We all have the best intentions at the start of a new year. With the slate wiped clean, we promise ourselves that we’re going to eat healthier, exercise more, and take out some “me” time. Then we put it off and, voila, an entire year has gone by once again. So why wait? The clock is already ticking; you might as well put your plan into motion. Plot an escape to a close-to-home snow-filled destination where you can unplug and unwind. Just think of the possibilities: cell phone versus cell therapy, key strokes versus massage strokes, hacked versus hike. Yep – it’s a new year and a (re) new you. Make this year the year to relax, restore and rejuvenate.
What do you do if your significant other prefers land spreading out far and wide, but you can’t live without nightly turndown service or the convenience of a spa robe? You strike a balance and head to Chateau du Sureau – stat! Located in serene Oakhurst, just 16 miles from Yosemite’s south gate, Chateau du Sureau offers 10 magnificent guest rooms with canopied beds, fireplaces and more plus a spa, an award-winning restaurant and superb service. It also features a hybrid package, The Best of Both Worlds, for the ultimate glamping getaway complete with four-star amenities. It starts with a luxurious evening spent behind the doors of Chateau du Sureau and a gourmet dinner at the inn’s award-winning restaurant. The following morning, after a protein-rich breakfast, your adventure begins. You’ll meet your own personal naturalist who will guide you up to the High Country for an overnight backpacking trek. After a moderate hike you’ll stop to set up base camp alongside a lake with plenty of time to relax and explore as your guide prepares your backcountry meal. At night, do a little star gazing before nodding off. Wake up the next morning to the aroma of campfire coffee and a delicious breakfast followed by a robust hike. That afternoon, you’ll be welcomed back to the inn with a soothing and nourishing spa treatment and candlelit dinner before heading off to bed. Yes – at Chateau du Sureau you can definitely have the best of both worlds. They’ll even launder your hiking clothes! www.chateausureau.com
Sometimes the best therapy is one where you are simply in the moment. No manufactured noise to distract you. No cell phone to glance at. No channels to surf. Just you, the sound of falling snow, and a team of eager huskies blazing a trail across the Sierra Nevada. Jim Ouimet, owner of Mammoth Dog Teams, makes mushers out of metro dwellers with his seasonal overnight sledding expeditions through the Eastern Sierra backcountry. This hands-on experience gets the blood pumping as you command your own dog team and sled. While it might seem like the pups are the only ones getting a workout, mushing is actually a sport that requires strength and aerobic stamina while taking into consideration the high altitude environment.
Upon arriving to camp, you can choose to do an activity of your choice—snowshoeing, a cooking class or a crash course on winter survival techniques – which could come in handy. Participants receive instruction on how to feed, water and care for their team of dogs during the trip. Then it’s you and your expert musher taking to the open range as you travel across fresh fallen snow with your team of dogs. At night, a hearty dinner is served with an equally nourishing breakfast the following morning. After everyone’s fed, camp is broken down and all participants mush their team back to the launching area where the dogs are returned to their kennels for a much-needed rest. Overnight mushing packages include expert instruction, your own team of 3-6 trained sled dogs, a sled or cart, all necessary camping gear, meals and activities. www.mammothdogteams.com
Located in the foothills of the magnificent Mt. Shasta is the somewhat modest Stewart Mineral Springs. This holistic destination, found in the tiny town of Weeds, features sacred mineral waters along with a variety of workshops and retreats, including the very popular sweat lodge. Partnering with the Karuk Tribe of California, there are two sweat lodges on the grounds and ceremonies commence every Saturday at 1pm. “Taking a sweat” is a traditional way of cleansing the body, mind and spirit and helps to eliminate toxins from the physical body to create space that allows the inner spirit to listen and reflect. The Moon Lodge, a distinctly feminine and nurturing environment, is a women-only ceremony honoring the sacred power of birth.
Aside from the sweat lodge ceremonies, guests can enjoy the clothing-optional Bathhouse and its healing waters and sauna or retreat to one of 13 private relaxation rooms. The new Wellness Room, available to overnight guests, is designed around the physiology of sleep helping to promote deep relaxation to repair and rejuvenate with a fresh-air filtration system and bedding using advanced magnetic, infrared and iconic comfort technology. The room is also equipped with a water filtration system for optimal hydration for bathing and drinking. www.stewartmineralsprings.com
If you think a workout with man’s best friend is limited to daily walks around the neighborhood and the occasional game of fetch, well, think again. In Lake Tahoe you might not be able to frolic on the slopes of Alpine Meadows, but you can do a little skijoring with Fido at a few designated areas. What’s skijoring? It’s a sport in which a dog or dogs assists a cross-country skier who provides the power with skis and poles while four-legged companions provide added energy by running or pulling the skier. The upside is that’s it’s a lot of fun and a good core workout. The downside? The dog needs to be motivated by his own desire to run and pull – which is innate in most dogs but not all. Breeds, such as Huskies and Setters, fare well with this sport, while Yorkies and Pugs are better suited for keeping laps warm on a sleigh ride. Skijoring can be both recreational and competitive and is good for long distance travel or for simple sprints. Have dog will travel, but where will he sleep? Lake Tahoe has a number of pet-friendly hotels, including the luxe Ritz-Carlton in nearby Truckee, and Sorenson’s, which features a collection of log cabin cottages in Hope Valley. For information on where to take your dog skijoring as well as a list of dog-friendly properties, visit the Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureau at www.visitinglaketahoe.com
When was the last time you were still? Quiet? Could hear your own breathing and the breathing of those around you? If the word never immediately comes to mind, then perhaps it’s time to partake in a Silence Retreat at the Ananda Meditation Retreat in Nevada City. Being silent can be extremely beneficial, though the concept is foreign to our culture. Creating a completely quiet environment is a way to establish deep and permanent connections to our soul self. It also helps to cleanse the mind. Depending on the focus, most weekend retreats start with basic meditation techniques and ways to deepen existing meditation practices with time alone to relax, practice yoga and reflect on the power of nature. An evening of chanting is often part of the curriculum. Retreats are led by longtime practitioners who use their Sanskrit names during the retreats. The program fee includes meals, which are all vegetarian based, but accommodations, which are modestly priced, are additional. Aside from the weekend workshops, Ananda Meditation Retreat also offers personal seclusion retreats where your time is spent mostly in silence. For those who visit during the winter, you can literally hear the snow fall from the sky at times as any noise is muted and a self-imposed hush permeates the 72-acre sprawl on which the retreat rests. For more information, visit www.meditationretreat.org.