As the holiday travel season hits high gear, leisure industry insiders predict that more people will be traveling with their dogs to winter destinations in 2010 than in previous years.
“There are fantastic deals for pet-friendly vacations offering travelers rates at least a third cheaper than the usual standard rates at this time of the year,” said Victor Owens, Vice President North America of Hotels.com. “We’re predicting this to be the best season since 2007.”
The website, which offers vacation seekers more than 90,000 hotel options to choose from, is paying close attention to popular pet-friendly destinations.
Owens says that while various cities across America in states such as Colorado and Vermont have a well-earned reputation for being pet-friendly, people traveling with dogs are broadening their horizons and looking to vacation in more “undiscovered” locations such as Jackson Hole, Wyo., Bismarck, N.D., and Pierre, S.D.
“We have people scouting these areas and adding information to our website on a regular basis,” says Owens. “These are definitely destinations to watch in the future.”
Owens says another state putting out the welcome mat for pets is Montana.
“Granted it's cold, but many people like the idea of big open spaces to enjoy snow activities with their pets.”
Winter sports activities
Popular winter activities for people with pets include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing on pet-designated trails and the popular sport of skijoring, in which a dog equipped with a harness pulls a cross-country skier across the trails.
Every year, the dog travel magazine Fido Friendly publishes its top 10 ski destinations for powder hounds.
“I think Park City, Utah, is another upcoming Fido-friendly destination,” says Susan Sims, the magazine’s publisher. “There’s been a huge increase in the number of properties in Deer Valley that welcome furry guests. Choices include private homes, renovated historic mining cabins and luxurious hotels like the Montage in Deer Valley.”
In addition to dog-friendly trails, Sims says Park City also offers excellent dog-sitting amenities such as Doginhaus, where dogs can enjoy canine fun with other pooches while their owners negotiate serious slopes.
Lake Placid, N.Y., is another destination that Sims recommends. At the Lake Placid Lodge in the Adirondack Mountains, the general manager’s golden retriever, Maggie, is happy to show people around and guide them back the lodge. The area also offers excellent opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing with pets.
Red River, N.M., is known as the Ski Town of the Southwest and offers a good selection of pet-friendly activities and accommodations. The Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe Area has three miles of trails designated for people to ski or snowshoe with their dogs and hosts "Dog Days" at the end of the season, where the entire area is open for dogs to frolic and have fun. Dogs are also welcome in any of the shops on Main Street.
Aspen, Colo., has a longstanding reputation for being pet-friendly. The city’s original dog-friendly hotel, the Limelight Hotel, is across the street from dog-friendly Wagner Park and continues to host many regular doggie guests. This popular ski resort offers miles of hiking and walking trails, including the beginner-level Rio Grande Trail, the popular Smuggler/Hunter Creek Trail, and the challenging Ute Trail.
Today the city boasts numerous upscale pet-friendly resorts, including the trendy Sky Hotel. Dogs stay free, and the hotel has a dog-walking service for pet owners who want a little alone time. For budget-conscious travelers, the conveniently located Aspen Mountain Lodge also is friendly to Fido.
The famous Little Nell’s Petiquette Program offers doggie-sized portions of the hotel's room-service menu, including such dishes as beef tenderloin with scrambled eggs and brown rice. The same amenities are available at the newly opened Residences at the Little Nell. The resort’s 'Living Room' and 'Terrace Bar' invite dogs to join their human companions for five-star dining.
For anyone looking to adopt a new dog, the Aspen Animal Shelter allows potential pet parents to take pets back to their hotel for a trial sleepover. The successful program helps ensure that potential owners have found the right pet before proceeding with adoption.
Another Colorado destination, Telluride, boasts more dog residents than people — and the numbers increase further during the holiday season. Pets are allowed in select cabins on the free gondola that connects Telluride with Mountain Village. They are also allowed on the Galloping Goose, the town’s free shuttle bus.
Websites such as TripswithPets.com and BringFido.com offer an excellent selection of pet-friendly destinations around the country. "Traveling With Your Pet: The AAA PetBook" is a handy publication that also lists pet-friendly places catering to every price range and every paw.
Grayling, Mich., is another upcoming destination looking to entertain pet owners during the winter season.
“It’s a great place to avoid crowds,” says Ilene Wilson, spokesperson for the Grayling Visitors Bureau. “About 70 percent of this Michigan county is owned by the state and federal government, so there are lots of wide-open spaces for vacationers to take their dogs snowshoeing or backcountry skiing.
“While Grayling doesn’t have any pet-friendly restaurants, but there are numerous very affordable motels in the area that allow pets.”
For pet owners looking to pamper their pooches, the Gunflint Lodge on the Gunflint Trail just north of Grand Marais, in northern Minnesota, hosts special dog lover’s weekends. The next one, called the Woofda Uffda, is scheduled for Jan. 21-23.
“The program includes dog sledding, skijoring, trick training for dogs, and special doggie socials,” says Lisa Sellman, who also arranges special Tellington Touch sessions to relax and sooth canines after a day of fun in the snow.
Another popular winter favorite for the pet set is South Lake Tahoe.
“We have regulars that return every year,” says Robin Eichenfield, owner of the Deerfield Lodge at Heavenly in this popular year-round resort. “In fact, people with pets are the majority of our business. Our canine guests love to romp in the snowy courtyard while their families build snowmen. It’s always such fun to watch the longer-haired breeds get covered in snow until they look like huge snowballs.”
Mammoth Mountain is another world-renowned ski destination with a pet-friendly reputation. Apart from typical winter activities such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, dogs also get to enjoy snowball chases. Hotels such as the Westin Monache, located at the base of Mammoth Mountain, cater to canine snow enthusiasts, as do many restaurants in the village, including the Side Door Bistro and Gomez’s Restaurant and Cantina.
“It’s a pooch paradise,” says Westin Monache spokesperson Natasha Bourlin. “From doggie bakeries to super pet boutiques, it’s a destination that caters specifically for the four-legged travelers.”
Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. She is the recent recipient of the Humane Society of the United States' Pets for Life Award. Her work appears in many national and international publications.