Cabins for Snowplay, Cabin Living, December 2016

SnowCabins17 cabin getaways that offer primo access to cross-country skiing & snowshoeing—and plenty of comforts to boot

Maybe the forecast for this winter isn’t snow-friendly in your cabin area. Or maybe you’re a cabin dreamer, and you don’t have your own place yet. Either way, just head to one of these rental retreats and tap into their abundant opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Some properties offer groomed routes and sumptuous comforts; others provide rustic romance. These seven standouts offer something for every stripe.

WEST

1. Sun Mountain Lodge, Washington

Mention the Methow Valley to avid outdoorsmen, and you’ll hear rhapsodies of abundant snow and wide-open spaces in which to stride out among mountain panoramas. The best home base is Sun Mountain Lodge’s 16 Patterson Lake Cabins, which let you hide out among goose-down duvets and gas fireplaces. Trails wait right outside your door. The property maintains 60km of diverse routes, and two other nearby trail systems (Mazama and Rendezvous) bring the valley’s total to 200km. Snowshoe circuits are nearly as abundant. Once your legs beg for a break, just climb aboard a horse-drawn sleigh for an effortless tour beneath the North Cascades. $255 - $735; sunmountainlodge.com

2. Sorensen’s Resort, California

You’ll be glad for the 100 miles of marked trails surrounding this family-run getaway (and the 80km of groomed routes at Kirkwood, 20 minutes away). Because skiing or snowshoeing provide ample excuse to indulge in Sorensen’s famous beef bourguignon (using the neighbors’ grass-fed beef) and five-berry cobbler (with incomparably airy biscuits). Guests can also prepare their own meals, since all 30 cabins include kitchen facilities. Some lodgings are built of cedar, others from pine; one masterpiece even features hand-carved logs from Norway. None includes television or cell-phone service. Plan on connecting with your companions, or gazing at the property’s only “flatscreens” – cabin windows showcasing the snowy Sierra Nevada forest. $145 - $475; sorensensresort.com

3. Devil’s Thumb Ranch, Colorado

These 15 luxury cabins put nearly 100km of ski and snowshoe trails right outside your door. Located on a 6,000-acre property that’s managed as private wilderness, routes feature dazzling views of the Continental Divide (Devil’s Thumb is a conspicuous outcropping on the jagged ridge) and opportunities to log epic distances. You can even ski with your dog: Designated trails allow leashed canine companions, and monthly skijoring clinics teach humans and dogs how to work as a team (though guests can rent skijoring harnesses anytime). Cook in your cabin or dine at the ranch’s acclaimed restaurant, book a session at the on-site spa, and cocoon among Scandinavian and Native American antiques, plush bathrobes, and beds offering six pillows of varying firmness. $399-$1,200/night; devilsthumbranch.com

4. Columbine Cabins, Colorado

Once a gold-mining camp for the hardy souls that sought their fortune on 10,843-foot Hahns Peak, Columbine Cabins now comprises 14 chinked-log guest cabins and a General Store – most buildings dating back to 1880-1900 when they served as homes for people and livestock (the Burton Cabin was once a chicken coop). Hand-planed wooden beams give each cabin a unique patina, but modern additions such as indoor plumbing and electric ranges make them comfortable enough for today’s travelers. A marked, ungroomed one-mile loop departs from the property’s edge and winds among pale aspens; skate skiers can drive five miles south to Steamboat Lake State Park and its 15km of groomed routes. Climbing Hahns Peak affords spectacular views and powder turns on the mountain’s western flanks. Afterward, feed logs into your pot-bellied stove (or the property’s wood-fired sauna), put the kettle on for cocoa (there’s no on-site food service) and savor unplugged silence. $90-$180/night; dogs welcome ($10/ night); cabinsincolumbine.com

MIDWEST

5. Bearskin Lodge, Minnesota

This historic camp dates back to the 1920s when it catered to anglers and artists (antique paintings still decorate the central lodge). Today’s guests stay in weathered cabins with braided rugs, colorful quilts and picture windows aimed at the white expanse of Bearskin Lake. Moose and wolves roam the surrounding white pine forests, which also contain 70km of meticulously groomed ski and snowshoe trails. For something a little different try dogsledding:
Erik Simula lets you ride in a cozy, blanket-warmed bundle, or you can try mushing the dogs yourself. Bring food to cook in-cabin, but be sure to take advantage of the Saturday night dinners prepared by Chef Scott Bergstrom, who honed his culinary skills at the Twin Cities’ finest restaurants. And thanks to Bearskin’s prodigious snowfall, you’re virtually guaranteed great skiing – even when the rest of Minnesota sees bare ground. $149- $426/night; bearskin.com

SnowCabins2NORTHEAST

6. Lapland Lake, New York

Finnish-raised Olympian Olavi Hirvonen created these 50km of world-class cross-country trails, and since 2014, Kathy and Paul Zahray have continued the tradition of fastidious grooming and family fun. Reindeer Rallies engage 5- to 11-year-olds in funny stunts on skis, while littler tots can whirl around the frozen lake on the Napa Kiikku sled. Ski instructors teach both kids and adults, though Lapland also welcomes snowshoers with 12km of marked routes that wind through snow-laden pines. Most guests bring food to prepare in their tupas (Finnish cabins), but the property does sell chicken potpies and other take-and-bake meals. A café serves morning pastries and lunchtime Panini (some topped with house-made lingonberry sauce). $150-$915/night; no pets; laplandlake.com

7. Trapp Family Lodge, Vermont

Chances are you’re heard about this Stowe icon established by Maria von Trapp (of Sound of Music fame). But in addition to the storied lodge, the property includes several guest houses and villas that are nestled in the woods for privacy and easy access to the nation’s very first cross-country touring center. Explore 60km of groomed trails or 100km of backcountry routes, which vary in difficulty from flat, easy rambles to 1,800-foot climbs. Children can accompany their parents or take part in indoor fun (like a rock-climbing wall) at the on-site Kids Mountain Club. Private kitchens make it easy to prepare meals, but the lodge’s dining options merit an occasional visit. Fuel up for skiing or snowshoeing with the vast breakfast buffet of European and American standards (made with the property’s own eggs) or enjoy one of Johannes von Trapp’s Austrian-style lagers, brewed on site. $2,200-$6,170/ week; trappfamily.com

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Trekking from hut to hut

SOME CABINS make great base camps for extended stays; others facilitate cross-country journeys into remote backcountry zones. Getting to these distant refuges (or connecting cabins via hut-to-hut routes) can be immensely satisfying but also requires special considerations to ensure safe winter travel.

Most huts require you to carry in your own bedding and food, necessitating a 50L to 60L-capacity backpack. Trails to or between cabins are typically ungroomed, so relatively short mileages can feel strenuous if you’re plowing through fresh snow. Conscientious route finding is also key. Miss a trail marker, and you can find yourself trekking after dark.

But hut-trippers agree that the rewards are worth the effort. First- timers should consider a one- or two-mile trip to a backcountry cabin; more experienced skiers and snowshoers might attempt longer, interconnecting routes. Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division Huts (huts.org) offer such multi-day adventures; so do the Maine Huts & Trails (mainehuts.org). Yurts along Minnesota’s 20-mile Banadad Trail (boundarycountry.com) shelter skiers in the Boundary Waters, and the Never Summer Nordic (neversummernordic.com) system of cabins and yurts in northern Colorado includes routes that are short and easy enough for families with young children.

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Must-haves

--cozy slippers

--a good book (some cabins lack television and phone service)

--headlamp (for after-dark walks to a central lodge or hot tub)

--daypack or waist pack


--water bottle


--insulated Thermos for toting hot beverages while touring

--face mask or a face/lip protection cream or gel like Dermatone or Aloe Gator

--portable, high-energy snacks (such as dried fruit or granola bars)


--camera with waterproof bag or case