The Bucket List
Our travel experts pick the places you need to see at least once in a lifetime.
From the Print Edition:
Daniel Craig, November/December 2008
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Combining untracked terrain with the thrill of flying, heli-skiing emerged as the top vote-getter. Day-trippers can experience short samples of heli-skiing in places such as Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Park City, Utah; Portillo, Chile; New Zealand and Australia. But for the full experience, book a weeklong trip to a heli-skiing lodge, the best of which are in northwestern Canada and Alaska. "British Columbia is powder heaven, in a world of sprawling glaciers, peaks with giant vertical relief and plentiful spruce glades. Go with Canadian Mountain Holidays. They've been around a long time and are the gold standard of heli-skiing," says Kate Siber. "It might cost more than your mortgage payments—for months—but heli-skiing in British Columbia is a must for any skier," says Neville. "You ski deep, untracked powder through a natural setting nearly impossible to reach otherwise. It's like having your own million-dollar ski lift." Hard-core ski junkie and journalist Vicky Lowry recommends Alaska, where you can still ski old-fashioned lifts if the weather grounds the choppers, but all agree that whirlybirds take skiing to new heights.
If you don't like helicopters, Abramson suggests skiing an Olympic downhill run. "You can visit several resorts around the world that were used for Olympic alpine skiing events, but for a once-in-a-lifetime thrill, time it so you're there just before the Games. I went to Utah's Snowbasin in January 2002, and found the men's downhill in course conditions, with some gates and markings in place. It also made for excellent TV viewing when the pros attacked the same run a month later." Longtime ski writer Kim Fredericks suggested another spin on the aerial skiing experience: flying to the top of New Zealand's Tasman Glacier by ski plane, a winter version of a seaplane. "It's an 18-mile-long, wide-open snow field. You ski the two longest ski runs in the Southern Hemisphere, anywhere from 4.5 to 6.5 miles each." With a gourmet lunch in between, of course.
Honorable Mention: To many, skydiving defines the very concept of something you must try at least once. "Nothing elevates your confidence and heart rate more than jumping out of an airplane at 13,500 feet," says D'Elia. "With a tandem instructor giving me the necessary shove out of the airplane, I was suddenly part of an elite club of adrenaline junkies—and it was the most intense and amazing experience ever. As a result, I now separate everyone I meet into two categories: those who have skydived and those who haven't."
Many of the experiences and sites selected by our experts can be seen or done in less than a day. The flip side is entire vacations of the once-in-a-lifetime variety, lasting days or even weeks. African safaris took the top spot, but there were many other winners spanning the globe—and beyond.
Rent a Private Island
Nothing turns the traditional beach vacation on its head like renting a secluded island. Most private-island rentals include one or more luxurious homes, the service of maids and personal chefs, and abundant activities. "It's the ultimate escape," says Elaine Srnka, editor of Virtuoso Life. "From Musha Cay in the Bahamas to Peter or Necker in the British Virgin Islands, who doesn't dream of getting away from it all in high style?" Living the ultimate "Gilligan's Island" castaway experience softened even the panel's hard-core adventurers, such as Kate Siber. "The ultimate island, I think, is the Rania Experience in the Maldives. Spectacularly expensive, but it's pretty much the ultimate. You and 25 friends have the run of the complete staff, yacht, all activities. Rania actually combines two private experiences in one, and comes with a fully crewed yacht." Other notable rentals were Frégate and North Island, both in the Seychelles.
Transatlantic Crossing on the Queen Mary 2
Equipped with everything from a theater to a Todd English restaurant, the QM2 spares no expense in bringing back the glory of the gilded age of travel, but in a thoroughly modernized way, right down to the full spa and butler-equipped suites. The trip personifies travel for travel's sake: it's much slower than the alternatives, more expensive than even the most lavish first-class flight and, unlike cruises, there is nothing to see en route, proving that getting there is really half the fun.
"Don't ever confuse this with a cruise. This is 'a crossing,'" insists Valarie D'Elia. "You will be following in the watery path of millions of immigrants who crammed their belongings into steamer trunks, and later, glitzy Hollywood stars and notables who made this the fashionable way to travel overseas." Honorable Mention: Luxury travel agent Gary Mansour suggests traversing the Trans-Siberian Mongolian Railway in July, during Mongolia's renowned Naadam Festival.
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