Where to Ski, Glamp, and See the Stars This Season
Above: The Ranch at Rock Creek
Q: My boyfriend keeps talking about wanting to vacation at a ranch. I’m not a big country person—is there a place that will still have the comforts that I love but still satisfy his ranch fantasy?
A: A few luxury ranches have popped up around the country in recent years, catering to travelers who want to experience a working ranch but don’t want to rough it like at a working ranch. The Ranch at Rock Creek (pictured above, TheRanchAtRockCreek.com) is a perfect spot where your boyfriend can play out his cowboy fantasies while you get the comforts you like. Set in breathtaking landscape in Montana’s John Long Mountains along four miles of river, the ranch mixes traditional activities like horseback riding and fly fishing with luxury accommodations and a five-star restaurant. Guests can spend the day shooting clays, fishing in the Montana rivers located near the lodge, hiking, and mountain biking, then wind down at the end of the day in the world-class Granite Spa. Sample the amazing gourmet ranch cuisine before finishing the night in the Silver Dollar Saloon playing pool and darts, bowling, or just having a drink and relaxing. Wake up the next day and, after breakfast in the rustic Blue Canteen, take on the archery course or challenge each other in a game of paintball. Hopefully you and your boyfriend will be on the same team! If you want to go in late winter or early spring, the ranch also offers amazing winter activities, from snowmobiling to skiing, snowshoeing, and more. The ranch is located near the Discovery Ski Area (SkiDiscovery.com) in Philipsburg, Montana.
As far as accommodations, the ranch won’t let you down there, either. One option if you really want to placate your boyfriend’s urge to live like a rancher is to choose luxury glamping in one of the canvas cabins. These “tents” are fully equipped with king-sized beds, sitting areas, gas fireplaces, screened-in front porches, and private bathrooms, and are located along Rock Creek so you can sleep to the sound of the river. Or go for one of the freestanding cabins that are like your own private luxury log home in the woods. The ranch has a variety of cottage sizes, so if you want to bring some friends, they can all stay with you in your own private barn-turned-cottage. The Granite Lodge also has more traditional hotel-style rooms in the main building, so you’re close to everything, including all the comforts you want. To get to the ranch you can fly into Butte, Mont., on daily service from Salt Lake City, and the ranch will arrange to pick you up. Or fly into Missoula, Mont., from Seattle or Salt Lake City.
Above: Ski bunnies at Elevation
Q: It’s getting warmer, but I want to ski! Are there gay ski weekends I can still get to?
Break out those boots and strap on your board or skis, because there are some excellent options for end-of-season ski weekends. Telluride Gay Ski Week is a fantastic gathering set amid the beautiful backdrop of Telluride, Colo., with its numerous coffee shops and funky stores. There are amazing runs at the Telluride Ski Resort and top-notch restaurants right on the mountain — check out the delicious French fare at Bon Vivant and the glorious views at Allred. TGSW runs from February 21-March 2.
There are plenty of lodging options for TGSW, with Hotel Madeleine in Mountain Village serving as the host. The property — with a gym, bar, and lounge that always offers piping hot apple cider or hot chocolate — is surrounded by shops and restaurants and is just a short gondola ride away from Telluride and the slopes. Telluride itself is so charming you might check out the real estate prices. Imminently walkable with architecture vaguely reminscent of San Francisco, the town is a charmer. For TGSW, events a-plenty are planned, including a wedding-themed party with the event's honorary chairs, Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami — the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case against California's Prop. 8.
Elevation Mammoth has the best spring skiing and great parties, and it attracts a lot of hot guys and gals from Los Angeles and San Francisco, but don’t be surprised if you meet a cute snowboarder from New York or even Australia. Elevation Mammoth takes place March 12-16.
The Mammoth Village serves as the backdrop for most activities. It’s the fancied-up part of Mammoth, with two great hotels that house most of the attendees, fun restaurants, and some bars fit for the city but with mountain flair. Since most events are in the village, you can ski or board all day, come down to one of the après-ski events to mingle and watch the go-go boys and girls, grab dinner, then head to one of the parties, all without setting foot in a car. And Mammoth gets a mammoth amount of snow each year, so the skiing is bound to be great, but it’s not uncommon to have amazing spring days where you don’t need a jacket — or a shirt, for that matter.
The experience is what you make of it, and you can have a great time whether single or coupled at either event. I actually met my boyfriend at Elevation! Now go shop for your ski outfit — it’s a gay ski week, after all. You want to look good on that mountain.
Above: Igloo Village at the Hotel Kakslauttanen
Q: My wife wants to see the northern lights. Where can I take her that would be romantic and fun? In what season are the northern lights visible?
What a romantic way to spend a winter night! The spectacular phenomenon of the northern lights, otherwise known as aurora borealis, occurs in the Northern Hemisphere, close to the North Pole. Scientists have discovered that auroral activity peaks about every 11 years, and yes, this is a peak year! It couldn’t be a better time for you and your wife to see the night sky light up in hues of green, red, blue, and yellow.
One of the best places to see the lights in North America is the Northern Lights Resort (NorthernLightsYukon.com) in Whitehorse, Canada. Take one of the lodge rooms if you want to be in the main building, but if you really want private aurora viewing, book one the chalets. Then order some champagne and, as the sun sets, lounge in your private Jacuzzi under the stars to see the night sky light up while you stay toasty warm.
For exotic and over-the-top, check out the Igloo Village at the Hotel Kakslauttanen, picture at top of page, (Kakslauttanen.fi/en) in Finland. Located north of the Arctic Circle, the northern lights are visible here from late August to early April. The village is made up of 20 glass igloos peeking out of the snow-covered forest, and the resort has all of the services of a four-star resort. After having a traditional Finnish meal of reindeer and crab, you and your wife can curl up in bed and watch the spectacular light show right above you. And if you’re feeling even more adventurous, the resort even has real snow igloos available to stay in. That will guarantee you stay close to her all night!
Jason Couvillion is a partner at Alternative Luxury Travel, a travel agency based in Los Angeles that caters to the needs of the LGBT traveler (TravelALT.com).