Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Sonoma's Inn at Occidental Spa-licious

Tuesday October 28, 2008 at 12:12 AM | 2 Comments

Inn at Occidental

Inn at Occidental

From Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip

When I arrived on a misty February Monday, I was surprised to see adults and school children sitting on the curb in the village of Occidental.  Cyclists in bright logo gear began to trickle in.  I checked into the Inn at Occidental and asked owner Jerry Wolsborn what the fuss was about.  Turns out the 2008 Amgen Tour of California was about to wiz by.  While the exact route has yet to be posted on the Amgen website, I do know that Santa Rosa will be a staging area for Lance Armstrong and his fellow cycling team in February of 2009.

Located off the Bohemian Highway, the Inn at Occidental doesn’t have cell phone towers. In fact, the only thing towering overhead are redwood trees. “Having lived in Marin for 10 years, I’d never been to Armstong,” said Wolsborn.  The 805 acre State Reserve is “under utilized,”added Wolsborn.  From horseback riding, to wine tasting or relaxing at the nearby Oasis Day Spa, the Inn is an ideal launch pad for a wide array of activities.

Osmosis Meditation Garden

Osmosis Meditation Garden

Ten minutes away, in the blink-and-you’ll miss-it town of Freestone, I was treated to an Osmosis Cedar Enzyme Bath and a 75 minute Swedish Esalen massage.  Before my treatments I was invited to stroll the Japanese meditation garden and sip herbal tea in the sitting room over looking the bonsai garden.  I have to say, this was one of the best massages of my life, and I’ve had my share of massages.

Another high point of Freestone is Wild Flour Bread Bakery.  Be warned, the organic bakery is only open four days a week, Friday through Monday, including holiday weekends, except Christmas day.  The scones are delicious.

Sonoma Lodge Room

Sonoma Lodge Room

Before you arrive, you’ll want to check out the rooms on-line.  Each room or suite, offers a distinct personality.  All rooms feature overstuffed down beds and fireplaces and include hors d’oeuvres in the evening and a Sonoma Harvest Breakfast in the Wine Cellar dining room. 

 Room prices range from $259 for traditional rooms, to $359 for suites with hot tubs, to $679 for the two bedroom Sonoma Vacation Cottage.  Check on-line for Internet and Mid-Week specials.  The Inn at Occidental is a member of Unique Inns.


Thanks to Iris and Ron Kovarsky for this photo of the Inn.  Osmosis and Sonoma Lodge photo by Nancy D. Brown

The Best Snowboarding Mountains

Thursday October 23, 2008 at 2:02 AM | 42 Comments

Alpine Meadows SnowboarderFrom Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip

With the winter season ahead snowboarders are dusting off their boards, tightening their bindings and getting ready for another great season.

Flyboys, flygirls, freestylers, freeriders, carvers, call them what you like, they are all seeking one thing…the best place to snowboard.  Whether you are looking for fresh snow, hard-packed powder or outrageous vertical drops, the following resorts each have something special to offer the snowboarder.

If you are a thrill seeker looking for a killer snowboarding trip, you have to check out some of the following places to board.  These mountains are known for the best snow, best rides and best parties in and around the USA.

Check out our Top Ten List. Did your mountain make the cut?

photo credit Alpine Meadows

Alpine Meadows Lake Tahoe

Alpine Meadows, Tahoe City, California

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Alpine Meadows has its own blog and is on Twitter.  If you can’t wait for the snow to fall in Tahoe, the San Francisco Ski and Snowboard Festival, taking place November 1-2, 2008, is your best bet until the flakes start falling. Alpine Meadows has the famous Shreadows terrain park for the ultimate ride. The Shreadows has a jump, rail, a box line and its own lift just off the base lodge. Lift tickets range from $50 to $69 depending on half day passes or holiday dates. You can buy your tickets online here. Opening Day is scheduled for November 26, 2008.

Whistler Vancouver Canada

Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia, Canada

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While it rests outside of the United States boundaries, Whistler’s Blackcomb is often called the the best ski and snowboarding resort in North America.  Not only will it be the venue for the 2010 Olympics, the new 28 person Peak-to-Peak gondola will transport riders from Whistler to Blackcomb without having to force them to the bottom base. If you’re going to go to Whistler consider taking a snow boarding tour and go freestyle. Whistler offers over 8000 acres of terrain and half pipes as well as tube park. A two day pass ranges from $125-$178 CAD and you can reserve your tickets online here.  Opening Day is scheduled for November 27, 2008.

Kirkwood Lake Tahoe

Kirkwood, Lake Tahoe, California

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Sometimes considered the largest natural snowboard park in the United States, Kirkwood offers high altitude, open bowls, steep chutes, drops and lifts.  It’s also a great place for spring skiing and working on the California tan. Kirkwood recently added two new lifts and revamped its terrain parks and halfpipe. You can purchase tickets online and avoid the lines when you get there. Opening day is schedule for late November.  Check out their events calendar for more information.

Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain, Mammoth Lakes, CA

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With the California sun shining almost 300 days a year, Mammoth offers a long ski and snowboarding season. Mammoth has two lodges you can board out of with a gondola ride that takes you to the top and back down to a great village with a few bars and a Starbucks.  Tickets range in price, but are about $50-$70 and you get a discount if you buy mulitiple days at a time.  Mammoth also has a snowboarding park and there is a blog where you can check out some pics. Weather permitting Opening Day is currently scheduled for November 13, 2008.

Mount Bachelor Oregon

Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, Bend, Oregon

Located in central Oregon, 22 miles west of Bend, Mt. Bachelor has made a concentrated effort to attract snowboarders.  It’s 400 foot Superpipe is among the best on the continent and they have just hired a new PipeCutter who will be cutting the pipe almost every night.  The “Air Chamber” snowboarding run is a mile long and offers plenty of rails and booters for freestyle riders. Pricing for tickets can be found here. Opening Day is set tentatively for November 22, 2008.

Snow Bird Utah

Snowbird, Utah

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With 500 inches of annual snowfall, Snowbird offers the highest altitude of any Utah resort.  The Tram whisks snowboarders up 11,000 feet in about eight minutes.  A great place to strap in an attack the double black diamond runs. This season Snowbird has added a Superpipe. It’s called Zaugg and is a Pipe Monster. Zaugg is scheduled to be cut three times per week and is supposed to provide an experience like no other. Check out Snowbird’s website for ticket information. Opening Day is currently scheduled for November 22, 2008.

Mt Hood Oregon

Mt. Hood, Mount Hood, Oregon

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Mount Hood Meadows is one of the few places offering year-round boarding. It’s also home to Meadows, the 500 foot long, eighteen-foot high, super pipe that received Transworld Boarding Top 10 pipe rating. Located just seventy miles from Portland, it’s easy to fly and drive to. There are six parks at Mt. Hood: Park Place, Rose City Park, The Zoo, Shipyard, Superpipe and Forest Park. There is also a blog for you to get even more information from. Tickets range from $50-$70. Opening Day is scheduled for November 21, 2008.

Stowe Mountain Vermont

Stowe Mountain Resort, Stowe, Vermont

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If you can conquer boarding in the East, you can board anywhere.  Those of you who have cut your teeth, or should I say carved your board, on the hard pack, sometimes icy slopes of New England’s Mt. Mansfield know what I mean.  Stowe is less than an hour from Burlington so weekends tend to be busy and lift lines can be long.  Stowe even has its own website for freestylers to get pictures and event information .Ticket information can be found on their website.  Opening Day is scheduled for November 22, 2008.

Sugarloaf Maine

Sugarloaf, Maine

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At 4,000 feet elevation, Sugarloaf is sometimes considered the best riders’ mountain in New England.  If you like spring boarding, check out mid-April’s Reggae Weekend, one of the East’s largest snowboard parties.  Sugarloaf’s newest park is called The YARD.  It features three sets of jumps, new rails, a hip and more.  Buying your tickets ahead of time will save you money and time at the mountain.  You can go to their website for more ticket info. Opening Day is scheduled for November 21, 2008.

Park City Utah

Park City Mountain Resort, Park City, Utah

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Often found on the top ten family resorts list in North America, Park City averages 360 inches of snow each year and is snowboard friendly. The Eagle superpipe, with its 22 foot walls, hosts the World Superpipe Championships. Boarders have four parks to ride, including King’s Crown Superpark, Jonesy’s, the lighted PayDay Park and Pick ‘N Shovel Park. Park City is conveniently located about 45 miles from Salt Lake, so flying and driving is easy.  Coming in to Park City you see the Olympic Park that was built for the 2002 Winter Olympics. There is a very cool Old Town to Park City and it’s a bit bigger than a town like Mammoth.  Park City offers Fast Track tickets that get you in to express lanes. Check out their website for more ticket info.  Opening Day is scheduled for November 22, 2008.

Hey, you made it to the bottom of the run.    What’s your favorite snowboarding mountain?  Leave a comment below and happy boarding!

Ashland's Winchester Inn A Family Affair

Tuesday October 21, 2008 at 1:01 AM | 1 Comment

Winchester Inn

Winchester Inn

From Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip

From one family to another, an Oregon tradition began in the 1980’s for Laura and Ernie Winslow. The Lafayette, California couple discovered the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Ashland’s Winchester Country Inn

“Ernie and I like the tradition of going back to a certain place,” reflects Laura Winslow.  They also enjoy the Winchester’s convenient location to downtown and the many theaters.

The Winslows have been returning to the Inn since 1980 and now travel with their grandchildren to Ashland.  “We’ve enjoyed the relationship with the Gibb family,” Laura Winslow notes.

The former schoolteacher met innkeepers Laurie and Michael Gibb when their children were small.  “I think we’ve stayed in every room,” Laura says.  “Our favorite rooms are the Garden Room and the Courtyard Suite.  The Gibbs provide us such wonderful service.”

“We’ve been privileged to have some of the same guests for 25 years,” reflects Laura Gibb.  “We came to Ashland at a particular time when we were the eight B&B and now there are over 80.”

I was fortunate to have stayed at the Winchester Inn for a night on May 16, 2008.  I stayed in the Courtyard Suite, and like the Winslow family, I was welcomed into the Gibb family home.  While the Gibb’s don’t actually live on property, they are very visible at the Inn.  Michael Gibb greeted me at check-in, son Drew offered some menu selections at the evening dinner and Laura stopped by at breakfast to touch base with me and graciously chatted with other guests in the morning.

General Manager Drew Gibb seems well suited to take over the Inn when his parents decide to taper off their innkeeper duties.  He recommended the wild salmon with blueberry corn salsa for a dinner selection.  The fish dish, prepared by Chef Shane Hardin, was bursting with flavor.

“We are absolutely thrilled with what he does.  Fun, non-traditional, haute cuisine.  We want to offer something that is fine dining, but won’t break the bank,” adds Drew.

If you are still undecided about your holiday plans and are looking for a unique experience, consider the Winchester Inn’s Dickens Feast, December 17-19, 2008.  The Winchester offers a three-hour, six course dinner based on an old English feast.  Singers dressed in period costume entertain, as well as a visit from jolly ol’ Saint Nick.

Rates: From $185-$280 with special packages available

For more information: (800) 972-4991