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Best Mountain-Top Meals

Tamarack Lodge

A handful of on-mountain restaurants are reinventing the cafeteria concept.

Heavenly, California: Tamarack Lodge
Peak Pick: Seared peppercorn-encrusted ahi sandwich and house-made peach cobbler.
Getting There: California Trail, a blue run offering views of Lake Tahoe from 3,000 feet up.
Top of the gondola; 775/586-7000; lunch for two $32–$40.

Niseko Village, Japan: Goshiki
Peak Pick: Hokkaido-crab miso soup and local lily bulb tempura.
Getting There: Misoshiru (which means miso soup), a black diamond featuring Niseko’s signature powder.
The Green Leaf; 81-136/443-311; lunch for two $52.

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A Global Guide to Après Ski

Vosges hot chocolate at St. Regis Aspen Resort

Sip on Haute Chocolate: St. Regis Aspen Resort
Looking for something sophisticated to do post skiing? The latest offering at this newly redesigned resort is just your cup of tea, er, hot cocoa. The program features a flight of three kinds of hot chocolate, created by Vosges Haut-Chocolat exclusively for the resort (Australia lemon myrtle, lavender flowers, vanilla and white chocolate, anyone?)—plus gourmet grilled-cheese finger sandwiches. For those who still want a little booze après ski, go for the Spiked Flight.

Head to the “Beach”: Ski Beach at Canyons Resort in Park City, UT
This mountain hot spot—located between the base terminal of the new direct-connect gondola and the “Orange Bubble” enclosed heated-seat chair lift—comes complete with beach chairs, lifeguard stands, and fruity drinks (courtesy of The Farm restaurant). Sure, there’s no ocean, but if you use your imagination, that snow will start looking like sand in no time.

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Contest Watch: Galapagos, Shopping Spree, More!

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For some, the holidays can be joyous, delicious, and restful. For everyone else, there’s Contest Watch! If you need something to look forward to during these short days and cold nights, hit up these contests for solace and excitement. Can’t get far enough away from Aunt Milly? How about the Galapagos (above)? Need a daily fix to get you through a long stay with prying in-laws? Click on ever-changing giveaways from Design Hotels. Of course, if you love your family and need more quality time, there’s always the kid-friendly ski vacation from Virginia Tourism.

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Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Christmas Capital of America?

Christmas in Portsmouth

Sleigh bells ring and snow glistens this Christmas in the red-brick New England seaport of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The 7th Annual Vintage Christmas celebration decks the halls with garlands of fresh greens and balsam wreaths, as the town aspires to be the Christmas Capital of America. If only we could tell Faith Hill as she croons "Where Are You Christmas" that it is here, wrapped up in a bow with fiddles, harpsichords, Victorian Christmas trees, and a free trolley through the downtown area.

Vintage Christmas events continue on December weekends this year, with historic homes dressed in their finest throughout the month. The cherished Candlelight Stroll at the Strawbery Banke Museum winds through homes twinkling in white lights, with costumed performers and hundreds of luminarias. New this year, the Market Square Carolers, a chorus of middle school students, belt out tunes as they walk around town. You just may glimpse a jolly, happy soul with a corncob pipe, a button nose, and two eyes made out of coal.

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Book Cyber Monday Deals for Travel All Winter

Lake Placid Lodge

We’ve rounded up a passel of deals that individual hotels and hotel chains are offering for winter travel.  While many have to be booked next Monday, November 28, most apply to hotel stays through the rest of the winter.  Below are the barebone details for 19 deals; please follow the links to get more information or to book.

Lake Placid Lodge (above), New York
Up to 50% off with rates from $250/night (regularly $500 - $1,500).  Available for booking Monday, November 28, through 12pm Friday, December 2, for travel through March.  Some blackout dates.  For more information or to book, please visit Lake Placid Lodge.

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On the Rise: Traverse City, Michigan

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On the northeastern side of Lake Michigan, Traverse City is a hip little town that has exploded in recent years with new wineries, a slew of fantastic farm-to-table restaurants, and its very own Michael Moore-founded film festival. Surrounded by lush farmland, vineyards, and pristine beaches, the area is still blissfully under-the-radar. But not for long: with summer-resident and star chef Mario Batali singing its praises, Traverse City’s on the rise.

BEST MEAL: Located in the historic Bowers Harbor Inn on Old Mission Peninsula, Mission Table reopened in 2010 after a major renovation and menu overhaul. Their commitment to local, sustainable ingredients is evident in their ultra-seasonal farm-to-table fare.

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Snow? No. Discounted Lift Tickets? Yes.

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Like migrating birds and manufacturers of snow tires, skiers start planning for winter long before snow falls (or even, in my husband’s case, well before temperatures have dropped below 80°).

Liftopia, an online source for discounted lift tickets, has been around since 2006 but now represents more than 150 ski resorts.  A visit to their newly revamped site can transform the fall fantasies into actual slope time.  At resorts from Arapahoe Basin to Zermatt, you’ll find discounted lift tickets as well as deals on equipment rentals, lessons, and multi-day passes.

While many of the available discounts are as thrilling as waking up to fresh powder (e.g., up to 40% off at Snowbird, 23% off Sun Valley, 32% off Whiteface), the lift tickets in Liftopia's inventory are date-specific and sell out quickly.   So snag some now before the deals melt away.

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Lake Placid Lodge.

Vail Resorts Gets Even More Epic

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Bringing social media to the skiing experience is just one of the ways Vail Resorts has stayed ahead of the curve. And they did it in dramatic fashion, with EpicMix, their app that tracks vertical feet and awards digital pins based on RF-enabled ski passes. Up to now, though, the all-important photography aspect has been missing from EpicMix. No longer.

Sure, you can snap smartphone pics, upload them to your account, and share them on Facebook and Twitter. But Vail Resorts has given the photo experience a couple unique twists.

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Northern Lights and Mushing in Alaska

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You can have your lunar eclipse. For my money, the celestial event worth staying up late for is the Aurora Borealis. Throw in an up-close and personal Iditarod experience and you’d have the hottest ticket in Alaska.  AdventureSmith Explorations, a California-based outfitter, has created a mid-winter soft adventure trip that’ll rouse you from your long winter’s nap.

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Snowy Fun at Alaska's Famed "Fur Rondy"

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In Alaska it’s about surviving winter—a long, long winter. Fortunately, people in Anchorage have not only a frontier spirit but a sense of humor. And so there is Fur Rendezvous, affectionately called the "Fur Rondy" by locals, now in its 75th year and serving up 10 days of crazy winter fun from Feb. 26 - Mar. 6.

The festival leads up to the start of the more serious Iditarod dog sled race, which kicks off March 7 (and runs a 1,200-mile course to Nome).

Racing is part of the action during Fur Rondy too, in the form of the World Championship Sled Dog Races, with 30 mushers and their teams competing for an $80,000 purse, on a 25-mile course. But that’s about as competitive as Fur Rondy gets.

Other festival events, as I witnessed for the first few days, range from the sublime to the ridiculous, including whacky snowshoe softball (competitors fall a lot), a Frostbite Footrace (costumes optional) and the World’s Largest Outhouse Race (yup, teams competing pushing outhouses).

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