Luxury Breaks: Now you can buy a piece of the American Dream

A new trend in holiday-home ownership harks back to the days of the Great Camps. Sarah Barrell heads for the Adirondacks

The Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Carnegies may have had the funds to propel 19th-century America through its post-Civil War economic boom, but for these Gilded-Age elite families, holidays were about the modest pleasures in life.

In summer during the 1800s, the most prominent East Coast families would gather up their sturdier kitchen wear, linen and packhorses and set out on camping retreats in the Adirondack Mountains, in deepest upstate New York. In reality these rustic jollies were more akin to a modern-day five-star safari, with elaborately designed log cabins that became known as the Great Camps.

Fast-forward to today, and where do the dotcom rich and East Coast bankers go for some R&R but a Great Camp, or at least its modern equivalent. Thanks to Joe Barile, a former Olympic luger and local developer, the Adirondacks are once again home to a Great Camp in the shape of the Whiteface Lodge Resort and Spa.

This new hotel, which is set in 14 acres of woods near the 1980 Winter Olympics village at Lake Placid, aims to evoke the "rustic" splendour of the Gilded Age. Think vast exposed timber ceilings, soaring tree trunks for beams, rough-hewn wainscoting milled from native pine, as well as locally hand-forged cast-iron chandeliers. Add to this a newly opened luxury 24-hour spa, a gourmet restaurant and more outdoor sports than an Olympic luger could shake a sled at and you have a Great Camp for the 21st century. And an additional perk? Just like those families in the Gilded Age, guests can own a piece of this well-kept wilderness.

The latest stateside vacation status symbol is something much smarter than merely owning a holiday home: it is fractional ownership. Fractionals, or private residence clubs, represent one of the fastest-growing areas in the holiday-home market. According to CNN, new sales totalled $1.5bn in 2005, up 42 per cent for the year, with dozens more projects in the works.

The idea of fractionals is that you buy into a resort, affording you the luxuries of a high-end holiday home with hotel facilities, at a tenth of the price. The only drawback is that you can go only a limited number of weeks a year. Yet, distinct from the timeshare concept, you don't just buy holiday time but invest in both the property and the business. Fractionals are just appearing this side of the Atlantic, too. One example is 47 Park Street in London. Aimed at people who regularly visit London for business but are fed up with hotels, this property, like the Whiteface Lodge, offers the added possibility of swapping your residence time with affiliated hotels around the world.

So what kind of experience is offered at the Whiteface Lodge, a hotel where partials represent the lion's share of business? During a snowy February weekend I visited with my family. In the manicured grounds a roaring firepit had been lit by the side of the ice rink (open year round) and someone had laid out marshmallows for toasting. Skates and snowshoes were for the taking in a little yurt-style tent under the snow-laden pine trees.

Yet while the lodge was reportedly near capacity, there was not a guest, or staff member, in sight. "That's a key idea of the place," explains chief operating officer Olivier Bottois the next morning over coffee in the grand dining room – which we had to ourselves. "Each of the 94 suites is self-sufficient, just like a family home. You rarely see people roaming around, and if you do there are so many places to go that they rarely get crowded."

Unlike most guests we did roam around, past the 56-seat surround-sound cinema where the latest movies are screened around the clock, patrons or no, the old-fashioned ice cream parlour and family games room (with mini bowling alley). I took a lengthy dip in the linked indoor/outdoor heated pool and saw not another soul. This might have had something to do with the fact that it was freezing outside. More fool the other alleged guests: the view of White Face Mountain, after which the lodge takes its name, was spectacular.

But at night the bar draws people out of their privileged corners. In fact, to secure a place around one of the granite fireplaces, we share a couch with Rob and Alisa, who've been out all day ice climbing in one of the region's many frozen waterfalls. They don't seem to mind sharing their well-earned fireside spot. "This place is very relaxed," says Rob. "A place for families to come and truly kick back."

Case in point, we deposit our offspring with the babysitter and wander over for dinner in Steak and Stinger, the main restaurant. Under 28ft-high timber ceilings we eat hearty dishes cooked up by chef Brian Moyers, formerly of Manhattan's Nobu, Tribeca Grill and Lotus. We conclude, after getting the bill, that if you're prepared to pay Manhattan prices for your piece of carefully tailored wilderness, then this is the holiday home for you.

Compact facts

How to get there:

Sarah Barrell was a guest of British Airways (0870 850 9850; ba.com), which flies from London to New York from £432 return. Her car hire was courtesy of Carrentals (carrentals. co.uk), which offers a week's car hire from £151. She was a guest of the Whiteface Lodge Resort and Spa (001 518 523 0500; thewhiteface lodge.com), which offers suites from $407 (£203) per night, plus a resort fee of $18 per person per day.



Further information:

47 Park Street (020-7950 5528; 47parkstreet.com).

Further reading 'Great Camps of the Adirondacks', by Harvey H Kaiser, (David R Godine) £50

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week