to ensure a seat.
Wintry Activities – Numerous ski resorts give snowbirds other ways to play in the snow either before or after they ski (or when taking a day off of the slopes):
- Ziptrek or ziplines through treetops
- Dog sledding
- Cross-country skiing (most major ski areas have trails for this, including Lake Tahoe, Telluride, Stowe, The Canyons, Sun Valley, and smaller resorts around the continent)
- Massages at spas
- Ski history includes Swedes and Russians hunting on skis, Norwegians popularizing the sport in the 1700s, the Winter Olympic Games in 1936 including alpine skiing for the first time, and Austria and Switzerland developing the first ski resorts shortly after World War II.
- Historical ski cartooning – who knew such a thing existed? – includes a look at ski humor from 1500 to the present. My favorite is a cover page cartoon from The New Yorker.
- The U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame, located in Michigan, was born in 1956.
Best of the Web (Ski Related Links)
Photo: Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau
Nothing could be finer than to plan your ski trip using a virtual map where you zoom into all major landmarks. Ski.com offers the first of its kind. Hotelmarketing.com reports on Ski.com's new 3D ski resort maps, giving a thorough report. The gist is this:
"Travelers who wish to virtually explore ski towns such as Aspen, Snowmass, Vail and Breckenridge are able to view interactive maps featuring 3D views of the town and the mountain. With the click of the mouse, the map allows the user to rotate, zoom in and out and tilt the view down to street level revealing topographical details including runs, lifts and accommodations available. Travelers can then quickly and easily identify where each property is located in relation to the things that matter most to them, whether it is the convenience of a ski in and out location or near shopping."
They only have 9 maps live, but they are working on others. Play around and send them your feedback.
Prepping for winter with deep lunges to get those quads in shape for swooping down the mountain? Waxing your skis? If your idea of adventure includes snowflakes, slopes, and skiing, this guide's for you.
2006-07 ski season is only a couple of months away, but there are book early ski deals already percolating, and dozens of resorts getting reading for a snowy winter. Travelocity has the most comprehensive list of North American ski resorts I've ever seen. Clean and simply indexed with links to all the key/basic info you need (including resort phone numbers, vertical feet of skiing and boarding terrain, and more). Have a look and start planning your snowboarding or skiing trip.
10 top ski resorts for groups (in no particular order):
- Whistler - British Columbia, Canada
- Vail - Colorado, USA
- Steamboat - Colorado, USA
- Breckenridge - Colorado, USA
- Banff - Alberta, Canada
- Mammoth Lakes - California, USA
- Park City - Utah, USA
- Beaver Creek - Colorado, USA
- Heavenly - Lake Tahoe, California, USA
- Killington - Vermont, USA
In the crook of California's elbow lies a playland of great natural beauty, world-class ski slopes, Vegas-style entertainment, and plenty of gold-rush history. Straddling the northern Sierras where California and Nevada meet is the region's crown jewel: Lake Tahoe, the nation's highest alpine lake of its size and its second deepest (after Oregon's Crater Lake). With a shoreline measuring 72 miles long, this brilliant cobalt lake draws sun-worshippers to its many beaches during summer; come November, ski aficionados gather into groups and flock to the slopes of more than a dozen ski resorts in the area. And it's not just deep powder and groomed runs that make this region a wintertime paradise: wide-open valleys are crossed with trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dog-sledding, sleigh rides, and backcountry telemark skiing. After the spring snow melt, all this open wilderness turns into prime hiking, mountain-biking, and horseback-riding terrain.
On the eastern side of the Sierras lies an entertainment capital of a different color: neon-bright Reno. Las Vegas' laid-back cousin, Reno offers casino gaming and revues in a high-desert community that has thrived since long before the first roulette wheel was rolled into town. Once known as the nation's divorce capital, Reno and its environs now are a hot destination for weddings, whether in a 24-hour chapel or on the shores of nearby Tahoe. Both industry and an arts scene are burgeoning, and visitors are increasingly discovering Reno as a year-round destination for nocturnal exploits and daytime adventure. Connected by both interstate and scenic byway, Reno and Lake Tahoe beckon to groups seeking the best of both worlds.
Nature gets top billing in this scenic segment of the Sierra Nevadas, yet not every attraction warrants strapping on ski or hiking boots. Make time on the itinerary for a trip to Carson City, Nevada's capital, for a trek down the landmark-lined Kit Carson Trail, or head to Virginia City, a one-time boom town that's home to Chollar Mine, the only remaining Comstock Lode silver-mining operation open for touring. Closer in, casinos share Reno's streets with numerous national historic landmarks, many of which can be viewed on a Historic Reno Preservation Society walking tour. High above the city, Lake Tahoe's shores are graced with architectural gems such as Tallac Historic Site, a set of opulent summer houses from the gold-rush era; the 1936 meld-into-the-landscape Thunderbird Lodge, now a popular place for weddings; and the 1929 Vikingsholm, a Scandinavian castle at the head of Emerald Bay. In nearby Truckee, the Donner Party saga is told at Donner Memorial State Park's Emigrant Trail Museum.
More contemporary attractions appeal to fun-lovers of any age, including Reno's Wilbur D. May Museum and Arboretum, a parkland complex with exhibitions, nature walks, and the Great Basin Adventure amusement park; and Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center, with star shows and weekly telescope viewing. More than 200 cars from vintage to experimental comprise the National Automobile Museum, while nearly that many animals — including a rare liger — reside at Sierra Safari Zoo. In Tahoe, admire Emerald Bay's aquamarine waters from the deck of the MS Dixie II, a restored paddlewheeler departing from Zephyr Cove. In winter, the Tahoe Queen paddlewheeler doubles as a water-borne ski shuttle by taking skiers to and from the North Shore.
With the snow pack averaging 40 feet a year, schussing down area slopes is an obvious main draw. No less than 15 resorts give skiers and snowboarders their choice of chutes and half-pipes, and a dozen or so snow parks offer groomed cross-country trails or tubing runs (many with rentals and rope tows). Resorts such as Squaw Valley and Heavenly challenge hard-core skiers with natural jumps and double-diamond runs, while Northstar-at-Tahoe and Tahoe Donner have plenty of beginner terrain to suit the family or easygoing gathering of friends.
Non-skiers in the group needn't worry about finding outdoor action. Trails that lure hikers in summer become tracks for snowshoers come winter. Many of the resorts offer frosty fun: dog-sledding at Kirkwood, ice-skating at Squaw's Olympic Ice Pavilion, and sleigh rides at both. At Spooner Lake Cross Country Ski Area, small groups can rent a wilderness cabin for a cozy night in-and out-of the elements.
In summer and fall, hikers head to the mountains for trails that lead to alpine meadows and panoramic views. Many start from the region's numerous state parks, from the lengthy Lost Lake Trail at Sugar Pine Point to the easy Balancing Rock Nature Trail at D.L. Bliss. For pure mountain's majesty, hike a piece of the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail from one of 12 trailheads; mountain bikers tackle the Flume Trail for sweeping vistas from an 8,000-foot-high single track. Tahoe's beaches draw water-sports fans for kayaking, water-skiing, wakeboarding, and more; Reno's Truckee River Whitewater Park at Wingfield keeps kayakers close to the casinos. Outdoorsy groups can also fly-fish or raft the Truckee River, ride horseback through the backcountry, golf one of 40 regional courses, or go aloft in a hot-air balloon.
Arts and Culture
Throw a coin into the heart of Reno and you'll hit a casino offering gaming and top-notch entertainment. Among the hottest venues are the ever-popular El Dorado, with big-name performers in the showroom, rock and blues bands in the Brew Brothers pub, and sexy dance environs at BuBinga Lounge. Others on the hit list: The Garage at the Reno Hilton, featuring dual bars and a cigar lounge, and the Peppermill Fireside, its plasma screens, free appetizers, and firepit a hipster's draw. In Tahoe, Harrah's Altitude Nightclub hums with showgirls, wild lighting, and an oxygen bar; the Improv at Harvey's Lake Tahoe dishes up yuks from up-and-comers and stage vets, and Breeze at the Tahoe Biltmore brings an eclectic lineup to its stage.
For more sedate diversions, start by strolling the Riverwalk in Reno's Truckee River Arts District, an area of galleries, theaters, open-air concert venues, the 1910 McKinley Arts and Culture Center, and a third Saturday Wine Walk. Artworks that interpret the land and changing environment make the Nevada Museum of Art a must-see. The University of Nevada, Reno campus hosts concerts by the Reno Chamber Orchestra and the UNR Performing Arts Series; the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Reno Philharmonic (who also play a Summer Pops Series at outdoor venues), the Nevada Opera, the Broadway Comes to Reno series, and the surreal Magic Underground illusion show.
Arts are a mostly seasonal event in Tahoe. Summer sees the start of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor State Park's lakeside amphitheatre, the Valhalla Arts and Music Festival at Tallac Historic Site, and the Lake Tahoe Music Festival, with most concerts held at Squaw Valley. Year-round cultural fare comes courtesy of the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society, whose three-museum complex traces the history of the Tahoe area and the indigenous Washoe people.
Slopes for Skiers
Après Ski/Summer Sights
- Genoa Nevada's oldest settlement, with original buildings, a museum, and a still-operating whiskey saloon.
- Pyramid Lake Desert Oasis with museum and visitor center 30 minutes from Reno and 180 degrees from Lake Tahoe.
- Grover Hot Springs State Park Campground with mineral pools fed by nearby hot springs.
Lake Tahoe and Reno Events Guide and Calendar
- North Lake Tahoe Snow Festival Ten-day winter carnival with fireworks, a polar bear swim, kids' parade, sled-dog pulls, and more in March.
- Valhalla Music and Arts Festival Concerts, theater, and comedy at Tallac Historic Site, June through August.
- Reno Rodeo Team roping and rodeo queens are among the attractions during a week in June.
- Lake Tahoe Music Festival An orchestra drawn from local music organizations backs big-name guests, late June through mid-August.
- Artown More than 300 events showcasing visual, performing, and humanities arts, throughout July.
- Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival Two of the Bard's best on the shores of Sand Harbor State Park, July and August.
- Hot August Nights Up to 5,000 classic cars from the 1950s and '60s, concerts, a prom night, and a nostalgia fair, early August.
- Nevada State Fair The classic state fair offerings: rides, carnival games, livestock, entertainment, and food, late August.
- Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off Thirty bands, six stages, and 25 contenders cooking up ribs on Labor Day weekend.
- Great Reno Balloon Race Pre-dawn launching of more than 100 hot-air balloons makes a great photo op on the second weekend in September.
- Virginia City Camel Races Yes, Virginia, there are people riding camels for prizes during this second weekend in September.
- National Championship Air Races and Air ShowSix classes of aircraft compete, along with aerobatic shows and military and civil flight demos in mid-September.
- Street Vibrations Free outdoor concerts, gaming tournaments, a tattoo expo, and motorcycle parades, third week of September.
- Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival Tasting events, demos and seminars, and a grape stomp, last weekend in September.
- Reno Film Festival Indie shorts competition and screenings of Oscar-nominated short films, early November.
Now, here's a hassle-free way to go for a golf get-away, ski trip, or other active vacation.
Let your clubs, skis, board, kayak, bike or other sporting equipment get picked up (valet style) with Sports Express, now Luggage Forward, a new company that shuttles your gear (and luggage if you desire) between your front door and your vacation destination.
What a nice way to simplify the traveling process and offer peace of mind. Plus, you won't have to rent equipment once you arrive.
Here are some quick highlights of their service:
Luggage Forward may be able to take any size of equipment. You'll need to provide the dimensions to them first (either online or via phone). If the package is more than 150 pounds or if the length +(2 x width) +(2 x height) is greater than 130 inches, you won't be able to order the service online, but can call their 800 number.
They offer free insurance for $500 per item shipped.
They deliver mainly in the U.S., but also some international destinations such as Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Switzerland, Spain, and the Caribbean.
They use world-class courier service providers such as FedEx Express, UPS, and DHL.
Prices are not cheap - $125 to ship standard-sized golf clubs from Seattle to Honolulu. But if you're going on a personal golf (or ski or kayak) junket with pals and can spend a little extra cash on convenience, it seems like a great service.
For more information, visit Luggage Forward.
See all categories or all posts.