Top Emerging Ski Destinations in the US and Beyond

Skip the crowds and head to the coolest ski towns across the world.

Girdwood, Alaska
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Why It’s Cool
- Off the beaten path ruggedness + zero crowds + perfect powder + runs for all levels
Where to hang:
- The Sitzmark, a throwback to the classic ski bar, sits at the base of the mountain. Soak up a much deserved brewski, live jams, and hot eats on their sprawling sundeck

Zermatt, Switzerland
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Why It’s Cool
- Old World Charm (Think cobblestones leading to centuries old architecture filled with warm laughter, full-bodied wines, and decadently good food) + steep slopes + Matterhorn backdrop
Where To Hang Your Hat
- The five star Mont Cervin Palace offers the best of the triumvirate Ls: luxury, location, and leisure

Crested Butte, Colorado
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Why It’s Cool
- Stunning scenery + Extreme Ski & Snowboard Slopes + Eclectic, Funky Ski Bum Town
What to Do When Your Skis Need a Day Off
- Take a dog sledding tour through the untamed Elk Mountains

Kitzbuhel, Austria
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Why It’s Cool
- Horse-drawn carriage-style romance by day, Cosmopolitan club mecca by night + Great runs for the intermediate skier + Cool network of gondolas and lifts that allow easy transport to neighboring towns
Where to Dine
- Schwarzer Adler, where Alpine chic meets cozy nook and local dishes are inspired by world-renowned cuisine

Wanaka, New Zealand
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Why It’s Cool
- LOTR-style scenery + Four nearby ski areas + Steep, groomed runs + Kiwi Awesomeness

Don’t Miss:
- Arcadia Chutes at Cardrona Alpine Resort, known by locals as your chance to “Take a ski on the dark side,”chockablock full of secret chutes and powder banks that’ll make you feel like a rock star sloper

Travel Series: Italy And Greece

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On my final lag of the trip, I was (thankfully) destined for warmer weather in Italy and Greece.

Gondolas, Stripes And Canals
Donned in my striped shirt and wide brimmed hat, I expected to tumble out of the train station into the hustle and bustle of car traffic and have to meander my way to the island of Venice. To my utter bewilderment, I stepped out of the train station and stood with historic Venice staring back at me.

From gondola stands to vendors selling shiny pieces of rainbow colored Venetian glass and extravagant masks, I knew this was one breathtaking moment that will be etched in my memory forever. Tearing my eyes away from the gelato stand, I turned to find my way to the train station and into the main land of Mestre, where I would stay at a bed and breakfast.

If you didn’t already gather, Venice is quite small. Finding real estate on the island compares to finding a rent-controlled apartment on 5th avenue in Manhattan. Prices are sky high! Beat the crowds, pesky street vendors, and noise on the mainland. I was perfectly comfortable in my cozy B&B and was able to get the true local experience while finding some amazing restaurants that offered fried olives (yum!) and more bang for your buck in Italy. A half-liter of the house wine was only 5 Euros and the quality of food was less touristy and absolutely lip-smacking delicious.

My days consisted of wandering the criss-cross canals looking for the best slices of pizza, roaming St. Mark’s square, taking pictures with my vibrant color filter on my camera, gondola-riding, and enjoying the intimate feel of the island with no cars and no bikes–a virtually no-wheel zone. Each building oozes with its historic original heyday glamour, without feeling musty, outdated or old. Imagine if each house on your street was painted with a different color of the rainbow–your neighborhood would immediately feel jazzy and new. That’s what Venice feels like to me. Each street is exclamation-point worthy and leaked a kind of old-world charm.

Tip: Stay in Mestre to escape the escalating hotel and hostel prices!

When In Roma, Eat As Much As The Romans Do
ROME! That’s what was always on the tip of my tongue when I was asked which place was my favorite. The European counterpart to the city that never sleeps was filled with lazy-limbed travelers gawking at another monument, restaurant, or street performer before them.

With a tumultuous 1200 year history, I couldn’t stop planning what I’d go and see next. After all, I didn’t have the allotted seemingly 10 years it’d take to really take in all Rome has to offer.

When I tell you I saw a small percentage of what I wanted, it’s nothing but the truth. I went on a food tour in Testaccio, a historic district where my tour guide informed us of it’s historical roots in the distribution of Rome’s old-world supply system.

I tossed (count them) five coins in the Trevi Fountain, sent postcards to my family from the Vatican, toured the ruins of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, ate fourteen glorious cups of gelato, tasted a real cannoli, climbed the Spanish Steps, scarfed down as much pasta carbonara as humanely possible, and picnic-ed in the gardens in Villa Borghese.

I feel as if nothing I could write could sum up and justify how no-pun intended, colossal my too few days in Rome were. The absolute blur of culture, ruins, and beauty quickly escalated Rome to the top of my favorite places on Earth spot. Don’t trust that too much though, since Greece is on my next-stop radar. I’m pretty finicky when it comes to deciding where I’d happily move to for the next year or two to explore.

Tip: Grab a panino and head to Villa Borghese on a Sunday when a lot of Rome is closed, to have a Notebook-style paddle-boat date and romantic picnic on the stretches of green grass.

Hercules, Where Art Thou?
As an avid reader and English-nerd as soon as I could hold a book, Greek gods and goddesses always made it to the top of my summer reading list. Greek mythology has held my curiosity from a young age, even before it was Disney-ized in 1997’s Hercules.

Surrounded by water and unreachable by train, Athens, Greece is no easy feat to reach. Escaping the list on most of Europe backpacker’s itineraries for the impossible travel, I pat myself on the back for keeping this relatively expensive-to-get-to destination. Even though Prague and Verona eventually got the axe in favor of Athens, I couldn’t have been happier with my decision.

Quickly stripping the layers on layers from my back, I was pleasantly surprised to finally be in shorts and sleeveless shirt weather. Aglow with rolling hills covered in pristine white buildings on a background of Mediterranean blue, I weaved my way to a family friend’s apartment in the middle of the city. I’ll give a big shout out to them for taking me in–they were warm and friendly–even without speaking too much English. They cooked almost all my meals for me including swimming-in-tzatziki gyros, warm and flaky musaka, chicken, Greek coffee for breakfast, and taking me out for more meals with fresh seafood and ouzo pairings.

Stuffed to the brim and feeling too heavy to walk around, I grabbed my brand new Greek gladiator sandals from the market to walk the hefty hill to the Acropolis. On the top of the world, I climbed to see the ruins and temples of the stretch of preserved land. Surrounded by crumbling columns and city stretched in all directions, my mind boggled that I was standing in over 7,000 years of history.

Over the next few days, I searched for good finds in the market, coming away with mini statues of Athena and partying in my first local club. The University provides a youthful vitality to the island and the bands weren’t slack in comparison. Once the Greek band took the stage by storm, I rocked to a bizarre mix of popular Greek songs and even an old American favorite, a rendition of “I Get Knocked Down” by Chumbawamba.

I toured the beaches and the shoreline the waters lapped up against them, sipped coffee down by the marina, promised to come back on a Grecian island-hopping tour, and teary-eyed warmly kissed my Greek family a farewell.

Tip: Go off the beaten path and order a real Greek meal. It’s traditional to order a bunch of appetizers and share! Be sure not to forget to pick up some ouzo and olive oil for friends back home.

After a month in Europe, I took a one-way ticket back to reality in Georgia–but not without souvenirs that costed over fees on baggage, and memories of a lifetime. Ten pounds heavier and with a clear mind, I safely landed in America once again–frantically planning my next trip away.

Ansley is SweetJack’s gif-loving staff writer. With a big family and a knack for a good pun, you’ll find her writing up a storm and planning her next trip abroad.

Travel Series: Brussels, Amsterdam & Munich

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Waffles and Chocolate
Back on the train, I started my journey with confidence to Brussels, Belgium. Granted, chocolate, waffles, french fries and cozy pubs completely crowded my thoughts. But this stop was overshadowed by the gut-wrenching terror I had of staying in the one and only hostel I would stay in for the whole trip. I was quite nervous about my experience, but for one night, I thought I could push through and survive. The hostel wasn’t scary and adorned with one of the cutest little bars just down the steps from my room. I definitely missed the comfort of a host family, but with thoughts of food dancing in my head, I ventured off to the historic city centre.

Stepping into the small-ish square of La Grand-Place, I was instantaneously surprised at how much I warmed to the tall picturesque postcard type buildings that loomed before me. The gothic architecture was absolutely breathtaking and only taunted at my increasing hunger with waffle-shaped stacks of windows and restaurants on the bottom floor.

I’ve got to say, Brussels has been ghastly underrated in my Europe tour books. I stopped here on the way to Amsterdam to ensure I sampled the huge landscape of Europe, but I found myself longing for a couple more days to bask in the tasty sour ale, French fries drenched in mayo, the waffles dripping in whipped cream, evenly spaced cobblestones, and genuinely happy local residents. You could tell from people watching that the local people are bon vivants, spending time and money on living well and giving into their refined taste buds.

Speaking of, my next stop and absolute necessity was to sit down for a real Belgian meal. After ordering a little bit of everything I considered authentic in a quaint restaurant in The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert (an eclectic combination of waffles with chocolate and whipped cream, French fries with mayo, and a beer), I was ready to find the iconic statue of Manneken-Pis.

Just like the Mona Lisa in Paris, the Manneken-Pis statue was on the puny side, making it hard to squeeze between the bustling tourists to grab a snapshot (of course I pushed through). After reveling in its size, I made my way to the city center for a brewery tour. I learned about the unique ales brewed in Brussels with a video and after-tastings and grabbed some fries (I know, I’m hopeless) on the walk back to my room, sad to have only one day left in this special city.

Tip: Find the beat of Brussels by sitting in a local bar, meeting the bartenders and locals alike. Also, wander out of your comfort zone of the worldwide brands like Stella Artois in favor of some local brews–you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Holland Daze
I wouldn’t say I’m an art enthusiast by any sense of the word, but in retrospect I would’ve paid closer attention to those Art History courses in college before arriving in Amsterdam. The whole city reminded me of a Van Gogh painting–it seemed as if the nightlife radiated to the night sky to recreate “Starry Night.”

Known for the gorgeous canals and the gabled facades of the buildings, this city is packed with more than enough architectural brilliance to stun the Paris-fanatics chateau admirers. Even when compared to Venice, in contrast with its bright canals and gondolas, Amsterdam was darker, more mysterious and intriguing than other cities. Known for the lackadaisical laws, Amsterdam packed more beauty than I was mentally prepared for.

In the four days I spent in Amsterdam, my days were filled with avoiding being the victim of a bicycle crash and shopping around Dam Square. Luckily, a carnival had taken over the square with a haunted house, ferris wheel, rides, prize games and yummy stands filled with Dutch-style doughnuts and fries boasting more than 20 dipping sauces.

After spending a majority of my days in the happy-go-lucky carnival atmosphere, touching elbows with the locals, I headed to the Vincent Van Gogh display temporarily located in the Hermitage Museum. I spend hours in the museum–taking in his letters of inspiration and of course, expressive artwork on the walls. This was one of my best decisions of the trip and completely worth the money and rerouting I had to struggle through to get there!

My trip also consisted of several trips to Cafe Louter, or as I like to call it, the best veal burger in the world. I’m serious, this was the juiciest, most tender burger I’ve ever tasted. I know shame on me for ordering it, but I didn’t understand a lot of Dutch and could only translate “burger” on the menu after a flustering encounter with the waitress.

Unexpectedly, after one of my mini shopping extravaganzas, I had some time leftover after taking gymnastics-style photos at the “I Amsterdam” letters to travel to the Artis Zoo. Crazily enough, I suffered through the frigid temperature to gawk at elephants, panthers, giraffes with short fences, and even an enclosed exhibit where you could get close enough to monkeys, bats, and birds of all different species. Truly an amazing experience!

Tip: Load up your tram card at the main train station–the attendants will sometimes run out of cards and you’ll be promptly asked to get off (happened to me more than once!)

Castles & Crazy Kings
Ahhh…the fairytales I conjured up about Germany. Castles, princesses, Brother’s Grimm–so many of our storybooks were modeled after the sweeping panoramas of the hilly terrain, foggy forests, and scenic nature regions. Tempted to try and drive the German Fairy Tale Route, I instead chose a host in downtown Munich. Surprisingly, Munich reminded me of an industrial city, much like you’d find in the United States with an array of business buildings, scattered apartments, a reliable public transportation system, and professionals crowding the streets on their way to work.

Without the pushy sales people so familiar in Paris and London, Munich was a refreshing change into what I felt like was a less “touristy” part of Europe. After dropping my bags, I headed to the Marienplatz square and to revel in the new city hall. After all, I only had a day to enjoy the city before I headed on a castle day tour (I couldn’t resist) of Northern Germany.

The next day, I donned my proverbial tiara for a trip to the secluded mountainscape of the Bavarian mountains with a trip from Viator. I don’t know how much you know about royal history, but King Ludwig II, better known as “The Crazy King” had a rich history and an important role in some of the most sought castles in the world. Known for his opulence, he built many castles filled with grandeur and all the luxury the old world had to offer with elegant ballrooms and real towers, providing the backdrop for fairy tales we know today. The Neuschwanstein Castle is world-renowned for being the inspiration to our Disney Classic, “Sleeping Beauty” and stands tall on the side of a mountain, making it the perfect fortress for a fictitious princess to spend her days, well, being lazy and snoozing in one of the 90 rooms. King Ludwig didn’t actually live for long in this fairy tale and most of Neuschwanstein remains unfinished, but it didn’t stop me from drooling over the Romanesque-style castle of my dreams and a fully-decorated inside grotto room.

One of the unique aspects of Germany can be found solely in the ahem, different cuisine. Besides guzzling down pint-sized mugs of frothy beer, I was instructed that “schweinshaxe” was the Bavarian signature dish I should give a try. After trying to cut through an impenetrable crust, this roasted ham hock dish was flavorful but with a strange texture. Maybe Bavarian cuisine just isn’t for me, but the dishes overwhelmed with Wiener Schnitzel and sauerkraut aren’t my forte. Is it just me?

Tip: Located in the square, Spielzeugmuseum or the “Toy Museum” is cheap and includes collections of vintage Barbie dolls, train sets, and teddy bears.

Armed with my windmill, cuckoo clocks, wooden clogs and with a slight stomach ache from Germany, I was ready to seek warmer weather and a little more ancient history. When in doubt, do as the Romans do.

Ansley is SweetJack’s bubbly staff writer. Youngest of 6 sisters, don’t let her calm demeanor fool you–you’ll find her writing up a storm and calling out the dawgs. ‘SIC EM!

School me in travel (and awesomeness) by planning your own adventure to Austria with this SweetJack deal.

Travel Series: Paris

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A quick ride on the Eurostar through the sunny French countryside, and I was on the platform of Paris Central Nord. Stepping out onto the sidewalk, I realized I had finally arrived in the City of Lights.

Desperate to begin sightseeing immediately, I searched endlessly for the Eiffel Tower in the distance. I didn’t find it, so I searched for a bus to take me to my sleeping quarters instead. Who knew that the most prominent landmark in Paris could hide so easily.

Two bus rides and a subway stop later, I arrived in Brighton. Though the 18th arrondissement felt a little far from the city center, I was closer to Montmartre and the beautiful Sacre Coeur Basilica.

Before retiring to my studio for the night, I enjoyed a nightcap with the French family renting me the apartment, ready to rest up for the busy days ahead.

Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Mona Lisa

Not one to be defeated easily, I headed out the next morning dead-set on locating the Eiffel Tower. I walked through the cobblestone streets, admiring the historic facades while ambling towards a faint silhouette in the distance. Two miles later, and I was there, marveling at the enormous size … and the enormous crowd of people hovering around the bottom. The city looked beautiful surrounding the tower’s iconic display, but the Louvre was waiting, so I moved on to find sustenance in the form of a Parisian lunch.

Next up, the Louvre, the glass triangle that’s home to some of the most famous artwork in the world, including one of my favorites, the Mona Lisa.

Carefully navigating through the museum’s crowded hallways, I made my way to the iconic painting. Mona’s canvas was incredibly tiny compared to the the wall she hung on. Continuing on, I took in rich oil paintings of Turkish Baths, the elegance of Jacques-Louis David’s “Coronation of Napoleon” and a few statues by Rodin.

Tired and looking forward to my cozy apartment, I jumped on the metro and headed to Montmartre.

Once I reached the top of the hill, the little city bustled with life. Streets were dotted with vendors, artists and restaurants. As a patron of the arts, I sat down for my own personal portrait with a local sketch artist. I’ve got to say, the end was quite beautiful (and realistic, I like to think).

Dinner was a heaping plate of pasta and a sample of red wine. Afterward, I walked to the Sacre Coeur and gazed at the brilliant white church against a bright blue sky. I took a quick tour to see the beautiful mosaics, stained glass windows and painted murals. Then it was time to get some rest.

Notre Dame, Lover’s Lock Bridge, and Snails

Day three, and the Notre Dame was at the top of my itinerary. The cathedral promised true architectural splendor, and I wasn’t disappointed. The intricate gothic architecture was enriched by the details: flowering dials on each side, flying buttresses, beautiful stained glass windows and gargoyles hanging from almost every surface.

Feeling brave after exploring the majestic building, I stopped in a cafe to try some French delicacies, frog legs and escargot. I’ve got to say, escargot is quite a treat with a buttery-and-garlic hot glaze, perfect after a cold rainy day in Paris. The frog legs tasted salty and quite different — I’m not sure if I have the palette for this French dish. After I finished off another glass of wine, I trudged on and accidentally stumbled upon the Lover’s Lock Bridge. Hooked on each and every railing was a lock inscribed with names, dates, and lovey-dovey text (Ansley + Paris 4Ever).

Palace of Versailles

My fourth and last day in Paris, I woke up at the crack of 6am, boarded an early morning train, and set off to the infamous center of the French court, Versailles.

As the train reached its destination, I set my sights on a palace fit for a French king. Dripping in gold paint, the French baroque mansion quickly became one of my favorites in Europe. Large curved forms, grand columns and high domes made up the palace’s lavish architecture–all surrounded by the most famous gardens in the world.

Garden is a bit of a stretch, actually. Beyond the back door of the Hall of Mirrors, you’ll find a mile long canal, 20,000 trees, fountains and carefully manicured greenery that took over 40 years to complete. My tour guide took us straight to the gardens for a sneak peek, then into the mansion. Traipsing in and out of massive bedrooms and grandeur, we saw the chambers of Marie Antoinette, King Louis XVI and the Hall of Mirrors. Trading one home lavished with luxe fabrics and furniture for another, I walked through the gardens to find my way to Marie Antoinette’s estate. By estate, I mean an extensive tract of land, a farm filled with goats and other animals, a small village and finally Petit Trianon, decked out in extravagant Rococo style, which was described by Queen Marie as a small chateau.

My last day in Paris did, at times, make me wistfully sigh at the royal lodgings. Until I remembered the furniture… people must have been significantly smaller back then.

Travel Tip: Learn some basic French! It’s hard to order food without knowing pronunciation–I ordered the chicken and ended up with a cheese omelette!

Next stop: Waffles, chocolate, beer, castles, wooden clogs, windmills, and crazy kings–Brussels, Amsterdam, and Munich!

Ansley is SweetJack’s bubbly staff writer. Youngest of 6 sisters, don’t let her calm demeanor fool you–you’ll find her writing up a storm and calling out the dawgs. ‘SIC EM!

Riviera Maya Travel Review

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To celebrate my sister’s milestone birthday this year, we purchased a SweetJack travel deal for Riviera Maya, Mexico. We traveled with four of her closest friends for the ultimate fiesta de cumpleaños.

We stayed at the Mayan Palace in Riviera Maya. To our delight, the place was even more beautiful than the pictures online. The lush, green grounds were teeming with palm trees and tropical flowers. It felt like we were staying in a well-manicured rain forest, complete with iguanas!

The pools at the resort wound around for days, and were surrounded by palm-thatched cabanas. Between the infinity pools that cascaded from one into the next, and the always-fun swim-up bars, I think it’s safe to say we were in paradise. Not to be outdone by old man-made cement ponds, Mother Nature offered some fierce competition. The turquoise ocean waters, with a beautiful show of tropical fish, lapped up against powdery white sand.

We spent most of our days going between the pool, the beach, and the lovely day spa. The friendly staff brought us drinks whether poolside or oceanside. With a happy hour that starts at noon, how can you resist?

One day we pried ourselves away from the resort for an excursion to see some of actual Mexico. We took a day trip to Tulum to visit the Mayan ruins. Situated on cliffs overlooking crystal blue waters, the ruins included an ancient palace, a place of worship, and a former place of trade. After our tour, we hit a secluded beach in Tulum and ate at a beachside local restaurant.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this part of the world to anyone in need of a laid back vacation in the sun and sand. We felt like royalty for a week at the aptly named Mayan Palace Resort.

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¡Hasta luego!

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Mary Beth is SweetJack’s in-house designer and illustrator. When not working on design projects, you can find her digging around in her garden or planning her next trip to the beach.