Sunday, January 21, 2007
It's been an odd winter, with weeks of record warmth followed by toe-curling cold. For those who measure the season by inches of snow, the D.C. region might as well be Honolulu (at least at the moment, but we want a snow day as badly as anyone). If you're hankering for a snow fix, you can follow the weather headlines and go to where the white stuff is. We looked westward for two destinations where you can be a wintertime urban adventurer and a downhill racer in the same trip. And the best part: You can get to both for less than $250 round trip. -- Margaret Roth and Andrea SachsDenver
GETTING THERE: Nonstop service is available on United and Southwest from BWI to Denver; sale fare is currently $139 round trip but is set to expire tomorrow. American and United fly nonstop from Dulles, and Frontier and United fly nonstop from Reagan National; fare from either airport is currently about $199 round trip but is typically closer to $250.
THE SLOPES: Breckenridge Ski Resort (800-842-8062, http://breckenridge.snow.com/), on 12,998-foot Breckenridge Mountain, is 90 minutes northeast of Denver. At press time, it had a base of 41 to 52 inches of snow.
Most accommodations are in condominiums and inns, starting at $200 a night in season, but there are some motel rooms at $75 a night double. Until Feb. 15, the Skiing and Events Package offers lodging for four people for four nights in a two-bedroom condominium, plus a four-day lift ticket, for $399 per person total.
Breckenridge was founded 147 years ago as a base camp for gold prospectors and has struck it rich as a skiers' party mecca. From Jan. 23-28, the town hosts the 17th annual Budweiser Select International Snow Sculpture Championships, in which 14 teams will carve 20-ton blocks of snow into culturally inspired creations that will remain on display till Feb. 4, weather permitting.
On Feb. 20, Breckenridge stages its own Mardi Gras, serving up New Orleans-style food and drink, music, masks and the obligatory beads.
THE CITY: To soak up Denver's (mile-)high life, head downtown to the 16th Street Mall for shopping, dining and car-free strolling. The nearby Golden Triangle Art District features studios and galleries, performing arts centers and a bevy of museums, such as the newly expanded Denver Art Museum. If you're in a sporting mood, go snorkeling or diving with the sharks at the Downtown Aquarium, or hop the Ski Train, which travels between Union Station and Winter Park Resort.
At mealtime, shoot over to the Highland neighborhood for eclectic fare (the Highland's Garden Cafe is a regular on best-of lists), and between Feb. 24 and March 2, take advantage of Restaurant Week, when multi-course meals cost $26.40 per person. Top off the night with a cocktail at the Funky Buddha Lounge or dancing at the Church, the holiest of nightclubs. See the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau for more information.
INFO: Breckenridge Resort Chamber, 888-251-2417, http://www.gobreck.com/. SkiBreckenridgeColorado.net, 800-650-5520, http://www.skibreckenridgecolorado.net/. Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, 303-892-1112, http://www.denver.org/.Salt Lake City
GETTING THERE: Round-trip sale fares, which are set to expire tomorrow, start at about $219 for nonstop service from BWI on Southwest. Delta flies nonstop from all three area airports, with fares from BWI at about $366 round trip and fares from Dulles or Reagan National about $589. Connecting service is available from all three airports on many airlines: United, for example, has a $240 round-trip fare from BWI, and Frontier was offering a $260 round-trip fare from Reagan National.
THE SLOPES: Travel about 30 to 45 minutes east of Salt Lake City to get to the three Park City resorts (Deer Valley, the Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort), which are operating nearly at capacity, with more than 300 ski runs or trails in all, 20 bowls and more than 50 lifts.
Numerous specials combine hotel or condominium accommodations with lift tickets, though with about a 50-inch base of snow, the resorts don't have to sell too hard. From Jan. 28 to Feb. 14, for instance, lodging is 15 percent off at Deer Valley, with a minimum of three nights and the purchase of four discounted adult lift tickets.
Park City's Utah Olympic Park was a venue for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and the town's still celebrating, with almost as many places to see as to ski -- on foot, snowmobile, snowshoe, tube, sleigh or, for those who want to look down on it all, in a hot-air balloon (All Seasons Adventures, 435-649-9619, http://www.allseasonsadventures.com/).
Winterfest (Feb. 2-11) will feature sled-dog races, fireworks, an ice sculpture contest and the annual celebration of the 2002 Opening Ceremonies.
For downtime, shopping -- for jewelry, art, furnishings and skiwear -- is a popular diversion for those seeking something tangible to take home. The Homestead Resort (700 N. Homestead Dr., Midway, 888-327-7220, http://www.homesteadresort.com/) operates a full-service day spa 20 minutes from town.
THE CITY: Get all of your cultural needs in one place at the Foothill Cultural District, home of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, the Hogle Zoo, Red Butte Garden and more. Catch birds in free flight at the Tracy Aviary. Take a carriage ride from Temple Square, or for something a little speedier, swing into the Classic Car Museum. Pay tribute to the Mormon pioneers who founded this city at such Mormon sights as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the Salt Lake Temple and the Family History Library.
The Sundance Film Festival, in town until Jan. 28, holds a portion of its screenings in Salt Lake. The city also has a hopping after-dark scene, including dueling pianists at the Tavernacle Social Club, jazz at Zanzibar and '80s hair metal bands at Liquid Joe's. See the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau for more information.
INFO: SkiParkCityUtah.net, 800-650-0102, http://www.skiparkcityutah.net/. Park City Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, 800-453-1360, http://www.parkcityinfo.com/. Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, 801-534-4900, http://www.visitsaltlake.com/.