by Blythe Thimsen & Allen Cox | Photo © Nita Lake Lodge
If you’ve seen the classic Bing Crosby movie, White Christmas, you’ll remember the singing, dancing and love story, but most visually memorable was the lodge where the story took place. The Columbia Inn, nestled deep in the woods of Pine Tree, Vermont, was cozy with a sunken stone fireplace, around which guests gathered. Skis on the wall, mountain views and huge windows to take it all in, it was picture-perfect. You wanted to stay there—especially after the final scene, where the doors opened and the snow began falling.
That is what lodges do best. They pull us in, asking us to stay awhile, to settle down, to forget the worries of the world and to unwind in a place where you feel any minute the doors could open and the snow might begin falling. While it’s not possible to check into The Columbia Inn (it was a soundstage), it is possible to find impressive lodges throughout the Northwest. With age, history and a classic lodge look, these all make for memorable visits.
Alderbrook Resort & Spa, Union, Washington
Peacefully situated on the shores of Hood Canal, with the Olympic Mountains as a backdrop, Alderbrook Resort & Spa has been in this location, in some form, since 1913. The sweeping lodge with breathtaking views allows travelers to unwind and relax.
The main lodge, with tall beams and a stone fireplace, opens to expansive views of the resort’s waterfront courtyard. Don’t be surprised to see resident house cats, Alder and Brook, basking in the sunlight, as guests filter in, finding complimentary art supplies, ukuleles and board games with which to spend the afternoon.
“Our open fire pit overlooking the canal is one of my favorite spots,” says Alderbrook’s Jennifer Rhea. “It’s where we see families and friends come together over house-made s’mores, and sit back and relax, enjoying the unmistakable view. There is a real sense of community.”
Alderbrook greets winter with an annual tree lighting ceremony, and weekly cocoa cruises on the Lady Alderbrook are always a hit, as is foraging and cooking demonstrations with The Restaurant at Alderbrook’s team. –bt
Nita Lake Lodge, Whistler, B.C.
Tucked on an idyllic glacier-fed lake shore, far from the more frenetic après ski scene of Whistler Village, Nita Lake Lodge is a tranquil oasis in one of North America’s busiest ski resorts. This all-suites, boutique-style wellness resort is characterized by warm interior spaces and a wintry frozen lake out the back door, making it a perfect venue for both indoor relaxation and outdoor adventure. In a nod to community wellness, Whistler’s 25-mile Valley Trail cuts right through the lodge’s lobby from front door to back and continues along the shore.
Guests get the sense of staying in an early mountain lodge, with signature gables and balconies taking in the view. Design elements were constructed with heavy timber materials, such as Douglas fir and western red cedar, adding an essential element of authenticity.
When you’re ready for action on the slopes or in the village, the lodge’s convenient courtesy shuttle provides drop-off and pick-up service. Should you decide to stay in, snuggle down in Cure Lounge off the lobby for a craft libation or slip into the Spa for massage therapy or a broad range of naturopathic treatments. –AC
Suncadia Resort, Cle Elum, Washington
As classic Northwest lodges go, Suncadia is a relatively new resort on the scene, but that doesn’t diminish the giant-timber architectural features and the mountain-setting ambiance of the main lodge, The Lodge at Suncadia. Unmistakably inspired by the lodges of national parks, the grand lodge somehow harnesses the rugged nature of the Cascade Range while guests have every creature comfort at their fingertips.
The main lobby’s soaring ceiling and oversized windows capture a postcard-perfect view that invites you to claim an overstuffed chair and meditate on the densely forested mountainsides.
Expansive grounds let guests explore to their heart’s content. Whether it’s visiting the on-property winery, getting pampered in the luxury spa, clamping on cross-country skis and hitting the trails, taking a guided spin on snowmobiles or trying your luck on a guided fly fishing tour, winter at Suncadia is a Cascade mountain wonderland. –AC
Lake Quinault Lodge, Quinault, WA
Built in 1926, and today listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, Lake Quinault Lodge played host to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, less than a year before he signed the bill creating the Olympic National Park, in which the hotel is located. Was he swayed by the stunning views and the rustic appeal of the lodge, or was it the quiet corners tucked within?
“There is a small writer’s desk just to the left side of the fireplace,” says Lake Quinault’s Leslie Sonnenklar, “from which you can hear the muted hum of other guests chatting in the main lobby, the delicate clinking of dishes being served in the adjacent Roosevelt Restaurant and occasionally, if you’re lucky, a guest or employee tapping out an old-time melody at the piano, one of only three items salvaged from the devastating lodge fire of the early 1900s. From this tiny respite, you can soak in the soul of the lodge and gaze out at the lake and mountains beyond.”
A Lake Quinault Lodge Rainforest Tour departs from the lodge and highlights the history of the area, including the Quinault Indian Nation. –bt
Sun Mountain Lodge, Winthrop, Washington
Sun Mountain Lodge’s 37 miles of ski trails are part of the nation’s largest ski trail system, extending over 124 miles. “It is not unheard of to ski all day without seeing another soul,” says Sun Mountain’s Brian Charlton.
Those trails are part of the appeal of Sun Mountain Lodge. Located in the Methow Valley, just below the North Cascade mountain range, this is a lodge that takes full advantage of the peace, quiet, wildlife, stars and spectacular views, while offering experiences like a sleigh ride dinner and guided snowshoe tours.
“Winter is magical at Sun Mountain Lodge, especially after a snowfall,” says Charlton. “There is nothing like being outside in the snow after a clear cold night and seeing the sun bouncing off the hoar frost, creating a blanket of diamonds on the snow. It’s truly spectacular! Whether you’re out skiing, snowshoeing or on a horse drawn sleigh, the beauty is astounding.”
Life inside the lodge is spectacular as well. One of the favorite ways to enjoy Sun Mountain Lodge is to sit next to the roaring fire in the lobby enjoying a glass of wine. The ambiance, warmth, peace and the opportunity to visit with other guests, provides a relaxing and memorable escape, proving that sometimes to live it up, all you have to do is sit down. –bt
Sun Valley Lodge, Sun Valley, Idaho
Billed as America’s first destination ski resort, Sun Valley Lodge has been hosting families of skiers and lovers of winter since 1936. Its longevity is a testament to how beloved this slice of heaven has been over the years.
“Guests love the history of the lodge,” says Kelli Lusk, of Sun Valley Lodge. “My favorite spots inside are the hallways, which are lined with pictures of iconic celebrities and famous world figures. It’s incredibly unique to Sun Valley, showcasing our long and storied history.”
That storied history includes incredible skiing, but there are also other ways to pass the wintry days at Sun Valley. Fat biking—riding bikes with huge tires, on snowy trails—is picking up in popularity and will be available this season. The year-round outdoor heated pool and hot tub allow guests to relax after a day on the slopes, surrounded by amazing mountain scenery and starry evenings, while a bowling alley in the basement makes for perfect family entertainment. A gondola ride to The Roundhouse, located midway up Bald Mountain, provides a memorable dining experience in a log-beamed room, with a four-sided stone fireplace in the center. –bt