Heather Balogh Rochfort
THE WASHINGTON POST – Winter may be here, but pandemic-weary Americans still want to explore. The travel season had a rocky start, with virtually non-existent bookings last March and April because of concerns and quarantines related to the novel coronavirus. But as travel bans lifted, Americans enthusiastically took to the roads this summer for outdoor-focussed vacations away from urban centres, the better to social distance. Hosting giant Airbnb reported that rural hosts saw a 25 per cent increase in bookings, amounting to more than USD200 million in June.
Public Health Programme Manager based in Seattle Shon’t Savage is one of the many people who opted to flee the city with her family for a few quiet-yet-safe getaways.
“We need these breaks in the monotony,” Savage said. “Part of the insanity of being home every day means we don’t have the best work-life-personal boundaries anymore. These outings mean we can reconnect and recharge; a replenishment of sorts.”
But as chillier temperatures move in and early signs of snow appear in the high country, cabin bookings are not showing any signs of slowing down. Family Reservations Manager for YMCA of the Rockies – Snow Mountain Ranch, located in Granby, Colorado Dan DeBlasio noted that while the property cabins always sell out, he is observing a change in reservation patterns compared to previous years.
“Guests are tending to book last-minute cabin stays,” DeBlasio said, indicating that folks are looking for opportunities to ditch the stir-crazy confinement at home.
As the pandemic forces people indoors this winter, cabin resorts are betting that business will continue to boom. While many close up for the colder months, there will still be plenty of winter cabins available for travellers who want a quick vacation or to simply move their daily routine to a safe-yet-scenic environment.
For potential visitors worried about winter conditions, however, there are a few basic criteria to consider when selecting a cozy winter getaway. First, make sure your cabin has a heat source so you are not stuck shivering through the night. Wood-burning stoves are quite popular in cabins, but baseboard and standard forced-air heating options are not uncommon, either.
It’s also a good idea to investigate the kitchen before booking, so you aren’t forced to eat in a communal dining situation that makes you uncomfortable.
Road conditions are a key element, too. For example, many cabins (including the majority on public lands) sit on forest roads that are not ploughed in the winter. This means visitors typically have to cover the last few miles via snowshoes, skis or snowmobiles. Be sure to clarify this before booking.
You could also check out cabins at any of the locations listed below. Each of these properties features heat, fully equipped kitchens or kitchenettes, accessible roads and pandemic-friendly procedures to keep you and yours safe and healthy.
BLUE MOON RISING CABINS
Deep Creek Lake, Maryland
While small in size (250 to 300 square feet), each of the 14 tiny cabins at the Blue Moon Rising Village in the northwest corner of Maryland is big in charm and individuality. The entire property was constructed with sustainability in mind. For example, removed trees were used elsewhere in trim or as firewood, and excavated dirt was mixed with clay, water and lime before finding new life as plaster on the interior walls. Kitchen and bathrooms fit within the tiny structures, too, so visitors can isolate while cozying up.
Richland Center, Wisconsin
The seven cabin options at Candlewood (2.5 hours west of Milwaukee) aren’t exactly rustic, making them a great choice for travellers who prefer the finer things in life. Social distancing is easy since each cabin is secluded within the 80-acre property. Foot trails and wildlife abound at this southwestern Wisconsin retreat, and snowshoe rentals are available at the main house. And, since there is no lobby or any other social gathering area, you won’t worry about getting too close to anyone besides those with whom you came.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Settled on a bluff 550 feet above the White River amidst the rural Ozark Mountains near the Missouri state line, Can-U-Canoe’s 17 cabins are practically built for privacy. Each offers a kitchenette with a microwave and mini-fridges, as well as secluded decks, wood-burning stoves and jetted hot tubs (emptied and cleaned after each visit). Social distancing is easy because the property sits 45 minutes from the nearest large town, but that does mean that some essentials like toilet paper and paper towels are limited; the owners ask guests to bring their own until the pandemic passes.
FALL CREEK CABINS
Boone, North Carolina
Advertised as the “perfect vacation to avoid crowds,” the Fall Creek Cabin property is a 78-acre wonderland of woods, trails and social distancing-friendly activities. Situated two hours northeast of Asheville, each of the eight cabins is enhanced with screened-in porches with private hot tubs for guests to enjoy after hiking all day. A fully-stocked kitchen and washer and dryer are available at all cabins, so guests can stay for an entire week without needing to head into town. Contact-free check-in procedures are the norm at Fall Creek, but the owners have also intensified the sanitation routine to ensure utmost cleanliness.
Hope Valley, California
With nearly 20 cabins available, Sorensen has something for every traveller, ranging from cozy one-bedrooms to larger family options that house two bunkrooms full of beds. Just over 40 minutes south of Lake Tahoe, the property is located in the least-populated county in California, but the resort established safety procedures for the pandemic. In addition to increased sanitation and contactless check-in procedures, the on-site cafe is offering meals delivered to each cabin to minimise outside contact.
THE SUTTLE LODGE AND CABINS
Suttle Lodge and its accompanying 16 cabins sit nestled against Suttle Lake (45 minutes from Bend) and its network of trails, offering visitors a welcome respite in the mossy glades of the Pacific Northwest. The cabins are split between two types: Rustic and deluxe, with the former offering bare-bones living without any bathroom or kitchen. Because of this, we recommend booking one of the deluxe cabins, which include a small kitchen, bathroom and a fireplace to take the chill off the evenings. To practice social distancing, guests are allowed minimal access to the lodge itself (including check-in and checkout), and cash is not accepted for payment.
YMCA OF THE ROCKIES – SNOW MOUNTAIN RANCH
Each of the 53 family cabins (two to five bedrooms) and reunion cabins (six to eight bedrooms) boasts heat, a kitchen and plenty of space for a family looking to get away from the hustle of the city (the property is only 30 minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park in the north-central part of the state). Curbside check-in and email checkout are available for social distancing; take-out from the dining areas and grocery delivery are also options. Outdoor pass stations and socially distanced lessons with mask requirements are also available for visitors hoping to pick up Nordic skiing.