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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Winter Survival in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

Nestled within Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its unique combination of quartzite rock and wetland terrain, the Long Range Mountains could very well be the one of the last remnants of pristine wilderness within a three-hour flight of New York and Boston. Yes, wilderness, one of the most misused words in the English language. Any green space with a chunk of land the size of a suburban backyard seems to fit the bill. But here on Newfoundland’s western coast, a mere hour drive from the airport in Deer Lake, there are no roads, no power lines. The only sign of humanity tampering with the terrain was the dock we landed on. 

This is a paragraph taken from a story I wrote on backpacking Gros Morne National Park that originally appeared in Backpacker Magazine. Now this spectacular park, a favorite of caribou and moose, is the setting for a three-day winter wilderness survival course run by Linkum Tours. Learn to build snow shelters, light a fire, and cross-country ski atop mountain ridges that overlook magnificent fjords. The course is being held from January through March, 2011.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/26/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Hotel Rooms in Manhattan for $79 a Night!

The Jane Hotel, not far from Chelsea Market and the high in the sky High Line Park, is offering $79 rates in January and February for their 50 square-foot rooms. Bring a friend and grab the bunk bed room for $99, further reducing the price for two. The rooms are built like luxury train cabins, featuring a single bed with built-in drawers, flat screen TV, free Wi-Fi, DVD player, iPod dock, and luggage rack. The only problem is the shared bathrooms. If it’s anything like the Pod Hotel on the East Side, the bathroom doors open and close all night, so bring ear plugs. If you really need a private bathroom, opt for Captain’s Cabins at $225 a night. But c’mon, it’s hard to top 79 bucks a night in Manhattan!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/25/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Ski Badger Pass, California

Don’t make the mistake of overlooking America’s National Parks in the winter. Exquisitely beautiful year-round, Yosemite is home to one of the oldest downhill ski areas in California. Badger Pass was built in the late 20s in a bid to get the 1930 Winter Olympics. The bid failed but the resort, with a vertical drop of only 800 feet, is now one of the best places in the West to learn how to ski. The bargains at Badger include two-hour ski lessons for only $35 a child. But, alas, this is Yosemite, so take advantage of your surroundings. A short snowshoe trek into Mariposa Grove and you’ll be making snow angels at the roots of 200-foot sequoia trees. Cross-country skiers will cherish the ten miles of groomed track that leads to 7,000-foot high Glacier Point. Ice skaters can swirl around the Curry Village rink dwarfed by the majestic cliff walls of Half Dome. 

Next week, I’ll be traveling around New England, giving 3-hour workshops with my brother Jim called Beyond the Craft: How to Be Proactive and Take Charge of Your Creative Career. This will take up most of my time, so I’m going to take a week off from ActiveTravels. See you on the 25th!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/15/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ski Lake Louise, Alberta

It was 1892 when a young employee for the Canadian Pacific Railroad came upon a gem of a lake in the Canadian Rockies that sat beneath a towering glacier. He would write in his journal: “As God is my judge, I never in all my explorations saw such a matchless scene.” Taking his recommendation, Canadian Pacific would build a one-story log cabin that would serve as a hotel for guests who savored the outdoors. By 1912, word spread about this majestic spot in the mountains, enticing more than 50,000 people to reach the shores of Lake Louise. It was time for Canadian Pacific to build a grand chateau with blue roofs and turrets, and furnished with the finest craftsmanship of the Edwardian era.  A place that royalty, heads of state, and celebrities could hobnob in comfort. Today, the 513-room Chateau Lake Louise is run by Fairmont Hotels and is still considered the premiere address in the Canadian Rockies. In winter, the chateau stays open so you can take a horse-drawn sleigh ride over the lake, cross-country ski in shaded forest below the peaks, or downhill ski at one of Canada’s largest ski areas at Lake Louise. Then return to the grand lobby where the fireplace is always roaring to warm you up.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/14/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ski Jay, Vermont

When it’s balmy in Boston in winter, you can still expect a blizzard at Vermont’s northernmost ski resort, Jay Peak. Bordering Quebec, Jay gets more snow than any other ski area in New England (about 350 inches of powder). Being this far north, Jay also accommodates far more Quebecois than New Yorkers. The ski area is cherished for its glade skiing. Black diamond lovers will enjoy the steeper tree runs off the tram while novices will find the trails in Bonaventure Basin to their liking. New this year is 57 luxury suites in the Tram Haus Lodge, opened last December. Also making its debut this past May is the 700-seat Ice Haus Arena, featuring an NHL-sized rink that offers skating lessons, hockey games, and curling tournaments. Phase two of the $120 million revitalization includes the unveiling of 170-room Hotel Jay and an indoor water park, expected some time in 2012.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/13/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ski The Ditch, Milwaukee

It has a vertical drop of 245 feet and is situated about 20 minutes from downtown Milwaukee in Franklin, Wisconsin. But since it was built atop a garbage dump in the mid-80s, skiers and boarders have been making their way to the Ditch, otherwise known as Crystal Ridge. There are two lifts for the intermediate and expert terrain and a tow rope for the bunny hill, totaling 7 runs altogether. But hey, you can’t beat the price, $25 for adults, $22 for children on weekends, $20 for all on weekday nights. And how many times do you get to ski atop a former garbage dump?

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/12/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, October 08, 2010

Wife Carrying Championship This Weekend at Sunday River, Maine

Still no plans for Columbus Day Weekend? Head on over to the Sunday River Ski Resort in Bethel, Maine, tomorrow and watch the 11th Annual North American Wife Carrying Championship. Winners qualify for the World Wife Carrying Championship in Finland, held next July. Last year’s winner, Dave and Lacy Castro of Lewiston, Maine, beat out 46 other couples from as far away as California. Their time was a speedy 54.45 seconds. Whatever you do, have a great weekend and do something active!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/08/10 at 12:59 PM
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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Writing Esoterica

I was guest lecturing at Emerson College in Boston last night when a student asked me how I take notes when I’m out there in the wild, backpacking, canoeing, mountain biking, etc..? It’s actually a very good question. I used to carry a microcassette recorder until I went on a backpacking trip through the Mojave Desert for Men’s Journal magazine. On day three of that trek, I reached down for my recorder and saw that the tape had melted in the sweltering heat. I never liked transcribing notes upon my return, so I switched to writing in a CVS-bought notepad that fits easily into the one of the four pockets on my canvas shorts. That also has its problems. It sometimes gets wet from rain, water, or sweat and I can’t read my notes. Other times I simply lose  the notebook. When I returned from a biking trip to Prince Edward Island for Canadian Geographic, I couldn’t find my notebook anywhere. After freaking out, I wrote the story from memory and called the people I interviewed to confirm their quotes were correct. The magazine loved the piece. It just goes to show you that your memory works far better than you can possibly imagine. In fact, I still remember the waves of nausea I felt the first night of that Mojave Desert trek after hiking 15 miles in the heat and carrying a 50-pound pack. Freeze-dried noodles was not exactly my idea of comfort food, but my body craved carbs so I ate every last morsel.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/07/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Marsh, Billings, Rockefeller—Quite the Trio

“Every middle-aged man who revisits his birthplace after a few years of absence looks upon another landscape than that which formed the theater of his youthful toils and pleasures,” said George Perkins Marsh in 1847 in a speech at the Agricultural Society of Rutland County, Vermont. Growing up in Woodstock, Vermont, Marsh had seen three-quarters of Vermont’s forest cover destroyed for potash, lumber, crops, and pasture.  17 years later, Marsh would delve further into these egregious practices in his epic book on the American environment, Man and Nature. Reflecting on what he had seen, Marsh wrote about a concept of sound husbandry where men could mend nature.

A generation younger, Frederick Billings was deeply touched by Marsh’s writings and, in 1869, purchased Marsh’s childhood home in order to make the estate a model of progressive farming and forestry. Beginning in the 1870s, Billings designed a forest with numerous tree plantations and constructed a 20-mile network of carriage roads to showcase his work. On the lowlands, Billings developed a state-of-the-art dairy. In 1982, Billings granddaughter, Mary French Rockefeller and her husband, the conservationist Laurance Rockefeller, established the farmland as the Billings Farm & Museum. In June 1998, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion and the surrounding forest became the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller is the first unit of the National Park System to focus on the theme of conservation history and stewardship, the main concern of Marsh and Billings. With their emphasis on the careful cooperation of man and nature, they had the utmost desire to pass land on, undiminished, even enhanced, to the next generation and generations to come. The Park Service will continue a program of forest management on the site, offering workshops on how to use the forest most efficiently.

Tour the exhibits in the Carriage Barn, then hit the carriage path trails like my family did this past weekend through Billings’ dream 550-acre forest. 11 of Billings’ original plantings remain including groves of Norwegian spruce and Scottish Pine from the 1880s, mixed in with the an indigenous Vermont forest of white pine, red pine, and maples. The longest carriage path trail circles around The Pogue, a shimmering body of water backed by the foliage of Mt. Tom.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/06/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

New Vermont Spas Help Skiers Rest Those Weary Legs

The rap on Vermont skiing was that the ski resorts were based in historic New England towns that lacked the modern amenities of the resorts out West. Not any longer. The Woodstock Inn, close to the skiing at Killington and Suicide Six, just unveiled their $10 million spa in September and it’s a beauty. Two well known Vermont artisans, glassmaker Simon Pearce and furniture maker Charles Shackleton create the hanging lamps and chaise lounge chairs in the Great Room waiting area, where floors are made of soft Vermont white oak. Just outside in the courtyard is a large outdoor hot tub and sauna, with heated stone floors to keep those tootsies warm in the winter months. That’s in addition to the eucalyptus steam rooms found in both the men and women’s changing area. Woodstock Inn’s state-of-the-facility comes on the heels of Stowe Mountain Lodge’s spa, the first offshoot of the highly regarded Cooper Wellness spa in Dallas. The new space features every treatment imaginable, including music, water, and aromatherapy, nutritional and fitness counseling, and seminars on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/05/10 at 01:00 PM
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about us
photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

Adventure Travel Trade Association