Warm up to winter with a trip to a destination where the only ice will be the cubes in your cocktail.
I SHOULD LOATHE SKIING. First impressions being what they are, its amazing I didnt swear off the sport completely after one of my initial attempts to ski during an Odyssey-like journey (minus the Sirens, sea monsters, and any other cool stuff ) to Killington, Vermont, when I was 15. I coaxed a friend who had recently gotten his drivers license into being my chauffeur, and we headed off on what turned out to be one of the coldest days of a frigid New England winter; this was the mid-1980s, a time when another ice age seemed completely plausible.
I was as unprepared as it was cold, decked out in the thinnest, most worthless cotton garb my older brothers could pawn off on me. Every tumble (and there were a lot) felt like a fresh initiation into the Minsk, Belarus, Polar Bear Club. Like most teenage boys, we operated under an unspoken code of stubbornness and stupidity. I was miserable -- every ride up on the chairlift seemed like an interminable Siberian exile -- but I repeatedly insisted I was having a blast. By the end of the day, we were both exhausted, borderline frostbitten, and soaked. In a noble act of friendship, I vowed to keep my buddy company and awake on the long drive home to New Hampshire. In five minutes, I slept like the dead, waking periodically to find my friend trying desperate tricks to stay awake: blasting the radio; singing; and, my favorite: sticking his head out the window into a blizzard as he drove.
Nostalgia has not painted that day in cheery hues; it stunk. I do still like cross-country skiing, but I get why spending a day basically doing calisthenics in a freezer is utterly unappealing to so many people. And lets face it: There are so many other things to do -- some of them warm, some of them cold -- if Donald Trump is your idea of a mogul and black diamond sounds like a precious gem. Heres a selection of nonwintery winter activities and places to go while your foolish friends tumble down a frosty mountain. Go ahead -- (dont) break a leg.
BOARD IN NICARAGUA
I know, I know: Its dangerous territory to dis skiing and then turn around and promote boarding. But this isnt snowboarding, the bane of so many skiers; its volcano boarding. And this isnt just any vacation spot, either -- its Nicaragua, the quickly emerging destination for adventure-seeking travelers. Over the past few years, popular tours led by a guide from Bigfoot Hostel in the colonial city of León have been taking eager adrenaline junkies up the 2,388-foot Cerro Negro for a very fast, very hot, and very dusty jaunt down the still-active volcano. Boarders are decked out in protective jumpsuits, gloves, and goggles, and they can hit speeds as fast as 50 miles per hour. Expect to fall and get dirty; just hope that it doesnt happen when Cerro Negro blows, which it has done 20 times since 1850.
GOLF IN HELL
Even the most anticold, antiwinter zealot would probably have a tough time stomaching Death Valley, California, in the summer, where the average July temperature is just a shade below 116 degrees Fahrenheit at the aptly named Furnace Creek ranger station. To me, thats hell. But unlike hell, Death Valley has seasons that change, and temperatures there moderate with the onset of winter, cooling to a very comfortable 66 degrees in January and 81 in March. Golf, of course, has always been a popular antidote to skiing: warm and casual as opposed to freezing and frenetic. At the Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort in Death Valley, youre guaranteed to lower your golf game -- though not necessarily your score (that might require a deal with you-know-who) -- as the resorts golf course is more than 200 feet below sea level, which makes it the lowest in the world.