Who says you have to spend hundreds on a plane ticket for a great winter getaway? We found seven destinations within driving distance of major metropolitan areas around the country. Buen viaje!
Northeast: Southbury, Connecticut
Distance from New York City: 85 miles
Distance from Boston: 145 miles
Where to stay: Cornucopia at Oldfield Bed and Breakfast
Cornucopia at Oldfield was the first B&B in Connecticut to be awarded Green Lodging status based on the criteria established by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and CT Commission on Culture and Tourism.
Located in a historic home circa 1818, Cornucopia at Oldfield strives to maintain integrity of the home (all original wood for structure and floors and paneling) while respecting the environment (no harsh chemicals for cleaning and no use of fragrances).
What to do: Check out the Audubon Center at Bent of the River
A favorite of the innkeeper, the Audubon Center has 15 miles of beautiful trails. Located on 700 acres of prime farmland along the river and nearby highlands, this is a great place for bird-watching, chilly hikes and great dining at one of the state’s best restaurants, Good News Cafe.
New England: Ludlow, Vermont
Distance from Albany: 89 miles
Distance from Boston: 135 miles
Where to stay: Okemo Mountain Resort
Okemo Mountain Resort’s Jackson Gore Inn was designated a “Green Hotel in the Green Mountain State” by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and the Vermont Small Business Development Center. The resort’s recycling program has reduced its overall waste, and it has further plans to expand its single-stream recycling program this winter.
The resort also conserves water by offering overnight guests the option to reuse towels and linens. Other green activities include cleaning with eco-friendly supplies and replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs to reduce energy use.
What to do: Hit the slopes on Okemo Mountain
SKI magazine named Okemo Mountain Resort one of the top 10 resorts in the East. But besides great skiing, the slopes are also one of the few in the U.S. designed to reduce the environmental strain often associated with winter resorts.
The Okemo team uses advanced snowmaking techniques to lighten the energy load. While trail acreage covered by snowmaking has increased by more 60 percent in the last decade, Okemo uses less energy to cover the mountain than it did 10 years ago. Regarding its air quality, the resort recently spent $30,000 to upgrade its primary compressor to reduce its nitrogen oxides emissions by 95 percent.
Southeast: Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Distance from Atlanta: 196 miles
Distance from Charlotte: 203 miles
Distance from Nashville: 222 miles
Where to stay: LeConte Lodge
This hideout isn’t for the weak. Located atop the third tallest peak in the Smokies, the LeConte Lodge is a local favorite waiting for those who make the climb. At 6,593 feet, it’s not hard to get back in touch with nature. The 2011 season starts in March, but you have to book your reservations now.
Where to stay: Hilton Garden Inn
If you’re looking to escape sooner than March (or your vacation doesn’t include a strenuous hike), book a room at state’s first LEED certified hotel. The property is located on River Road in Downtown Gatlinburg, yards from Smoky Mountain National Park with direct access to the main Parkway downtown walking district. The hotel’s green features include a chemical-free saltwater pool and hot tub and in-room recycling.
What to do: Explore the Great Smoky Mountain National Park
There are two entrances to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, through Townsend and Gatlinburg, Tenn. To get a picture of Gatlinburg, imagine a carnival, then throw in Dolly Parton. It’s a Southern tourist hot spot, but it also has great hotels and does focus on sustainable tourism. Townsend is the scenic, less-traveled route into one of the only national parks that’s still free of charge. Townsend is also the gateway to Cades Cove, one of the park’s most beautiful loop of trails.
Also, Wildlife Wilderness Week begins on Jan. 8 in Pigeon Forge, a small town right outside of Gatlinburg. Visitors will enjoy more than 100 experts sharing their knowledge of the outdoors in more than 175 seminars, lectures and hands-on workshops. Get up close to nature with your choice of more than 50 guided walks and hikes.
Rockies: Granby, Colorado
Distance from Denver: 87 miles
Distance from Colorado Springs: 154 miles
Where to stay: Devil’s Thumb Ranch
Travel + Leisure magazine and Conservation International named Devil’s Thumb as one of the top eco-friendly hotels in the world (it was the only U.S. property to make the list).
Needless to say, the list of this resort’s green accolades extends far beyond this article, but some highlights include, geothermal-heated buildings and cabins; recycled asphalt for paving and waste water that is filtered and purified naturally through a sand-filtration system.
What to do: Ski, skate, sled, snowshoe
Devil’s Thumb is situated on 5,000 acres of land. “Winters are not just for downhill…there’s also an uphill and through the forest,” according to the website. In fact, there are so many things to do on the ranch, that it even has its own activities headquarters to add some organization to your trip. With so much to see, we highly recommend taking advantage. Plus, Rocky Mountain National Park is just 45 minutes away.
West Coast: Yountville, California
Distance from San Francisco: 56 miles
Distance from Sacramento: 68 miles
Where to stay: Bardessono Hotel
This may be the only time we’ll ever recommend taking a trip literally just for the hotel itself. The state of California is known for its green innovation, so it’s a safe bet that you’ll find an eco-friendly hotel and activity in just about every major city. However, Yountville is the only place where you can find greenest luxury hotel in all of North America.
All buildings are sculpted from salvaged wood found within a 100-mile radius of the hotel. Redwood wine barrels have been repurposed to create ceilings; wood from reclaimed Claro walnut and Bay laurel trees form desks and doors.
Also, Bardessono runs 50 percent more efficiently than other hotels as solar panels line the roof and provide a large portion of the hotel’s electricity. The hotel also diligently recycles waste, water and composts.
What to do: Bask in green luxury
Bardessono offers packages for its guests to enjoy everything from its eco-friendly spa, to its free usage of carbon bikes. But be prepared to shell out some dough for some of these eco-luxuries. Packages include the spa combo with an overnight stay in a luxury spa suite (starting at $400 per couple). The hotel also partners with the Napa Valley Trust for private hikes and walks and has wine-tasting tours within walking distance.
Southwest: Sedona, Arizona
Distance from Phoenix: 116 miles
Distance from Tucson: 232 miles
Where to stay: Enchantment Resort
Built into the side of the mountain on the doorway of secluded Boynton Canyon, the Enchantment Resort in Sedona really is one with nature. It even has its own Green Team that meets monthly to assess the needs of the hotel and surrounding environment.
Enchantment Resort keeps 80-90 tons of recyclable material out of the landfill each year by recycling all of its paper, plastic, aluminum, tin, cardboard, batteries, printer cartridges and toners and converting its cooking oil to biofuel. Additionally, its water is treated at an on-site waste treatment plant and used for landscape irrigation. Enchantment also composts and buys local.
What to do: Explore Red Rock Country
What a winter getaway! While snow tops the highest peaks of the mountains in Sedona, the lower Red Rock country sees mild temperatures during the winter. Plus, it’s some of the most breath-taking scenery in the entire country. When entering the park, stop at the local ranger station and pick up a trail map. Make sure you check out hiking and bike trails in both the desert and wooded area of the park.
At your hotel, check out Camp Coyote is Enchantment Resort’s program, designed to educate and entertain children ages 4-12. Trained counselors guide camp-goers in exciting activities that explore the area’s natural environment and culture. Plus, the hotel offers demonstrations on cooking and organic composting as well.
Northwest: Quincy, Washington
Distance from Seattle: 159 miles
Distance from Portland: 162 miles
Where to stay: Cave B Inn and Winery at Sage Cliffe
This recommendation comes from Maria Borisov of EverGreen Escapes & Explorers 3 Adventures. Nestled between an estate vineyard and orchard, Cave B provided “an enriching environment where guests can experience firsthand the power of the land.”
Cave B Winery recycles its bottles to The Green Glass Company, which turns them into glasses and goblets. Each harvest season, more than 100 tons of winery by-product (the skins, pulp, seeds and stems of the fruit) are recycled as feed for local dairy cows.
Other green highlights include the resort’s efforts in the kitchen. Cave B’s on-site orchards and organic chef’s garden provide fresh fruit and vegetables for its restaurant. Additionally, used cooking oil from Tendrils restaurant is converted into biofuel.
What to do: Outdoor sports by day, wine by night
EverGreen Escapes offers two-night packages with Cave B called ActiVino! According to Borisov, the company combines naturalist-lead active adventures during the day (like hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking and rock climbing) with a weekend of wine tasting, delicious food and relaxing at Cave B’s beautiful Inn.