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The Snow Lover

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Salvatore Mann
Cities For The Snow Lover

Winter is upon (many of) us, and the barrage of sunny tropical tourism ads shouts from every street corner. With an industry that continuously overlooks the snow lovers who don't care for sand and surf, it's hard to find good winter destinations these days.

For those seeking the excitement of ice, hot chocolate and bubbly Jacuzzis, the spots below should quench even the sternest thirst for snow. These are cities that embrace the cold weather by offering winter activities and sports. Number 10Stockholm, Sweden

The land of Vikings, elegant furniture and frolicking blondes is vibrant all year round, but in winter it really has a magical air. Candles adorn every windowsill and huddled lovers stroll through the open-air markets. You can take a serene boat cruise with your lady around the city's many islands, or if it's really cold and the waterways freeze up, ice-skate around them. Then, warm up in a traditional sauna and unwind in the hundreds of bars and restaurants that line the streets.

What not to miss: The Viking Skating Race, a long-distance marathon on ice on Stockholm's Lake Malaren (between Uppsala and Stockholm).Number 9Anchorage & Fairbanks, Alaska

The American subarctic has loads of attractions for winter lovers, thanks to an unruffled small-town ambiance. Besides all the winter sports like skiing, skating, hockey, and ice fishing, visitors can enjoy real dogsledding or make like Santa on a reindeer-drawn carriage.

Throughout December and January, the cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks come alive with solstice celebrations and winter-themed carnivals complete with skating competitions and music festivals.

What not to miss: The Mushers Challenge in Fairbanks in early January, where expert mushers race in sleds drawn by up to eight huskies. Number 8Chamonix, France

At the foot of Mont Blanc, Chamonix is a skier's and outdoorsman's paradise. In addition to dozens of great slopes, visitors can find heli-ski drop operations and scenic cross-country tracks. Vertigo lovers can bet their lives paragliding by day and bet their money at the casino by night. For the truly hardcore, the ice climbing in Chamonix is one of the more challenging courses out there.

What not to miss: The funicular cable car that takes you high up the mountain for a really cool view.Number 7Valle Nevado, Chile

One of South America's top resorts (which also claims the largest skiable area in the southern hemisphere) is more than just a ski resort. It's a hub of pleasures high in the Andes. Worn-out slopers are treated to massages while overlooking the snowcapped peaks and then bussed over to the resort's live music venues, movie theaters and excellent restaurants.

Number 6Nagano, Japan

Being in Japan, this former Olympic village has loads of exotic tidbits from the Orient to keep visitors in perpetual wonder. If you're into Zen, Nagano's Buddhist temples are perfect for clearing your mind after jostling through the slopes or hiking the neighboring peaks. But the natural hot springs (in the middle of snowy fields), where both genders shed it all to feel the Earth's heat working wonders on their skin, are the real attraction.

What not to miss: The Togakushi Minzoku-kan is a folklore museum with an awesome display about ninjas who once trained there.Number 5Quebec City, Canada

Whoever said Canadians are dull has never been to Quebec City's Winter Carnaval, starring "Bonhomme Carnaval," a snowman-like mascot who's the trademark of the event. Some of the friendliest folk can be found here, ambling through the old city's colonial streets, tipsy on potent Caribou (an alcoholic beverage that tastes somewhat like sweet red wine), which they drink from a hollow cane. At every street square, you can warm up with some hot wine or try local delicacies. Enjoy your maple syrup hot and runny as a spiked shot, or cold rolled onto a stick. Then check out the Ice Hotel, which houses an Absolut Ice Bar -- among other rooms -- and take a tour of this "cool" attraction.

What not to miss: Quebec City's clubs bounce during Carnaval (which runs from the end of January until mid-February), many of which put up ice bars with ice stools, ice tables and ice glasses on their terraces. Number 4Reykjavik, Iceland

Being the northernmost capital of the world, Reykjavik is swept by darkness in winter. But those wily Icelanders know better, creating a festival of lights replete with concerts, laser shows and carnival attractions. It's a fantastic complement to the country's glaciers, where snowmobiling and dogsledding are de rigueur. And you won't believe just how dizzyingly gorgeous Iceland's women are -- as an added bonus, it's nice to know they're always open to exposure with foreigners...

What not to miss: Reykjavik's nightlife, where clubgoers often spill onto city squares in their wintry revelry. Number 3Queenstown, New Zealand

The land of Middle-Earth is considered the ski heaven of the south for good reason. With a reputation as one of the world's premier destinations for any adventure, Queenstown is the mecca of it all. The Winter Festival, which takes place in July, kicks off with skiing competitions, snowboard acrobatic displays, and even downhill races in cardboard boxes and suitcases. There's even a midwinter Mardi Gras downtown, with loads of great parties to choose from.

What not to miss: Woodstock Downtown Day, where drag queens and freaks get sloppy in a series of public competitions, right in the heart of the city.

Vail, Colorado

If you thought Aspen was the prime ski spot in the U.S., you were sorely mistaken. Just look at Vail's rich snow, the diversity of the slopes and the staggering number of lifts, and you'll see why the privileged flock here every winter. Vail's streets are pleasant, reminiscent of an Austrian town and full of restaurants and bars. A gondola takes you high up into the mountains to appreciate the view once you have enough snow in your pants.

What not to miss: The adrenaline overload of Vail's 3,000-foot bobsled run.Number 1Whistler, Canada

The best skiing destination in North America offers more than just incredible slopes with almost no lines or waits. Whistler, home of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, and host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, also features bungee jumps, outdoor skating, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, snowcat skiing, and heli-skiing. It's a total winter spot that attracts thousands of young and beautiful thrillseekers.

Of course, the aprs-ski is equally phenomenal, which is evident in the visitors' unshakable smiles. A tour of the town's breweries is a great way to warp a full day, leaving you with that bubbly euphoria that only a strong winter lager can impart.

Salvatore Mann

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