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Luxurious holiday inns

Hoping for a white Christmas this year? What about a green one? Or a black one? Posh vacations on golf courses and ski resorts are all the rage this holiday season.
/ Source: Forbes

Hoping for a white Christmas this year? What about a green one?

That's what holiday guests at the K Club, a golf club and spa resort in County Kildare, Ireland, are paying for. Thanks to Ireland's mild winters, snow is rare, and the K Club's two golf courses — Palmer, where the Ryder Cup took place this fall, and Smurfit, where the Smurfit European Open is held annually — are pretty much guaranteed to remain lush all winter. This year, the K Club is offering a , which includes Christmas Eve wine-tasting, caroling and a buffet dinner, Christmas Day dinner or lunch — and a daily round of golf.

If a green Christmas doesn't do it for you, maybe a black Christmas will — black-diamond, that is. At the Four Seasons Resort, Whistler, in Canada, guests can take advantage of a wide range of seasonal festivities, including making s'mores over an open fire, schmoozing with fellow guests at the General Manager's holiday reception, and attending a kids' “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory” dinner buffet on New Year's Eve. Then, there's the skiing. The Whistler-Blackcomb resort area gets 30 feet of snow a year and has 8,000 powder-packed acres. What better stocking-stuffer than two round-trip plane tickets and a Whistler ski pass?

Even if they aren't golf buffs or super skiers, Americans are increasingly asking Santa to send them somewhere new for Christmas — and they are willing to pay for it, as well. According to Smith Travel Research, a Hendersonville, Tenn.-based lodging information provider, the average daily rate at luxury hotels in the U.S. in 2005 for the week of Dec. 25 through Dec. 31 was $345, a 50 percent holiday premium over a comparable week at the height of the summer travel season, July 24 to July 30, when the rate was just $230.

What’s more, hotels the world over are decking the halls in anticipation of that year-end revenue.

"This is a time of year when families travel together — [especially] families with the means to seek the finest experiences — and celebrate," says Ciro Tacinelli, director of marketing at the Four Seasons Resort, Whistler. "We design our Festive Week to appeal to all ages, couples as well as families, and members of different religions."

Appeal it does. This year, Tacinelli predicts that occupancy rates during Festive Week will be in the high 90 percent range, and that the hotel will be sold out for four straight days over Christmas. And with room rates starting at $740 per night, that's a year-end gift the resort can't afford to ignore. Tacinelli and his team sit down together several months beforehand to review guests' comments from last year, in order to create new activities or modify old ones.

Gary Sain, chief marketing officer and partner at Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, an Orlando-based marketing and consumer research firm, agrees that hotels are going out of their way to make guests comfortable over the holidays. "Choosing a hotel is a personal issue," he says. "Maybe you don't want to stay with your in-laws, and value that personal space. Nowadays, hotels have made it attractive to do that, with amenities like new, full-service spas, golf and recreational facilities on-site, great restaurants, and larger rooms with plasma-screen TVs and games for the kids" — not to mention a bevy of holiday activities that would impress Santa himself.

Sound good? We thought so. To help you make sense of the lodging options available, has assembled a list of holiday inns in the U.S. and abroad that are offering seasonal cheer and activities for holiday travelers. At Twin Farms, an in Barnard, Vt., guests can ice skate, snow shoe, ski and sleigh ride to their hearts' content, sip rum toddies and celebrate the season. Visitors to in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains can make gingerbread houses with the pastry chef or sing holiday carols. And at Château de Montvillargene, a in the forests of Chantilly outside Paris, Père Noël himself makes a visit during Christmas Eve dinner.