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The Best Winter Vacation Destinations

Published in the February 2013 Issue Published online: Feb 22, 2013 White Out & Wide Open—The Blog LANE LINDSTROM

More than likely most of you haven’t seen the article, “Livability.com Names The Top 10 Best Winter Vacation Destinations: America’s Hottest Cold Cities.” It’s here: http://livability.com/top-10/top-10-best-winter-vacation-destinations-americas-hottest-cold-cities

Well I did, and after reading the introduction and then seeing the Top 10 list, well, let’s just say I have some serious issues with some of Livability.com’s choices. If you want to save the time of looking up the Top 10 Best Winter Vacation Destinations list on Livability.com, here they are:

1. Anchorage, AK

2. Spokane, WA

3. Minneapolis, MN

4. Traverse City, MI

5. Reno, NV

6. Waukesha, WI

7. Missoula, MT

8. Bangor, ME

9. Concord, NH

10. Casper, WY

Some of those choices I can definitely agree with, especially those cities that are in the West. Yes, I’m biased. Others, well, not so much. Anchorage, Missoula and Casper get a thumbs up. A not-so-enthusiastic thumbs up (but still a thumbs up) goes to Traverse City, Concord, Bangor and even Waukesha. Spokane and Minneapolis raise my eyebrows. And Reno was kind of on the bubble for me but after some thought, I guess I can agree with that choice.

According to Livability.com, the criteria used to determine their top 10 list included: “...editors started by identifying those cities with an average temperature below freezing and an average snowfall more than 25 inches. Next, they looked for cities that offer an ample number of outdoor recreation options—cities near ski slopes or frozen lakes or with large open areas perfect for snowshoeing or snowmobiling.”

So far so good.

“Finally editors factored in the number and type of indoor activities offered, such as shopping, dining, concerts and theater.”

That’s where the train went off the tracks for me.

Here’s a criterion I would include in such a list: proximity to good snowmobiling. If that were included, it would be pretty tough to overlook Salt Lake City, Denver and Boise, ID, none of which made the list, I’m assuming, because of their average temperatures. They easily qualified in the annual snowfall category. I can think of a number of towns and cities that would be included and higher up on the list than some of those listed in

Livability.com’s rankings.

I’ve been to each of the cities on Livability.com’s current top 10 list in the winter, although I admit I haven’t snowmobiled near all of them. So I am familiar with them, some more than others.

I am glad to see snowmobiling mentioned in Livability.com’s winter top 10. I will give them credit for that, although I’m sure some who look at the list automatically discount its credibility for even including snowmobiling. One of the categories included in each of the top 10 cities was “Activities.” Listed there are the things you can do outside in the winter. Snowmobiling was listed for nine of the 10 cities with Minneapolis not being included.

I was curious about the snowmobile angle so I did a little more digging on my own. I tend to raise my eyebrows to any city that doesn’t promote snowmobiling if it claims to be a winter destination. Throw Spokane into that category. Snowmobiling isn’t mentioned in the Winter Sports section on its CVB website and if you search a little more, the Spokane Knights’, the local snowmobile club, winter snowmobile show is listed in the events section. But that’s it.

A handful of the towns listed in the top 10 do a nice job of promoting snowmobiling. Casper for one. Anchorage, too. I, like most other snowmobilers, am more than willing to spend money in an area that promotes and welcomes snowmobiling. Why go to a place where you’re snarled at or people turn up their noses?

I readily admit I’m partial to any village, town, city, hamlet, bump in the road in the West, particularly in or near the mountains. That’s why my list would be decidedly different than Livability.com’s top 10 winter destinations. As long as there is a place to eat and sleep close by, that’s enough to qualify as a destination in my book.

With that in mind, here’s my list of top 20 (sorry, too hard to whittle it down to 15, let alone 10) winter destinations in the U.S.

1. West Yellowstone, MT

2. Island Park, ID

3. Valdez, AK

4. Alpine, WY

5. Grand Lake, CO

6. Laramie, WY

7. Logan, UT

8. McCall, ID

9. Cooke City, MT

10. Togwotee, WY

11. Cascade, ID

12. Pinedale, WY

13. Stanley, ID

14. Clark, CO

15. South Fork, CO

16. Tollgate, OR (north of LaGrande)

17. Cle Elum, WA

18. Ephraim/Manti, UT

19. Winthrop, WA

20. Columbia Falls/Whitefish, MT

At least that’s my list for now. It might change in a week or two when I go riding in a new place. Heck, it’s always changing.

But if I was forced to choose just one place it would be The West. Period.