Check out these snowy escapes:
Where: Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada
Duration: 3 to 5 days
Distance: 14 to 30 miles per day
Cost: $2,500 to $4,500
Operator: Muktuk Adventures Ltd. (www.muktuk.com; 866-968-3647)
Travel a section of the famous 1,000-mile trail of the Yukon Quest International Sled-dog Race between December and April, and get a sense of what Quest mushers experience. This is what it's like to be a "distance" musher, driving your own dog team, with an expert guide along for coaching. The tour usually involves three to five days on the trail but can be as long as six and can be modified to suit individual needs. You camp out on the trail, just as the mushers do.
If you're not ready to hit the trail yet, there's Rookie Ranch instead. Even if you have never set foot on a dog-sled runner before, you'll be able to drive your own team after your week here. By the third or fourth day, many are ready to try an overnight camping trip. Owned and operated by Frank Turner and Anne Tayler, the 100-acre ranch is surrounded by panoramic views of the mountains in the Ibex Valley, the Laberge Hills, and Haeckel Hill. Frank started mushing 25 years ago. In 1984, he entered the first Yukon Quest, a marathon soon called "the toughest race on Earth." He has raced every year since—the only musher to do so. And in 1995, Frank won the race in record time.
Where: Santiago, Chile
Duration: 7 days
Operator: Chilemontana (chilemontana.com/eng, email@example.com or http://back-country-skiing.gordonsguide.com/chilemontanaciadeguias/tripdetails.cfm?tripID=15768)
Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
From June to September, this trip offers skiers and snowboarders South American sunshine and deep powder in Chile's Central Andes range. Your first stop is the Andean ski resort of Portillo, east of Santiago, one of the oldest ski areas in South America. The groomed terrain varies from intermediate to steep and deep. Next up: El Arpa resort, 60 miles from Santiago and renowned for its jaw-dropping vistas, is reachable only by snowcat. From the summit, you gaze out toward Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak of the Americas at 22,841 feet, and west to the Pacific Ocean, and face a vertical descent of 3,000 feet through knee-deep powder. The following day brings you near the small village of Farellones to the La Parva ski resort, with its wide variety of groomed and off-piste terrain, ranging from very easy trails to 50-degree slopes. You'll spend a day at nearby Valle Nevado, known for its snowboarding runs, and finish up at the Colorado area above Farellones, famous for steep terrain and chutes. One professional bilingual ski guide is assigned to every 4 guests.
Where: Palmer, Alaska
Duration: 14 days
Distance: 20 to 50 miles
Operator: National Outdoor Leadership School (www.nols.edu; 800-710-6657)
Difficulty: Extremely challenging
Two weeks living on a glacier and the tundra in southern Alaska isn't for the faint of heart. Participants in this National Outdoor Leadership School program are picked up in Anchorage and spend the first day at the NOLS campus in Palmer before being flown to the upper reaches of the Matanuska Glacier in the coastal Chugach mountain range. So as not to waste a minute, you fly in your climbing harness and begin learning the basic mountaineering skills curriculum—how to tie proper climbing knots, handle the rope properly, self-arrest, and belay, for example, as well as crampon and ice-ax techniques—as soon as you land on the glacier. Home for two weeks is tight tent camp quarters, and days are filled with practice in ice climbing and peak ascensions and with learning about snow camping techniques. For you to be well conditioned for mountaineering, experts suggest you gear up at least eight weeks ahead of departure by jogging three to five times a week, 5 to 6 miles in 40 to 55 minutes, or by biking 20 to 25 miles. Upper muscular strength is important during rock and ice climbing. This short course is for students ages 23 and older; the average age is 29.