Taos Named Top Ski Town

USA Today cites Taos as nation’s best.

USATodat-Top10-logoTaos (the town) and Taos Ski Valley (the mountain resort) are connected by a narrow 18-mile canyon road, but that didn’t stop USA Today readers from naming Taos the best ski town in the land. I like Taos as much as anyone, but it really doesn’t feel like a “ski town” — and with the recent developments at the resort, both on the mountain and at the base of the lifts, that vote seems even more far-fetched.

Taos has a fine historic plaza and a great hotel right there, good galleries, terrific places to eat and a nearby pueblo that ranks as one of the country’s longest continuously inhabited communities. But a ski town? Not really. Did someone stuff the ballot box?

Upon contemplation, I think not. The Tahoe area resorts are many miles from #2 Reno and somewhat closer to $5 Truckee. Even the town of Jackson and the resort of Jackson Hole are not contiguous. Maybe USA Today readers don’t like to ski. Just a thought.

10 Best Ski Towns

  1. Taos, N.M.
  2. Reno, Nev.
  3. Whitefish, Mt.
  4. North Conway, N.H.
  5. Truckee, Calif.
  6. Crested Butte, Colo.
  7. Jackson Hole, Wyo.
  8. Stowe, Vt.
  9. Steamboat Springs, Colo.
  10. Breckenridge, Colo.

And for what it’s worth

10 Best Ski Resorts

  1. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows – Olympic Valley, Calif.
  2. Sugarbush Resort – Warren, Vt.
  3. Big Sky Resort – Big Sky, Mont.
  4. Alta – Alta, Utah
  5. Crested Butte Mountain Resort – Crested Butte, Colo.
  6. Deer Valley Resort – Park City, Utah
  7. Revelstoke Mountain Resort – Revelstoke, British Columbia
  8. Killington Resort – Killington, Vt.
  9. Steamboat Resort – Steamboat Springs, Colo.
  10. Whistler Blackcomb – Whistler, British Columbia

 

Spiffed Up Miami Airport Food Scene

North Terminal Marketplace debuts.

mia-logoEn route to and from Lima, Peru, and Havana, Cuba, in the last few months, I spent interminable hours at Miami International Airport. During one stopover, I was so uncomfortable that I booked a day room for a few hours at the dispiriting airport hotel.

Things are about to get better with the opening of the cheerful  North Terminal Marketplace, a row of 10 new restaurants and shops to provide a multi-cultural taste of Miami without leaving the airport. 

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The diverse collection of dining and retail locations includes iconic brands and local small businesses: 305 Pizza; Chefs of the Caribbean, which serves island favorites such as conch fritters and Jamaican patties; Cuban Crafters cigars; Estefan Kitchen Express, owned by music superstars Emilio and Gloria Estefan; Fig and Fennel, a farm-to-table eatery owned by Miami Beach hot spot Icebox Café; Half Moon Empanadas; a Miami Marlins merchandise store; Maru and Friends, which features collectible, ethnically diverse porcelain dolls by award-winning artist Dianna Effner; My Ceviche, the popular seafood deli with five locations in Miami; and The Penguin Store, by Miami-based Perry Ellis. Members of the local business community will join MIA officials and Marketplace tenants for free menu samples, giveaways, discounts and entertainment. I’m not dreading my next stopover quite so much.

On the Road with Dave Wiggins

Wiggins on Wheels is new experiential road trip site.

5thwheelHere’s what my friend Dave Wiggins recently posted: “For those of you who may not know it, I’ve become a travelin’ man with no set address or house. My home is a 43′ fifth-wheel trailer named Big Mo. To log my odyssey I’ve created a blog. Check it out if you want: https://wiggonwheels.com/. Happy travels!”

I didn’t know it. Dave is a founding partner o Widness & Wiggins Public Relations . He’s been Colorado,  but now is roaming. Sara Widness remains anchored in Vermont as Dave takes to the road. Since August, he’s been in Montana, Nevada, New Mexico,  old Mexico and Arizona. I looked at his site, enjoyed the pictures and the words and enjoyed all.  Take a look. You might too.

China Travel: Signs to Make You Smile

Disclaimer: I have nothing but admiration for people from China or any other Asian country who learn to communicate in English or any other Western language.  But some signs I saw during a recent three-week visit to China did make me chuckle. So with respect, I share these with you:dsc00344

"Abandoned kindling," a sign at Shanghai's Pudong Intl Airport, seems to mean "Matches."
“Abandoned kindling,” a sign at Shanghai’s Pudong Intl Airport, seems to mean “Matches.”

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Many signs tell visitors what not to do.
Many signs tell visitors what not to do.

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China Travel Report: A Wrap-Up

Observations from my fourth visit to China since 1999.

satw-logoThe first time I went to China was to see the fabled Three Gorges of the Yangtze before the completion of the grand dam at Sandoping. The second time was to experience skiing in Heilongjiang Province, north of North Korea. The third was to see the completed dam and sail through a lock. And the fourth time was for the Society of American Travel Writers 2016 Convention. Here are some observations about the China scene:

  • In cities, more skyscrapers and residential highrises (many built on former farmland on the outskirts).  The national bird of China is the construction crane.
  • Incredible transportation infrastructure improvements. To try to help those of the country’s 1.385 billion who wish to get around do so, there are new tollroads, new bullet trains and new metros all over this sprawling country. China is working hard to provide public transportation, but those who can afford them remain enamored of their cars.
  • Whistle-clean cities, kept that way by squadrons of street cleaners — individuals with brooms. Part of the full-employment situation.
  • Still a lot of smoking, but a lot less public spitting than during my previous visits.
  • Tourist-oriented vendors moved from the entrances to major attractions (such as the Terracotta Warriors near Xi’an) to the exits,
  • Serious commitment to recycling.
  • Impressive tree-planting projects in cities, as former dense low-rise neighborhoods are replaced by far taller buildings with significantly smaller footprints.
  • Creation of more and more “scenic areas” and “cultural attractions” for the benefit of both domestic and international visitors.

A Flight to Remember: Snake Falls from the Overhead

Slithery stowaway on Aeromexico flight.

aeromexico-logoA 5-foot serpent recently descended from the overhead compartment during Aeromexico Flight 230 from Torreon to Mexico City and slithered down the side of the plane before falling onto (hopefully unoccupied) seats.

Chron.com image.
Chron.com image.

According to Mexican newspaper El Debate, “flight attendants quickly notified the pilot who immediately began organizing an emergency landing,” adding that…

“A professor at Universidad Politécnica de la Región Laguna, a university in Coahuila, Mexico, captured video of the incident.

He Tweeted in Spanish: ‘The flying snake. A unique experience on a flight from Torreon, Mexico, flight 231 of Aeromexico. That being so … priority landing.’ He later added that Mexico City’s animal control division boarded the plane to secure the ‘unexpected traveler.'”

The airline reportedly is are working to determine how the snake found its way into the cabin in the first place, and how a similar incident can be prevented in the future. I certainly hope so

Bern’s Onion Market

Swiss capital’s unique fall food market.

swissflagSwitzerland has no Thanksgiving, but late November brings the Zibelemärit (Onion Market) to the quaint capital of Bern. This traditional folk festival is held on the fourth Monday of every November.

Farmers from the surrounding area bring over 50 tons of onions that have been artistically woven into braids to the federal capital, along with garlic. Colorful market stalls offer ceramic pots, vegetables, traditional market goodies and mementos. To help resist the winter cold, don’t miss the Glühwein stand with its hot mulled wine.

The bustle gets underway at 5 a.m. as hundreds of visitors from home and abroad flood the city. If you go, be sure to try savory cheese tarts, onion tarts and onion soup that are served in all the restaurants, filling the air with a heady aroma. Younger visitors scatter confetti in the streets and have fun at the fairground.

Special trains are scheduled by  the S-Bahn Bern and Swiss Federal Railways makes travel to the Zibelemärit easy. If you’re not within striking distance this year, consider it for 2017.

Washington’s Newest Museum

African-Americans’ struggles & triumphs shown.

The 19th and newest component of the exemplary Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  is the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC). Its 12 galleries contain more than 3,000 images and artifacts, plus s interactive and  oral histories.

Media who previewed it have singlee out an exhibit showing how separate and unequal life was for African Americans during segregation at the turn of the last century. Others feature a slave cabin from the Point of Pines Plantation on Edisto Island that was dismantled and painstakingly reconstructed piece by piece inside the new museum, a replica of the set of Oprah Winfrey’s television show, a room with pieces of an actual slave ship that wrecked off the coast of South Africa and an airplane used by Tuskegee Airmen, who like the Navajo code talkers in World War II, are finally getting the recognition they deserve. The NMAAHC also honors the better-known African American musicians and sports heroes.

The windows of the $540-million museum are placed to frame views of other iconic buildings around the city. The Contemplative Court is off the history galleries with glass and copper walls and a central, cascading waterfall to enable visitors to begin processing what they have seen.

Consulting chef Carla Hall, a popular Top Chef contestant and one of the country’s best-known African-American chefs of the modern era, is credited with The Sweet Home Café whose four stations serve food from four regions: the agricultural South, the Creole coast, the Northern states and the Western range.

As with all Smithsonian institutions, admission to the NMAAHC is free. Timed passes, which give visitors specific time windows for entry.

Hello, Halcyon!

Cherry Creek North hotel a stylish newcomer.

halcyon-logoTwo months ago, I posted news of the high-tech, high-touch features of the Halcyon Hotel that was about to open in Denver’s tony Cherry Creek North.  I get a lot of news about hotel openings, but I post very few that I haven’t seen or experienced. This one, however, interested me because of the location and the features. At the time, I wrote, “No pix yet, because I haven’t been there, and there as yet are no images on the hotel’s website, but I’m intrigued enough to post it now.”

The Colorado Tourism Office hosted a reception at the Halcyon, so I can now confirm that it is delivering on its promise and I also have some photos to post:

Sophisticated décor with clean-lined furniture, white bed linens and well-placed lighting in all guest rooms.
Sophisticated décor with clean-lined furniture, white bed linens and well-placed lighting in all guest rooms.
Vinyl whimsy.
Vinyl whimsy.
Soaking tub and wubway tile.
Soaking tub and subway tile.
A place for keys and men's wallets neat to the door is a simple, thoughtful feature.
A place for keys and men’s wallets neat to the door is a simple, thoughtful feature.

Continue reading Hello, Halcyon!

Vail CEO’s Epic Generosity

Ski company boss writes BIG checks to worthy causes.

Vail-logoVail and Aspen, the most glamorous names in American skiing, are the linchpins of the communities where their ski mountains are located. Rob Katz, the mega-resort operator’s head man, and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, have opened their checkbook with unprecedented generosity.  From Vail Resorts’ press release:

Vail Resorts, Inc. CEO Rob Katz and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, founder of Elana’s Pantry, made personal contributions totaling $2 million to 12 local non-profit organizations in the communities where the company operates, including Eagle, Summit, Denver and Boulder counties in Colorado; Summit County in Utah, South Lake Tahoe in Nevada, North Lake Tahoe in California; the Municipality of Whistler in British Columbia, Canada; Afton in Minnesota; Brighton in Michigan; Kenosha County in Wisconsin (near Wilmot); Cooma in New South Wales, Australia (near Perisher); and Jackson in Wyoming (near Grand Teton Lodge Company). Each of the contributions will be directed toward programs that support the welfare and education of children in these local communities.

“The success of our local communities brings a number of unique challenges that require our focus and attention – none more important than helping kids and families who are most vulnerable. Elana and I feel fortunate to be able to provide this support to these outstanding non-profits to allow them to continue their great work,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.

This announcement follows last year’s $1.5 million contribution by Rob and Elana to the Epic Promise Foundation, which provides grants to employees of Vail Resorts who are in need or are looking for additional educational opportunities…[There are] non-profit organizations receiving funds from this $2 million gift and the impact these funds will have on children and families in the local communities they serve. 

Think about this next time you buy VRI resort pass or buy a lift ticket.

Award-winning travel blog. Colorado-based Claire Walter shares travel news and first-hand destination information from around the corner, around the country and around the world.