4 cool new ski resort features you just gotta check out
A self-operated roller coaster that zips through the forest sounds pretty cool to us.
You don't even have to ski to enjoy most of these features and activities, all new for the 2010-2011 ski season:
Big White's New Ice Climbing Tower
The Big White Resort, in British Columbia, Canada, is adding a 60-foot-tall ice tower this season. How do they even build such a structure? Four telephone polls are braced together, then flooded with water that freezes. Big White's tower will be broken up (bad choice of words), or rather divided into sections for advanced climbers and beginners. Even kids are welcomed to climb, with the help of rented boots and axes. One climb costs $20, or an all-day pass is $55 (Canadian dollars).
Breckenridge's New Gold Runner Coaster
Colorado's Breckenridge resort, which opens today, November 12, is introducing a 2,500-foot-long elevated roller coaster that zips through the forest and is open for single and double rides in all four seasons.
Okemo's New Timber Ripper
There's also a mountain coaster due to make its debut this season in Vermont. Okemo's coaster, named the Timber Ripper, will rip along 3,100 feet of track and is scheduled to open on December 11. Like Breckeridge's coaster, Okemo's Ripper can be ridden by one or two passengers, who control how fast the sled-like cars zip down hills and around curves. The cars are expected to max out at about 25 mph.
The Canyons' New Chairlift with Heated Seats
This season in Utah, The Canyons opens a bubble-enclosed quad chairlift with heated seats -- the first of its kind in North America. The lift promises to not only be cozy, but fast, with snowboarders and skiers reaching the top of the mountain just nine minutes after sitting down on the lift's warm seats.
MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL
How a Kindle can help you travel
One day recently I landed on the shores of the Italian island of Ischia without a guidebook or a paperback novel. I was forced to depend on my Kindle for reading on the beaches, the ferry rides, and around town. Our editors have road-tested Apple's rival device, the iPad, before, and the iPad is certainly a cool tool. But the Kindle is now less expensive. In the past year and a half, Amazon has dropped the price of its e-reader by 63 percent to a reasonable $139. The two e-readers have different personalities. Amazon's Kindle is like the Mitt Romney of e-readers (dull and bookish, but also reliable and high class), while the iPad is more like Sarah Palin (playful, populist, and the one you would feel more comfortable asking for directions when you get lost). THE VERDICT I'd give the Kindle a B- when it comes to travel friendliness. The latest Kindle with built-in Wi-Fi ($139, $189 for 3G) is quite handy for travelers. But it still has several flaws to fix. If you're like me, which no doubt you are, you do not like the idea of having to carry huge piles of guidebooks, beach reads, and magazines with you on your trip. When you set out to pack your bags, you want to travel light. The latest Kindle is a neat solution to the weight problem for sure. It weighs a mere 8.5 ounces, or roughly the same as an in-flight magazine. KINDLE PROS AND CONS Pro: You can store up to 3,500 books and documents on it. You no longer have to decide which guidebook to bring with you, the city one or the country one or the restaurants-only guide. Take them all! Con: Amazon delivers the Kindle to you naked. Travelers will want to buy a cover for protection during a journey, and that cover will add a ridiculous $30 to the cost. Pro: Screen is easy to read both indoors and out in the bright sun. It's not reflective. Con: The affordable version lacks color for photos and maps, and it doesn't reproduce maps well. You can't zoom in on a map, which makes it nearly useless for directions. Pro: Super long battery life. I used the device for several hours a day for more than a week and didn't need a recharge. Amazon says its Kindles have one-month battery lives if you leave the Wi-Fi turned off. Con: The device never "shuts off." It continually refreshes its screen, even when you're not using it. This habit can exasperate flight attendants who don't want you to have any electronic devices operating during takeoff or landing. UPDATE: My mistake, as the commenters have pointed out. You *can* turn the Kindle off with the top button. The battery life is excellent, though, so few people probably do. Pro: Font size is adjustable. So if a book's print is too small to read, you can just make the text larger. Con: Page size isn't fixed, which means that the index to any guidebook is useless because you there is no corresponding page number. Pro: You can search text, such as guidebook, for a word or phrase you want. There's a basic English language dictionary built in, too. Con: There's no spelling suggester, unlike in Google search results. ("Did you mean to spell Iskia "Ischia"?) If you don't know how to spell the name of a town or a restaurant, you're out of luck. (Another problem: Kindle returns search results from the start of the book, not from your current page in the book onward. If you want to find a plaza in a particular town, let's say, your Kindle will search for every mention of the word plaza in your book. Ugh.) Pro: Its built-in Web browser lets you surf the Web in more than 60 countries for free. Con: The refresh rate was so s-l-o-w that I found the free Web surfing is only useful when you have absolutely no other Internet option. Pro: More than 700,000 books are available on the Kindle. Guidebook publishers are increasingly publishing individual chapters from their guidebooks. You can spend less and get precisely the information you want. Con: Merely 7,400 of those books are travel-related, and your favorite guidebook might not be available in a digital edition. MAX OUT YOUR KINDLE Save magazine and newspaper articles to your Kindle. Whether they're destination planning guides or just something good to read in the ski lodge, you'll want to set up the following process for saving good info for later. (Hat tip to Cool Tools.) 1) Register at Instapaper.com, a free site, via your PC or Mac. Instapaper will let you add a button to your browser for saving articles. Whenever you see an inspiring article, click the "Read Later" browser button and the article will be saved. 2) Write down your personal Kindle e-mail address. It usually looks like email@example.com. You can look up yours on your Kindle by clicking "Menu" and then "Settings." 3) Download Calibre eBook Manager (calibre-ebook.com/) to your PC or Mac. Let Calibre know your personal Kindle e-mail address. 4) Link Calibre to your Instapaper account. Calibre has easy to follow instructions for doing this. Sign up for a "feed" of all the articles you clip and save to Instapaper as you surf. Be sure to schedule how often you want your clipped articles to download. For example, you can check "autosend" in the sharing preferences on Calibre. 5) Surf the Web. Click the "Read Later" button on your browser whenever there's a travel (or other article) you'd like to read on your Kindle later on. Need something better to read on vacation than Confessions of a Shopaholic Part 13? Visit TheBrowser or LongForm.org and then click to save articles. [MORE: When you download something other than an Amazon book to your Kindle, and you use a 3G network instead of WiFi, you may be hit by a small charge from a telecom company. Paul Kline has a tip on how to avoid the small fees that telecom companies may charge you. It involves adding the word "Free" to your personal Kindle e-mail address: Calibre + Instapaper + Kindle = Reading Goodness] EARLIER Test Lab: iPad as travel tool New site TripAlertz is Groupon for travel
(Finally!) A coffee table-worthy photo book
As a photo editor, I never thought very highly about the custom photo books available online. When I looked into them, the books felt cheap, or the image quality wasn't any good. For me to go through the trouble of making a photo book, I wanted to be sure I'd have a finished product that I'd want to display on my coffee table, and pick up and thumb through. Then, over the past year, photographers started submitting a whole new class of professional-looking books of their work from a company called Blurb. The finished volumes were so good-looking that I had to make one for myself. So after a trip to Ethiopia and Zanzibar with my wife and some friends, I pooled together my images, downloaded the free software, and got to work. I was impressed that: 1. The software was easy to use. The templates were there, yet they were completely customizable if I wanted to change them myself. 2. If you use the Blurb Color Profile, the print quality is stunning. This function allows you to adjust each individual image to get the best color reproduction. (If you take the images directly from your camera without doing any sort of tweaking, quite often the images will look flat and not as saturated when they print.) 3. The finished book felt sturdy and professional. 4. I had the option to go with better paper. Premium paper's important because it helps to prevent bleed through (where you see the faint outline of the image that is printed on the other side of the page.) 5. They have a lot of different pricing options, and I could go big or small with my book. Prices range from $12.95 (for a softcover with 20-40 pages) to $119.95 (for hardcover with 160 pages) 6. I can share my book (the finished version's a 13" x 11" hardback with a jacket cover and 160 pages of premium luster paper) with people via a free online slideshow. How cool is that? The results were so impressive that when we gave a copy to my wife's parents, they said, "Oh, a book on Ethiopia," mistaking it for something we picked up from Barnes & Noble. When they saw our names on the cover, they burst into tears. So now the book's not only proudly displayed on our coffee table, it's also got pride of place on theirs. You guys are such avid travel photographers, I just had to share. So what do you think of the finished result?
An airfare search with a sense of humor
Launched this year by a co-founder of Reddit.com and a co-founder of BookTour.com, the new flight-search site Hipmunk swaps hyper-specialized travel tools for sheer simplicity. There are just three mandatory search fields to fill on the home page—and nothing but a cute cartoon of a chipmunk in aviator's goggles to distract you from the task at hand. The flight results are displayed on a single-page bar graph, color-coded by airline, which makes comparing dozens of options incredibly easy, and user-friendly pop-up windows show the down-and-dirty details of each flight without taking you away from the results page. Then there's my favorite part: You can sort the list by price, departure time, or "agony," which factors in stuff like duration, layovers, and number of stops. It may not be revolutionary, but Hipmunk's offer of streamlined service with a knowing wink is probably enough to win this site a healthy following. [Via Rundown USA]
Extra mile awards, the bonus round: Another motel to watch
We just unveiled our sixth-annual Extra Mile Awards—in which we salute the forward-thinking companies and people working to make your vacation simpler, more affordable, and way more fun. One of the trends we spotlight is how Motel 6, Red Roof Inn, and Holiday Inn have taken the concept of the traditional roadside motel and flipped it on its head, each initiating a massive design overhaul and totally redefining what it means to stay somewhere on a budget. While it hasn't yet reached the sheer numbers of those three chains, Super 8 has also launched a room redesign that's just getting off its feet. A relative newcomer to the remodel game, Super 8 has completely revamped two properties so far (in Mount Laurel, N.J. and Pennsville, N.J.), with plans to have 13 more renovations finished by early next year. Highlights include a Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired theme emphasizing horizontal surfaces, modular wall units/media centers that can be configured to maximize space, and regional artwork inset in headboards—so when you wake up you actually will know where you are.