LOS ANGELES (
) -- A few new hotels and ski resorts dominate the headlines of travel and fashion magazines each year. But by the time they appear in December and January issues, they're long since booked up and making the status updates of bragging friends boasting of their lavish winter vacations.
The time is now to check out what will likely be winter's top hotel and ski destinations.
Attend a winter Olympics:
It's probably your last chance to experience an Olympics within North America until at least 2022, as Canada prepares for its torch moment at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver (Feb. 12-28). With Olympic competition venues spread out from downtown Vancouver to Whistler, the ideal Olympic experience would include a sold-out or miracle last-minute booking at the Shangri-La Vancouver followed by tickets to the opening or closing ceremonies now available only through cut-throat scalpers.
For those looking to partake in the men's and women's downhill competition, all is not lost. Potential visitors can still book into one of the numerous last-minute condos and homes available through VRBO.com or other rental agencies that may even get you into the coveted Four Seasons Whistler if you're willing to pay gold-medal prices.
Tahoe makes a comeback:
Still a secret to S.F. locals and L.A. skiers who endure five-hour drives or one daily flight to Mammoth Mountain, this upgraded ski resort is California's glitziest. There was once a time when skiing Tahoe meant communal hot-tubbing in rundown casinos or musty wood-paneled condos with foil-covered electric stovetops. But in an attempt to revamp its North Shore, Tahoe is returning to its jet-set roots that once took the world stage by hosting the 1960 Winter Olympic Games.
At the center of the upgrades is the new Highlands and Village at Northstar, which includes a glitzy base camp with resort outpost of the Ritz-Carlton chain. The Ritz-Carlton Highlands will be the first five-star hotel to open in the Sierra Nevada or Lake Tahoe markets, complete with ski concierge and ski-in, ski-out access to the Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort. Resort amenities include a lavish heated resort deck with infinity pool as well as on-site spa. The hotel also features a restaurant by chef Traci Des Jardins, the founder of San Francisco's Acme Chophouse and Jardiniere.
Too cool in Courchevel:
For those who can still afford to ski in euros, few European ski towns offer the panache of Courchevel 1850. Until its complete refurbishment by the owners of St. Tropez's Pandei Palais, this hotel's claim to fame was being home of the International Olympic Committee during the 1992 Winter Olympics. The location of Les Airelles couldn't be more ideal, located in the heart of the Jardin Alpin with skiing virtually at its front door.
Inside Les Airelles, however, the owners have maintained a typically regional vibe in the main lobby with its rounded wooden banquette and reception area contained under a pitched box-cutter ceiling. The hotel features three restaurants, including Pierre Gagnaire Pour Les Airelles by chef Pierre Gagnaire. It offers regional Franco-Austrian cuisine. During the day, skiers flock to the hotel's outdoor terrace for casual lunches and a lively apres-ski scene that shifts inside to the new Bar des Airelles after 3 p.m.
Courchevel's hottest new address is home to a Michelin-star chef.
Viceroy's winter wonderland:
While many consider Viceroy Hotels synonymous with interior designer Kelly Wearstler, the company branched out with Jean-Michel Gathy to create a hip and modern ski resort a lift or two or three away from Aspen village. Viceroy Snowmass aims to bring a new level of hipness to the old glamour guard of Aspen Snowmass.
Viceroy's ski-in, ski-out location near the new Snowmass Village Base is optimal for first-run skiers as well as fashionistas looking to wear their stilettos to the new nightlife and fine dining options that include a new outpost from Nobu coming soon. The hotel's alpine-slash-lackluster-condo facade is better on the inside, with a sexy mix of Asian bamboo and exotic woods with natural granite and marble encompassing a destination eatery and in-house bar pegged to be a Little Nell killer.
Christmastime in the city:
London hotshot hoteliers have set up an LED-certified embassy of chic in NYC's SoHo. If you've ever been to London's Soho or Charlotte Street Hotel, Crosby Street Hotel offers a NYC address with similar styling and ubiquitous urban coolness, presenting the perfect address to stage a holiday spree along one of the hippest shopping streets in SoHo.
The hospitality concept of owners Tim and Kit Kemp creates interconnecting design spaces, each cozier than the next, with private living rooms adorned with honor bar and private screening room. For everyone else, there's Crosby Bar, an upscale pub-minded eatery cast in ash-like oak floors and long pewter bar for all-day dining that's open to the public. Rooms are fit for an English starlet, with feminine yellow and green elements offsetting industrial floor-to-ceiling windows and masculine marble bathrooms outfitted with Miller Harris toiletries.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.