10 Warm & Cold Weather Winter Holiday Ideas


In the last week I have had a few emails from my blog readers asking for winter holiday suggestions. I put my thinking cap on and came up with a list of winter holiday ideas for both warm and cold weather lovers.

I limited my search to North America though if I had my druthers I’d head to South America, like we’ve done for the last two out of four years; it was Ecuador and the Galapagos in 2008 and last year it was northern Chile and Argentina. Your dollar goes further and food and accommodation is generally very reasonably priced. Unfortunately it’s a long way to go if you only have a limited amount of time.

"Beautiful scenery of northern Chile - in December"

Beautiful scenery of northern Chile – in December

Warm Weather Winter Holiday Ideas

You can’t really count on what I would call hot weather (over 27C or 80F) in North America until sometime in March. But you can certainly get away from the winter cold by heading south or west.

Here are some ideas.

  • Head to Arizona’s Sonoran desert. Try the hikes in the Superstition Mountains, located just 50 miles east of Phoenix. Or hike the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson. This year I’ll be staying for three nights at Casa de San Pedro, located about 90 miles southeast of Tucson, close to the Mexico border. Here I’ll find plenty of hiking, biking and bird watching to do. Or try the bike loop I did a few years ago that takes you from Tucson via Sasabe and Tubac back to Tucson.
"The Sonoran Desert near Tucson"

The Sonoran Desert near Tucson

"Hiking along the Rio Grande in western Texas"

Hiking along the Rio Grande in western Texas

  • Palm Springs and Palm Desert in California aren’t only for old people. There is loads of hiking to do and in fact you could do a different hike almost everyday year round. And Joshua Tree National Park with its fantastic rock formations and easy but interesting hiking is just over an hour away. You’ll find nights chilly but days are sunny and very pleasant.
"Joshua trees and interesting rock formations in Joshua Tree N.P."

Joshua trees and interesting rock formations in Joshua Tree N.P.

  • Head for Hawaii. The big island of Hawaii offers excellent biking possibilities while Kauai is known for lovely hiking and kayaking. Maui offers a little bit of everything. The ride down from the Haleakala Crater summit sounds especially fun. And then there’s always the swimming, snorkeling and beach time on any of the islands.
"Cycling the backroads of Hawaii"

Cycling the backroads of Hawaii

  • Hike in Death Valley National Park. There are a huge number of hikes to choose from and just walking on the sand dunes is a lot of fun. You can camp, stay in basic motels or head to the Furnace Creek Resort where you can grab a few games of golf too.
"Sunset in Death Valley"

Sunset in Death Valley

Cold Weather Holiday Ideas
It’s a whole lot easier to come up with cold weather holiday ideas living in a northern climate.
  • Cross country ski in the Methow Valley, not from from Seattle, Washington. You’ll find over 200 kilometers of machine groomed trails beside over a million acres of National Forest. And it doesn’t rain the way it does in Seattle in the winter.
  • Whistler, BC is consistently ranked as one of North America’s best downhill resorts. Even if it’s raining at the bottom it’s probably snowing at the top. And if you’re not a skier there is still plenty to do – snowshoeing, zipling, cross country skiing, shopping, trips to the spa and even bobsledding.
"Skiing at Blackcomb"

Skiing at Blackcomb

  • Colorado is known for its dry, fluffy snow. Throw in plenty of sunshine and either a downhill or a cross-country ski trip can be great fun. For downhill skiing I can personally recommend Vail, Steamboat, Winter Park (especally if you like moguls), Copper Mountain and Keystone. Sorry Breckenridge fans – I’ve never liked that hill. Back country skiing to one of the 10th mountain division huts is also a fantastic way to spend time in the mountains. You can check out my guide for useful information. It’s the winter activity I enjoyed the most when I lived in Colorado.
"One of my favourite huts - the 10th Mountain Division Hut"

One of my favourite huts – the 10th Mountain Division Hut

  • If you want a mix of culture and skiing head to Quebec. There are lots of options in the province including cross country skiing on over 185 kilometers of trails in the Gatineau Valley near Ottawa, skiing at Mont Tremblant in the Laurentians or Mont Ste Anne in Quebec City. For something off the beaten path head ski the Chic Choc Mountains in the Gaspe area.
  • Vermont definitely comes to mind for a cold weather holiday. If it’s a good snow year then places like Stowe, Killington and Jay Peak, are terrific destinations for the downhill skier. Throw in some traditional New England hospitality and a stay at one of the beautiful, homey inns and you’ve got yourself a very nice holiday.
I’ve just scratched the surface of what you could do in the winter. I’ve made no mention of dog-sledding in the Yukon, snowshoeing in Banff National Park or hut skiing in Ontario’s Algonquin Park.

Please – if you have a must do suggestion for a winter holiday in North America, leave a comment.

And what would you rather do – embrace the cold or head for warmer weather??

Leigh McAdam


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