Seven affordable winter adventures for all types of travelers

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Buffalo in Yellowstone National Park (Photo: David Mathies, iStockphoto)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on November 12, 2007. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: adventure travel, animal, Chamonix, Ely, festival, Molly Feltner, mountain, North Conway, Quebec City, ski, Telluride, Vermont, winter, Yellowstone National Park.

Winter isn't just a good time to plan next spring and summer's adventures, it's also a great time to get outdoors and try a whole other set of activities. Whether you're a bona fide snow bunny or prefer to just dabble in winter sports in between sitting by the fireplace and gorging on comfort food, you can find winter adventure packages that suit your interests and your tolerance for below-freezing temperatures. I've searched the Web and found seven great tours suitable for different types of active winter travelers—and they're all pretty good deals, too.

Wolf watching and winter sports in Yellowstone

Provider: Yellowstone Association
Length: Four nights
Price: from $659

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Each year, close to three million people visit Yellowstone National Park, mainly during the summer. By early November, most of the park's roads and facilities close for the season and visitation drops way off. However, the park's top attractions—abundant wildlife and geothermal hot springs—don't adhere to manmade timetables.

That's why the Yellowstone Association, a nonprofit organization that runs educational programs within the park, offers "lodging and learning" programs during winter, including the four-night Winter Rendezvous package, a program designed to give travelers multiple ways to experience Yellowstone's off-season. Guests booking the package will get exclusive use of the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, the only in-park accommodations accessible by car in the winter. Each day of the session, you'll be able to choose one of several guided field trips, with options ranging from wolf tracking and cross-country ski lessons to more strenuous snowshoeing and skiing treks.

"I had never cross-country skied before and fell in love with it," says Atlanta resident Donna Burbank, who attended the program this past winter with her husband. "It was incredible to be skiing on a road that in the summer would normally be jammed with cars. And the wolves! The snow was a perfect backdrop for seeing wolves and all kinds of wildlife that normally would have stayed away because of all the people."

After the excursions, you'll gather with other participants for a buffet dinner followed by trip reports and an educational presentation by a wildlife biologist, park historian, or other Yellowstone expert. "It's a really fun atmosphere in the evenings, with lots of interaction between the guests and the instructors," says Yellowstone Association Director of Education Jeff Brown. "Everyone loves to share what they've seen and done during the day, which creates a strong sense of camaraderie."

Trip planning

Program start dates are March 4 and 8. Rates are based on double occupancy in rooms with a shared bathroom; rooms with an ensuite bath start at $739. Prices include accommodations, buffet breakfast and dinners, box lunches, guides and guest speakers, in-park transportation, and daily activities. Alcohol, gratuities, and transportation to Yellowstone are not included. The lodge is about a 90-mile drive south from the airport in Bozeman, Montana.

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