Welcome to the new Hemispheres
Captain Joe handles the details
ISLANDS ARE LIKE FRIENDS. They come into your life just when you need them. Each is different, offering different gifts. Meet O‘ahu, the friend that goes dancing, is sophisticated and urbane, yet dresses up in gaudy tangerine sunsets accessorized with coconut palms and rainbows. O‘ahu is paradise on speed dial, with a hundred white-sand beaches, including the world’s dream machine: magical, manic Waikiki. The island claims two mountain ranges, the Ko‘olau and Waianae, as well as national, state, and county parks crammed with legend, waterfalls, history, and hiking trails.
FOR EONS, ICE BLANKETED ALL but the highest summits of what is now Glacier National Park in Montana. Under writhing ice floes, mountains took shape. Glaciers gnawed gaping valleys, etched rocks, piled up long ridges of rubble, and left large turquoise-blue lakes on the landscape. Since the time that ancient ice birthed the park’s landforms, several miniature ice ages have come and gone. They scooped out the nooks with cirques and hanging valleys. More recently, Glacier Park has sung a different tune. In the late 1800s, when explorer George Bird Grinnell first laid eyes on the Continental Divide, a ridge that the Blackfeet called the Backbone of the World, he lobbied for its preservation. By the time Congress designated Glacier as the nation’s 10th national park in 1910, the 150 pockets of ice from Grinnell’s day had begun to thaw into ponds.
THE FIRST MODERN SKIER TO SPEND three perfect days in Sun Valley, Idaho, was Austrian Count Felix Schaffgotsch. In 1936, diplomatically destined Averell Harriman, the president of Union Pacific Railroad, commissioned Schaffgotsch to search for what could become the American West’s version of the popular Swiss winter sports center St. Moritz. Schaffgotsch hoped to discover a meteorological Rubik’s Cube: a perfect mix of freezing but not frigid temperatures and deep but not impassable or unskiable snow. He was looking for a place where indigo skies framed each day and powerful storms ruled the night. And he wanted it all surrounded by towering mountains. Last, this perfectly powdery place should have an authentic Western town.
KAUA‘I MAY BE THE REST OF THE world’s image of the serene South Pacific, but this green jewel of an island is Hawai‘i’s drama queen. And why not? It has starred in more Hollywood hits than Harrison Ford, who raided the island seeking the lost Ark. In 1958, the she gods of Shark Reef ran wild on Kaua‘i; in 1993 it was the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. Most recently, King Kong rampaged through Honopu Valley. Kaua‘i’s star qualities are towering sea cliffs, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Hawai‘i’s only navigable rivers, hundreds of waterfalls, supersize flora, and 43 white-sand beaches on an island 33 miles long by 25 miles wide.
WHEN PEOPLE SAY WHISTLER IS big, they’re not just talking about the Canadian mountain resort’s size. It’s true that this once-obscure British Columbia fishing, logging, and ski town is now the largest ski and snowboard resort in North America. (At 8,171 skiable acres, it dwarfs even Vail.) It’s also true that its twin peaks, Whistler and Blackcomb, rise higher from base to summit than any other chairlift-equipped mountains on the continent, rambling from cedar rain forests to glacier-capped peaks and delivering a vertical mile of skiing. But what’s biggest about Whistler is its personality. Alternately thrilling and serene, urbane and untamed, Whistler is a winter destination best-suited to those who like to play hard. Whistler’s weather can be capricious, but—with glacier skiing and sprawling mountainscapes, a thriving gourmet scene and dance clubs, great activities for kids and a bustling, international vibe—the town’s fun factor never wavers. Located 75 miles north of Vancouver in a lake-dotted valley at the easy-to-handle elevation of 2,000 feet, Whistler spent its first 50 years as a summer fishing hamlet called Alta Lake. In the early 1960s, a group of Canadian businessmen pinpointed one local peak as a potential site for the 1968 Winter Olympic Games. That first Olympic bid failed, but in February 1966 Whistler Mountain opened for business. And the games are finally coming to town in 2010. Today both ski mountains are owned by Intrawest Corp., a resort and real estate conglomerate known for some of the continent’s best ski areas. So prepare to play and get pampered—no matter your ability level on skis or snowboard. Get ready, in other words, for three perfectly hedonistic, action-packed days.
IF YOU’RE A SKIER, YOU’VE undoubtedly heard of Jackson Hole. The area’s ski superlatives—most challenging, most vertical, most expert-rated ski runs—are the stuff of legend. It’s no surprise, then, that people who move to this northwestern Wyoming valley do so mainly for the skiing. The surprise is that, for many of those who stay, winter is no longer their favorite season. “I came for winter and stayed for summer,” is the locals’ mantra from the bagel shop to the bank. When the snow melts, a completely different Jackson Hole emerges. (To clarify, Jackson Hole is the entire valley, and Jackson is the largest of the valley’s six towns.) Ski runs morph into trails surrounded by wildflowers that are perfect for hiking, biking, and running. Rivers rise to white-water level. Animals come out of hiding, and the ranches that give the area its Wild West attitude come back to life. The roads through nearby Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks reopen. And faster than you can say, “My muscles can’t take any more,” you can find a symphony or country-music concert, a festival, a rodeo, an art show, a winetasting, great shops and restaurants, or a spa where you can rest your body. Three days is the perfect amount of time to sample Jackson Hole’s cowboy-cosmopolitan style and enthusiasm for outdoor adventure.
ON THE EVENING OF April 17, 1906, Enrico Caruso sang to a capacity crowd of ladies in white gloves and gentlemen in top hats at the opulent San Francisco Opera House. San Francisco reveled in its post–Gold Rush heyday. The next morning, “The Champagne Days” were over. At 5:14 a.m., San Francisco was jolted by a massive earthquake. “The Big One” ignited fires across the city that burned for three days, destroying 500 city blocks and 25,000 buildings and leaving more than a quarter-million people homeless. In short order, the city was rebuilt and the glory days returned. But 100 years later, a bittersweet nostalgia over San Francisco’s most defining moment lives on. With events planned for the centennial of the earthquake of 1906, there’s no better time to explore the City by the Bay. A metropolis of icons that include the fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge, clanking cable cars, and roller-coaster streets, San Francisco is the birthplace of blue jeans, Chinese fortune cookies, mountain bikes, and California cuisine. Sparked by its inimitable blend of youthful exuberance and Old World sophistication, the city boasts dazzling new museums and world-class restaurants, packing a cultural and culinary punch that’s tough to match. Factor in the myriad after-dinner diversions, including local theaters, an opera, a ballet company, and a vibrant music scene, and there are more reasons than ever to leave your heart in San Francisco.
IF THERE’S ONE THING ST. Maarteners are proud of, it’s the endearing adage that our Caribbean homeland is “The Friendly Island.” We plaster it all over our number-plates, and it’s true. The 60,000-plus inhabitants come from no less than 103 different countries; all contribute to the emerging identity of this 37-square-mile landmass. Christopher Columbus sighted the island on November 11, 1493, and named it after St. Martin, Bishop of Tours. Initially regarded as unpromising, St. Maarten changed hands among the Dutch, the French, and the Spanish. The French and Dutch split the island in 1648—the French side is called Saint Martin, the Dutch side Sint Maarten. Gone are the days of battle for Queen and country. Now part of the semi-autonomous Dutch Caribbean territory of the Netherlands Antilles, St. Maarten is focused on fast-paced, duty-free tourism with a multinational friendliness that’s attractive to tourists and investors alike. On your three-day holiday, you’ll see why many a first-time visitor becomes a regular.