WHERE Swiss Alps
WHY To experience off-piste glacier slopes without the crowds, spend the night on the mountainside at Whitepod, five geodesic domes high above the town of Villars, just east of Lake Geneva. Although the tents have no running water or electricity, they're the height of eco-chic, with wood-burning stoves, high-tech insulation, organic linens, and iPods. Campers can join expert mountain guides on excursions—ice climbing, skiing—or stop by the 19th-century alpine chalet, where the resident chef prepares a fondue dinner.
HOW 41-79/744-6219; www.whitepod.com; doubles from $330 (two-night minimum).
WHY There's nothing like making fresh tracks down a mountain—and with the opening of the Deep Temerity lift at Aspen Highlands, skiers now have 180 previously untouched acres to play on. The new terrain is expert only, but neophytes are not to worry: the mountain still offers 465 acres of beginner and intermediate runs and, perhaps most important, the best après-ski scene in the state. Little Nell's high-wattage Bar and Living Room were recently redesigned by David Easton, who added even more space for snow bunnies to see and be seen.
HOW www.aspensnowmass.com. The Little Nell, 675 E. Durant Ave.; 800/843-6355; www.thelittlenell.com; doubles from $270.
WHERE Italian Dolomites
WHY Set to open this January, Matteo Thun's modern 15-acre steel-and-glass Merano Thermal Baths, 200 miles from Milan, will have sulfur-infused pools, saunas, and steam rooms, all fed by deep thermal waters. Natural therapies will be offered in the 30 treatment rooms, surrounded by bonsai-perfect gardens. A hotel, also designed by Thun, is scheduled for completion this spring. In the meantime, stay at Thun's nearby Pergola Residence.
HOW Piazza Terme, Merano; 39-0473/252-000; www.termemerano.it; treatments from $73. Pergola Residence, 40 Via San Cassiano, Merano; 39-0473/201-435; www.pergola-residence.it; doubles from $186.
WHY A new indoor resort located in the Mall of the Emirates is bringing a bit of Telluride to the Middle East. Ski Dubai has five snowy slopes (including an indoor black diamond) and covers an area equivalent to three football fields. Downhillers can rent all the necessary equipment to enjoy a day on the "mountain." After a snowboarding lesson, grab a cup of hot chocolate at the Avalanche Café. Ready to defrost?Five minutes away and 50 degrees warmer is the wave-shaped Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
HOW Sheikh Zayed Rd.; 971-4/340- 3392; www.skidubai.ae. Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah Beach Rd.; 800/223-6800 or 971-4/348-0000; www.jumeirahbeachhotel.com; doubles from $600.
WHERE Washington State
WHY Cross-country skiing's popularity is soaring, especially in Methow Valley, a group of secluded alpine hamlets in the upper Cascade Range, four hours north of Seattle. Over a hundred miles of groomed trails make this one of the largest (as well as most scenic) Nordic systems in the country. The Rendezvous circuit, which gives way to vistas of the glacier-carved lowland and granite peaks beyond, has a string of rustic lodges, perfectly suited for inn-to-inn touring. (Leave the luggage behind: it will be awaiting your arrival at the next stop.)
HOW 509/996-3287; www.mvsta.com; day passes from $18. Sun Mountain Lodge, 604 Patterson Lake Rd., Winthrop; 800/572-0493; www.sunmountainlodge.com; doubles from $150.
WHERE Queenstown, New Zealand
WHY It's summer in New Zealand and food lovers can study the art of cooking Aotearoa style at Punatapu, an exclusive, five-suite lodge with its own culinary school beside Lake Wakatipu. Chef Jenny Stewart is on hand to teach in the Whareumu, a glass-sided kitchen equipped with a wood-fired oven, teppanyaki plates, and wok-burners. A typical day starts with an invigorating power walk on the property; afterward, guests forage for wild produce before creating the ultimate organic meal. Also on tap: visits to nearby olive groves, orchards, and wineries.
HOW Glenorchy Rd.; 64-3/442-6624; www.punatapu.com; doubles from $563, all-inclusive; cooking classes $88 per person per day.
WHERE Park City, Utah
WHY Forget the one-horse open sleigh. A Sno-Cat takes adventurous types up the slopes above Park City Mountain Resort for an intimate dinner at 8,725 feet in a candlelit, rustic yurt. Start with a glass of wine on the heated terrace under star-filled skies before heading inside for a meal worthy of a mountain man: creamy butternut-squash soup, prime rib au jus, and bread pudding filled with cherries.
HOW 800/222-7275; www.parkcitymountain.com; doubles from $100; dinner $125 per person.
WHERE Healdsburg, California
WHY The French Laundry has some new competition. Cyrus, run by chef Douglas Keane and maître d' Nick Peyton (the team behind St. Helena's popular Market restaurant), serves up innovative dishes such as Thai marinated lobster with fresh hearts of palm and bourbon-glazed pork belly. It's the little details, though, that have won over diners—a champagne-and-caviar cart, on which roe is weighed against a gold bar, is rolled out to greet you upon arrival, and a small box of handmade bonbons is bestowed with the check, a sweet forget-me-not to bring back to the adjacent Les Mars Hôtel, modeled after an 18th-century château.
HOW 29 North St.; 707/433-3311; dinner for two $116. Les Mars Hôtel, 27 North St.; 877/431-1700 or 707/433-4211; www.lesmarshotel.com; doubles from $495.
WHY Recently designated the hotel of the Teatro alla Scala, the Carlton Hotel Baglioni offers the exclusive chance to dine at the hotel's Baretto al Baglioni with the famed players of the Orchestra Filarmonica. Before dinner, you'll be driven via limo to the recently restored La Scala, where a guide takes you on a tour of the rarely visited backstage. The ensemble then performs a private concert led by one of the company's guest conductors. The evening continues back at the hotel, where you'll rub shoulders with the musicians over risotto con osso buco or cotaletta alla milanese.
HOW 5 Via Senato; 39-02/77077; www.baglionihotels.com; doubles $1,425 (two-night minimum), including dinner, tour, and performance.
WHY Skip the traditional turkey and stuffing and celebrate Nochebuena Latin-style at Nacional 27, Second City's ceviche bar and salsa club. Chef Randy Zweiban expertly prepares dishes from the 27 countries in Latin America; for his Cuban-inspired Christmas Eve feast, he pairs inventive mojitos with bacalao fritters, spiny-lobster empanadas, banana leafwrapped suckling pig, moros y cristianos (black beans and rice), and pumpkin flan. Sleep off the meal at Amalfi, a small, amenity-rich hotel within walking distance of both the restaurant and the Magnificent Mile.
HOW 325 W. Huron St.; 312/664-2727; dinner for two $98. Amalfi, 20 W. Kinzie St.; 877/262-5341 or 312/395-9000; www.amalfihotelchicago.com; doubles from $229.